The United Nations defines violence against women (VAW) as:-
"any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual, or mental harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life."
A 2014 report by the National Population Commission (NPC) records that 16 % of women in Nigeria receive either physical and/or sexual violence from an intimate partner violence in their lifetime, 44% are forced into child marriages and at least 18% experience female genital mutilation/cutting.
These are merely a fraction of the atrocities that occur against women both in the family and within the general community. Others include but are not limited to physical and mental aggression, emotional and psychological abuse, rape and sexual abuse and other traditional practices harmful to women.
Such appalling statistics make it clear that VAW, both in the home and the larger society, is fast becoming a trend in recent day Nigeria. It was amidst this backdrop that the Violence against Women Law of Oyo State, 2016 was enacted. It is noteworthy that only the Oyo State government has enacted legislation seeking to curb violence against women. Inspired by the Violence against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Act 2015, the Law contains several commendable sections, a few of which are detailed below.
1. Section 6 of the law deals with rape. One of the very notable and commendable provisions of the Law is its expansion of the meaning of rape and its prohibition thereof. While other existing laws limited their scope of rape to protect only females in relation to vaginal penetration without consent, the Law has taken a giant stride to expand the meaning and scope of rape. By virtue of the Law, rape is when a person intentionally penetrates the vagina, anus or mouth of a woman with any other part of his body or anything else without consent, or where such consent is obtained by force or means of threat or intimidation of any kind or by fear of harm or by means of false and fraudulent representation as to the nature of the act or the use of any substance or additive capable of taking away the will of such person. An offender under this section is liable to be imprisoned for life. See: Lucky v. State (2016) LPELR -40541
2. Sections 7 & 8 deal with defilement of girls between the ages of 11 and 13 and carry punishments between 14 years to life imprisonment. Also, an attempt to carry out the offence is equally punishable.
3. Section 9 deals with female circumcision or genital mutilation. This practice which is still prevalent in our society and even regarded as a culture among some, is now, by virtue of the provision of the Law, an offence. A Person who performs female circumcision or genital mutilation or engages another to carry out such circumcision or mutilation commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a term of imprisonment not exceeding 4 years or to a fine not exceeding N100,000.00 or both.
4. Section 21 deals with sexual harassment particularly at the work place which is now on the rise in our society. Offenders under this section are liable to imprisonment for a maximum period of 3 years.
5. Section 22 deals with spousal battery against women and any person guilty of an offence under this section liable to imprisonment for a period not exceeding 3 years.
6. Section 27 deals with sexual exploitation against women for economic gain. The offence under this section is punishable by 21 years imprisonment or a fine not exceeding N2,000,000.00
It is believed that this Law will bring succour and effective remedies to women in Oyo State who have suffered violence in silence, without recourse to justice or psychological or social support for their recovery. This is clearly a giant step in the right direction by the Oyo State Government. Sadly, only two other states have domesticated the VAPP Act. They are Anambra and Ebonyi States. It is the author's opinion that other States should take a cue from Oyo State by not just domesticating the VAPP Act but enacting laws which will seek to specifically curb VAW.
About the author
Tokunbo Davies [MCIArb.]
Tokunbo is an Associate Partner in the dispute resolution practice of the firm. He is astute and dynamic in his approach to very complex legal issues. His core areas of specialization are litigation and arbitration. He has extensive experience advising and representing clients including multinational corporations in Nigeria on various commercial disputes. Apart from having a special talent in drafting of court processes, he is also a very gifted advocate.
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