The Federal Executive Council (FEC) on Wednesday endorsed stiffer penalties against rapists and child abusers as proposed by the Ministry of Women Affairs, describing the upsurge as embarrassing.
The Minister of Women Affairs, Mrs Pauline Tallen, made this known at the end of the fourth meeting of the Council which was presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari, at the State House, Abuja.
Tallen stated that the Council’s decision to endorsed the stiffer penalties against sex offenders followed approval of a memo she presented during the meeting.
The Minister noted with concern the outrage that had continued to greet high cases of rape and gender based violence in the country, as a result of lockdown necessitated by the outbreak of Coronavirus (COVID-19).
“I’m sure you are aware that for the past few weeks, the country has been witnessed a lot of outrage and outcry because of the pandemic within the pandemic that we are facing.
“I know before COVID-19, we have always had pandemic of rape cases and gender based violence.
“But with the lockdown due to COVID-19, women and children are locked down with their abusers and the number has escalated three times. There is no state that is an exception.
“This has reached an embarrassing situation that a memo was presented in council, calling for immediate intervention, legal and prompt dispensation of justice in the cases.
“Because, from the statistics we have and from the meetings I had with the 36 states commissioners for women affairs, we have hundreds of cases within our courts that have not been concluded.
“And out of one case that has been reported, be sure they are 10 others that have not been reported. As a result, we called for aggressive media campaigns, public enlightenment for people to rise up and pick out against abuse of minors and rape cases.
“We also call on the judiciary for prompt dispensation of cases and the police to ensure rape cases are not treated with levity or wish away.
“These are issues that were presented before council and I am happy to announce that we got the full support of Mr President and all members of council, that government will take decisive actions at the highest level to protect women and children in this country.”
Tallen said the Council noted that there is an existing law already, the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act (VAPPA), 2015.
She said the Council, therefore, resolved to push for the domestication of the VAPPA, 2015 in states in order to ensure convicted rapists to face deserved punishments for their actions.
The VAPPA defines rape as when a person intentionally penetrates the vagina, anus or mouth of another person with any other part of his/her body or anything else without consent, or with incorrectly obtained consent.
Consent can be incorrectly obtained where it is obtained: by force/threats/intimidation; by means of false and fraudulent representation as to the nature of the act, by the use of substances capable of taking away the will of that person; by a person impersonating a married woman’s husband in order to have sex.
The VAPPA law is only applicable in the Federal Capital Territory, it does not apply in other States of the Federation.
Child Rights Act provides that sex with a child is rape and anyone who has sexual intercourse with a child is liable to imprisonment for life upon conviction.