An amendment of the Criminal Code Act 2014 on Tuesday passed the second reading at the Senate.
The bill, sponsored by Senator Oluremi Tinubu (APC, Lagos Central), at Tuesday’s plenary seeks the removal of gender restrictions on rape offences as well as a proposal of stiffer penalties for kidnapping.
Leading the debate, Tinubu said the definition of rape as contained in the main Act makes rape seen as a crime committed against women alone.
“The Criminal Code Act defines rape in Section 357 as an offence against women. However, times indicate that there are incidents of non-consensual sex perpetrated against the male gender.
“This definition is particularly grievous because it perpetuates the the socio-cultural belief that men do not need to consent to sexual acts. In addition, we must ensure that our laws and jurisprudence evolve with the rest of the world,” she said.
The amendment 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 bill proposes an amendment to Section 221, to substitute for the words ‘idiot or imbecile’, for the words, ‘mentally challenged’.
According to Tinubu, 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.
Additionally, Section 364 of the Criminal Code under amendment proffers punishment of imprisonment for a term of ten years where a crime of kidnap is established.
The law under the Act defines kidnap as “unlawful imprisonment of any person to prevent him from applying to a court for his release or from disclosing to any person where he is imprisoned.”
Tinubu, while juxtaposing the penalties for kidnapping alongside the term of robbery provided by the Criminal Code Act, which is twenty-one years and death for armed robbery said, “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,” she added.
The Senate President, after the debate on the bill, referred same to the Senate committee on Judiciary, Human Rights, and Legal Matters for further legislative work and report back to the assembly in four weeks.
The amendment seeks to delete portions of Sections 218 and 221, amend the definition of rape as contained in Section 357, as well as increase punishment for kidnapping in Section 364.
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