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Bill to punish anyone who stigmatizes rape victim scales second reading at Senate

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A bill that seeks to protect rape victims in the country from stigmatization, on Wednesday passed second reading at the Nigerian Senate.

The bill entitled ‘Rape and Insurgency Victims Stigmatization (Prohibition) Bill 2019’, provides for the prosecution and punishment of any person or group of persons who stigmatizes such victims.

In his lead debate on the bill, its sponsor, Senator Mohammed Musa said if passed into law, the bill would encourage victims of rape to testify in court and also ensure the re-integration of victims of insurgency into the community of their choice.

According to the senator, the conditions most victims of rape got exposed to remained traumatic due to the ineptitude of the Nigerian justice system.

The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters for further legislative work, Senate President Ahmad Lawan.

The committee, chaired by Senator Michael Opeyemi Bamidele, was asked to submit its report back to the Senate in four weeks.

Read also: RAPE: NAPTIP begins publication of names, pictures of convicted offenders

Earlier in his debate, Musa said, “Presently, rape is now a common phenomenon and occurs worldwide. In fact, available data suggests that in some countries one in five women report sexual violence or being raped by an intimate partner and up to a third of girls report forced sexual initiation. This also cuts across diverse age range of victims ranging from young toddlers and children to even older victims aged 70 years old, with over seventy percent of the victims under 19.

“The bill is to provide for the legal and institutional framework for the protocol for re-integration of victims of rape and insurgency in Nigeria. If this bill is passed into law, it would certainly provide a new lease of life for victims of rape and insurgency in the country.

“The justice system in Nigeria is incredibly inept and for rape cases, this is even more traumatic,” Musa said. “A rape victims goes to the police to report and the policeman or woman tells the victim to go and sort it out at home as it is a domestic case. And the consequences of such act is that the victim is left at the mercy of the society without any protection.

“This sort of stigma has prevented many survivors from reporting abuse and seeking justice. Victims of insurgency and other violent acts needs this kind of laws that will not only promote gender equality, the empowerment of women and girls as fundamental to all efforts to prevent and address sexual violence, but also progressively uplift such victims.

“We are all living witnesses to the upsurge of the criminality of rape and the destruction of lives been perpetrated by those coward criminals in our communities, coupled with the fact that our country has an extremely low conviction rate for rape and sexual abuses despite the increase in violence against women in recent years.”

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