The House of Representatives spent over two hours on Thursday to debate the rising spate of sexual violence across Nigeria, calling for stricter measures to check the crime.
A member, Mr Rotimi Agunsoye, had moved a motion titled, ‘The Need to Condemn the Rising Cases of Sexual Violence and Other Social Vices Against Women, and Police Brutality: Justice for Uwa Omozuwa, Tina Ezekwe and Others.’
The House, based on adoption of the motion, urged the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, to “immediately cause investigations into the cases of Uwa Omozuwa, Tina Ezekwe, the reported rape of minor in Jigawa State, as well as all other reported cases of violence against women, with a bid to bringing the criminals to justice.”
Punishments recommended for rapists by the lawmakers, while debating the motion, included castration, death sentence and amputation.
The House, however, voted on only one of the recommendations, castration, which was rejected by the lawmakers.
Last week, a 100-level student of the University of Benin was raped to death at a parish of The Redeemed Christian Church of God in Benin. On Monday, a student of the Federal College of Animal and Production Technology, Ibadan, Oyo State, Brakat Bello, suffered the same fate.
Also on Monday, three armed men gang-raped a 17-year-old hawker at Oja Oba Market in Ado Ekiti, the Ekiti State capital.
Angered by the rising cases of rape, the House urged the Federal Government to launch a more effective campaign against it and other violence against women and girls.
Also, the House “mandates all members to dress in black at the next sitting, show solidarity with the victims: Uwa Omozuwa, Tina Ezekwe and others.”
However, the lawmakers voted against a prayer seeking to recommend castration for rapists.
A member, Mr James Faleke, had recommended that persons found guilty of raping minors should be castrated.
Just before the prayer was subjected to voice vote, the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, asked what would happen to an older female who raped a younger male.
The comment had generated a noise in the chamber. Putting the prayer to vote, the nays had it.
The resolutions were referred to the committees on Women Affairs, Human Rights and Justice, which were given four weeks to follow up on the cases and report back to the House.
Agunsoye, while moving the motion, noted several recent nationwide reports of gender-based violence against Nigerian women and girls.
He said, “The House is worried about the disturbing, growing spate of violence against women and girls recorded throughout the country. It is worrisome that the most common violence against women and girls are: rape, sexual harassment, emotional and psychological violence and socio-economic violence.”
He also said the police in Jigawa State, on May 30, 2020, arrested 11 men, including a 57-year-old man, who lured and raped a 12-year-old minor.
During the debate, the Speaker lamented the incidents, saying, “This is such a sick, despicable and ungodly act. Ordinarily, I would have allowed the women to contribute but because of the nature and the seriousness of it, and to show that it societal cuts across gender.”
A member, Chinedu Obidigwe, stated that the future of the country would be bleak if women could not be protected. He decried that female Nigerians were suffering a similar fate in other countries where they had been trafficked.
Another member, Ebun Olanrewaju, called for capital punishment for rapists. He noted that males are equally molested.
The Deputy Chief Whip, Nkeiruka Onyejeocha, recalled that earlier in May, the House passed a resolution that the police should check their men “who are killing people recklessly.” She said two weeks after, a policeman from Bariga Division allegedly shot a 16-year-old Tina Ezekwe in Iyana Oworo area of Lagos State.
In his submission, Shehu Koko said while the punishment should be life imprisonment like in other climes, the challenge would be how to prove rape cases in court.
Contributing, Henry Archibong said while he agreed that laws should be made to regulate a society, the laws alone could not solve the problems.
Achibong however drew the ire of members, especially females, when he also blamed rape victims for how they dress.
A female member, Linda Ikpeazu, was seen disagreeing with Achibong and raising her voice from where she was seated.
The Chief Whip, Mohammed Monguno, raised a point of order to say that “the honourable member that is contributing is not properly dressed, as you can see, he does not have a tie.” He also said, “Based on our dressing code, he is supposed to have a tie, so he is naked in the eyes of the House. He is not properly dressed.”
The Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, upheld Monguno’s point, saying that Achibong should not have been called to contribute to the debate in the first place. He then called on another member to speak.
Kabir Ibrahim Tukura (Kebbi), in his submission, called for amputation of rapists.
He said, “Every day you hear people talk to girls, ‘protect yourselves, stay in your lane,’ but nobody talks to the boy-child. Nobody tells the boy-child ‘you need to respect women, you need to respect girls around you, you don’t touch girls inappropriately.’ Nobody tells a boy that, and that is a fundamental issue.
“If that is achieved, we need to also bring stiff penalties; penalties like capital punishment, castration, amputation (sic) of the manhood. If you can stoop low to rape a child, I don’t think you deserve to have manhood. You don’t deserve it because it controls you, you don’t control it. And as a man if you cannot control your manhood, you don’t deserve to have it.”