A bill seeking to remove gender restrictions for rape cases has passed second reading at the senate.
The bill, which seeks an amendment to the criminal code act, 2004, also seeks to delete the statute of limitation in cases of defilement.
The bill was sponsored by Oluremi Tinubu, senator representing Lagos central.
Tinubu is seeking the removal of gender restrictions on rape offences as well as a proposal of stiffer penalties for kidnapping.
In her lead debate on the bill, the senator objected to the provision of section 218 of the criminal code which states that “anyone who has unlawful carnal knowledge of a girl under the age of thirteen or attempts same is guilty of felony and liable to life imprisonment or fourteen years imprisonment, respectively.”
According to her, prosecution of an offender under the section constitutes a limitation that should be extended as against the act’s provision which allows for only two months after the offence is committed.
“This is untenable in a country where investigations often take longer than two months”, Tinubu said.
“Considering the shortage of police personnel, relative to our population as prescribed by international standards, the two months limitation is unlikely to be met at all.
“With the development and innovation in forensic technology and the accessibility or otherwise of such infrastructure in Nigeria, rushed investigations with a view to commencing prosecutions within a two month period leave a possibility of a huge margin for error.”
The bill also seeks an amendment to section 221 of the criminal code which provides that “where a person has or attempts carnal knowledge of a girl being of or above the age of thirteen and under the age sixteen, an ‘idiot or imbecile’, he shall be liable to imprisonment for a period of two years provided that the prosecution is commenced within two months after the offence is committed.”
The senator described the criminal code act which defines rape as an offence against women as “grievous”, saying it perpetrates the socio-cultural belief that men do not need to consent to sexual acts.
The lawmaker said “there are incidents of non-consensual sex perpetrated against the male gender”.
The bill proposes an amendment to section 221 to substitute words like “idiot or imbecile” with “mentally challenged”.
Tinubu said while words like idiot, moron, and imbecile were professionally used to measure intelligence quotient (IQ), they have acquired pejorative connotations, become derogatory and obsolete, and should no longer be contained in our laws.
Comparing the penalties for kidnapping (imprisonment for a term of ten years) with that of robbery, which is 21 years, Tinubu asked: “Why is the punishment for stealing property and replaceable things higher than what is obtainable when you steal a human being?”
“The frequency of kidnap across the federation and its resulting trauma, not to mention the number of lives lost to the crime, make it imperative to review our laws with a view to ensuring appropriate punishment for perpetrators and deterrence for would-be perpetrators.”
After the debate on the bill, Senate President Ahmad Lawan referred it to the senate committee on judiciary, human rights, and legal matters for further legislative work.