In Kano, absence of legal frameworks leaves rape victims crying for justice

By Mariya Shuaibu  SULEIMAN

THIS report looks at the increasing trend of rape in Kano state, the plight and challenges of the rape victims and their plea for rescue to the Kano State Government while also looking at the efforts of state and non-state actors, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), in the fight against rape and other forms of sexual abuse in Kano State and what needs to be done to curtail the menace in the State.

Despite the establishment of the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act (VAPP) on May 25, 2015, in Nigeria to prevent and criminalise various forms of violence against persons, rape continues to be a prevalent human rights violation in Nigeria, living the victims in a very difficult situation and yet, not much has been done about it.

Apart from rape, VAPP is also intended to deal with acts such as sexual abuse, domestic violence and harmful traditional practices such as female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C), and forced marriage.

In a recent stakeholder’s forum during the ’16 days of Activism’,  an official of the Kano State Sexual Referral Centre, Halima B. Faruq,  announced that Kano State has the highest rate of Gender-Based Violence (GBV).

The law provisions on rape

Section 283 of the Penal Code Act, a law applicable in the Northern States of Nigeria, provides that “Rape is said to occur where a man has sexual intercourse with a woman in any of the following circumstances:

  1.  Against her will,
  2. Without her consent,
  3. With her consent, when her consent has been obtained by putting her in fear of death or hurt,
  4. With her consent when the man knows that he is not her husband and that her consent is given because she believes that he is another man to whom she is or believes herself to be lawfully married.
  5. With or without her consent, when she is under fourteen years of age or of unsound mind.”

The law further states further that if any of the above circumstances occur, then it is said to be a rape and it provides imprisonment for life or for any less term and or a fine as a punishment for the crime of rape.

Significantly, the Penal Code does not recognised men or boys as victims of rape and does not recognise marital rape where the woman has attained the age of puberty.

But the Child Rights Act (CRA), is a Federal Law which was enacted to protect the rights of children, established in 2003. It has been fully domesticated in 34 States in Nigeria and only Kano and Zamfara States are yet to do that. This is according to the update given by the Former Minister of Women Affairs, Pauline Tallen on behalf of the Federal Government during the 59th edition of the Ministerial Media Briefing organised by the Presidential Communications Team at the Presidential Villa in Abuja, last year.


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Section 31 (1) & (2) of the CRA provides that any person who has sexual intercourse with a child commits an offence of rape and is liable on conviction to imprisonment for life. The CRA provides that it is immaterial that- (a) the offender believed the person to be of or above the age of eighteen years; or (b) the sexual intercourse was with the consent of the child.

Also, the CRA does not restrict victims of rape to the female gender. It also recognises that the offence of rape could be committed either male or female. Therefore, according to what the above two laws stated, female and males can be victims of rape.

In Kano state, female and young boys have been reported raped and this issue has become so prevalent and continues to increase day by day in the state.

According to the Director of Research, Planning and Statistics of the Kano Ministry of Women, Children and Disabled, Yakubu Muhammad Salihi, Kano currently has 300 cases of rape issues, and the victims/survivors include of teenage and young girls and boys.

Salihi said in the interview conducted by BUK FM, Kano, that the incidents mostly happened in their homes, neighborhood, communities, on their way to school and are mostly perpetrated by their loved ones, relatives or strangers.

Investigations further shows that the issue of rape keeps occurring because of lack of working laws, especially the VAPP Act, that will ensure the prosecution of the offenders in the state.

Sexual referral centre, Waraka 

The Protocol Officer at the Kano State Sexual Referral Centre (SARC), Waraka, that tackles issues of sexual assault, Aminu Usman, said that compare to last year, the incidence of rape is on the increased and it is becoming worst as the Centre now receives up to 100 cases in a month.

“The issue of rape is becoming out of hand and is getting worse. In a month we can receive 95-100 cases of rape. Currently, from the beginning of this month so far, we received over 50 cases. Just last week, (as at the interview time) 17 cases of rape were brought to us on a single day from one community that I cannot disclosed because of confidentiality.”

Usman further stated that the issue is increasing because the perpetrators do not receive proper punishment, adding that 60 per cent of the offenders escape proper punishment after being reported to the authorities and will go back to the community and continue their atrocities because there is no law to deal with them.

He added that this is why the Centre is fighting tirelessly, advocating for the VAPP Act to be domesticated in the State as the only way to mitigate the issue of SGBV in Kano.

Health implications…

Investigation indicates that many health complications that occur after rape, which is a traumatic experience that affects the victim physically, psychologically and sociologically.

A medical expert, Hassan Abubakar, who is a theatre nurse at the Sexual Referral Centre, Waraka, highlighted the health complications that mostly occurs during and after rape.

“Medical, surgical and psychological conditions are mostly the three complications rape victims always experience during and after the incidence.”

“Medical complications and conditions are the worst that we don’t pray for it to happen because they are diseases that can be transmitted through sexual intercourse such as sexually transmitted diseases, STDs, HIV/Aids, Hepatitis, Gonorrhea, and Syphilis. These kinds of diseases can cause a lot of problems and even death if care is not taken. The scary part is that the victim might not know if she contacted any of these diseases unless she is taken to a hospital on time for a test, until the victim starts to exhibit signs and symptoms. A victim may become pregnant too, which brings a whole lot of different repercussions.”

“For surgical conditions, it may warrant carrying out a surgery for the victims.

The incident may result in the victim having complications such as fistula, vascular vaginal fistula, a slit/vaginal cut or abnormal communication between urinary bladder and the vagina, that is abnormal leakage of urine, and this may lead her to get severe infection unless if the condition is treated immediately.

Some victims may also lose their lives. And for victims that were assaulted through anal sex, they may experience complications such as feces leakage and this need surgical intervention to be treated.

She stated that the psychological complications experienced by the victims of rape may include “depression, trauma and worry over whether she might get someone that will marry her and issues like that.”

Abubakar further stated that, so far, they have treated cases of bruises, vaginal cut, sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy in the Sexual Referral Centre.

He said these might not only be the only diseases some of the victims they treated contacted after the rape because some parent of the victims because of fear and stigma, do not give them cooperation to do their work properly, which he attributed to the lack of working laws in the state to find justice for the victims.

He urges the state government to domesticate the VAPP Act so as to curtail the menace of sexual assault and ensure justice for the victims.

The plight and challenges of Rape victims in Kano

Through interviews conducted with some of the rape victims within the age range of 4, 6, 9, 13, 15 and 17 (who want to be kept anonymous) in, Nassarawa, Tarauni and Dawakin Tofa Local Government Areas (LGAs), our reporter discovered sorry tales or anguish, human right violations, suppression and depression. In some cases, sadly, tales of death.

Four-year-old Khadija was raped by a young man that owns a provision shop on the street on which her parents live.

“It was one man that sells sweets and biscuits in my street that called me and gave me sweets and took me to one place, removed my pants and put something in my vagina. It was very painful and up to now my vagina is itching and paining me,” the child told our reporter in the presence of her mother.

Khadija’s mother explained how she knew that her daughter was been raped after noticing a non-stop white discharge coming out from the little girl’s vagina.

“Initially, I noticed how she was scratching her vagina non-stop and any time I ask her, she will start crying, so I now decided to check the place and find out why she was scratching the place like that and, to my surprised, I saw some white water coming out from her vagina and the vagina was red and wide opened so I became curious and started asking her questions. That was when she told me what happened. So, I called my sister, and we took her to a hospital but they said they will not admit us because the case has to be recorded and handled by the Sexual Referral Centre first and checked if she had injuries or complications before referring her here, so they told us to go to the Sexual Referral Centre and when we went there, they called the Police before conducting a test on the girl and the result said, it is a severe infection.”

The Mother added that, when they found out that it was an infection, no further damage and the Police did not act on the matter after the release of the result, she and her sister decided not to arrest the perpetrator because of stigma and fear that the shop owner might hurt or kill the girl when reported.

However, efforts were made to trace and speak with the shop owner but he was nowhere to be found at the time of the investigation and Khadijah’s Mother said since the time of the incident, he stopped coming to open the shop and they have not seen him anywhere in the community.

The mother further said her little daughter of just four years is battling with severe infection and was put under medication and prays for the law to find justice for the girl.

She also urged the government to ensure punishment of the perpetrators so as to reduce the menace.

Nine-year-old Asiya revealed that it was a 2o year young man, Kamilu that frequently comes to her parents’ house that raped her and threatened to kill her if she exposed him.

“I know him and he used to come and collect food from my mummy. He always calls me to give me sweets and money and one day, he took me to one uncompleted building and removed my clothes and started fingering me and inserted his Penis in my vagina. He ordered me not to say a word to anyone about it, that if I do, he is going to kill me,” she narrated.

Asiya’s mother said they found the girl helpless after the incident and took her to a hospital with the help of the Police where she was admitted and when they conducted a test on her, the result showed that she had contacted a sexually transmitted disease.

She said she first informed her husband about the incident who later informed some of their community members in Nassarawa Local Government Area and called the nearby Police to arrest Kamilu and the case was further taken to the Kano State Human Right Commission by the parents.

She added that after the Commission conducted a thorough investigation following the Police report, they were sent to court for prosecution but the court ruled that Asiya’s case was said to be sexual assault and not rape.

Meanwhile, efforts was made to speak with Kamilu one-on-one but access were denied to see him by his family members; Musa Yau and Shamsiyya who are Kamilu’s cousin brother and grandmother in Unguwan Nassarwa because they do not want him to be exposed on the Media, saying “we can’t allow him to be seen or heard on the media on an allegation that the Court has already passed judgment.”

On the side of Adamu, who is 6 years old, he was sexually assaulted by a 17-year-old boy in the neighborhood where he lives.

The victim’s mother said Abubakar developed a severe stomach ache after the incident, which made them take the case to court. The court passed on its judgment but said unfortunately the offender was later released after spending the 6 Months without paying for her son’s medication.

“After the incident, Abubakar started experiencing severe stomach ache, so they took him to a hospital and from there Human Right Commission and to court. After the prosecution, the perpetrator was found guilty and sentenced to just six months of imprisonment with a fine of N25, 000. He was also asked to pay N25, 000 for the victim’s medication but the young man was later released after completing his months in Prison without paying for Abubakar’s treatment.”

However, when we conducted further investigation on the issue, Abubakar’s uncle, Nazifi Sani revealed that the Culprit was released after spending his 6 months in the prison on a condition that he is going pay the fine or any of his family members within 6 Months.

A 15-year-old teenage girl who spoke to our reporter only on the condition of strict anonymity said it was her biological father that raped her in her room when was sleeping in their house and she is now battling with a severe infection.

She added that he threatened to kill her if she tells anyone, but she later managed to inform her aunt about it because her mother is no more, but the aunt pleaded with her to bury the issue since he is her biological father, and it is going to tarnish his image if the issue comes. After this, she kept quiet about it.

Looking at her situation, she said she has given up as she cannot fight for her rights because family and close allies will not allow her, but prayed for a law that will prevent rape and other sexual assault from happening.

In the case of 13-year-old Zahara’u, she was raped and impregnated by a young man (whose name was not allowed to mention here by the Lawyer handling the case for anonymity) in her in her village in Dawakin Tofa. Zahra’u has finally put to bed, but she is currently suffering from a body shock and went into unconsciousness after she gave birth.

Picture of Zahra’u and her baby
Picture of Zahra’u and her baby

According to Barrister Badamasi Suleiman, the lawyer handing the case, after the rape incident, her family tried to bury the case because of shame and stigma but after she put to bed and became unconscious, a family member reached out to him, they decided to take the case to the Police and from there to court.

He added that the court has ordered the State Criminal Investigation Department at the Bompai Police Headquarters in Kano to investigate the matter.

While all the previous victims are living with the consequences of their traumatic experience, there is the really harrowing tale of 17-year-old Saratu, who was killed after being raped and impregnated.

It was found that the deceased was drugged before she was raped in her uncle’s house but she did not find out that she was pregnant until after five months.

However, Saratu’s sister, Hadiza, before Saratu’s death, she informed her family that the only person she suspected at that time was Auwal, an adopted son in her Uncle House that shown interest in her, “saying he likes her and want to marry her” but she told him that she had a boyfriend and turned his request down. But Auwal didn’t stop, he continued to disturbed her and always bought her gifts even though she never accepted any of the gifts. She said he was the one that bought her a drink that night and she drank it not knowing that it was drugged and after drinking it, she did not remember what happened.

When they approached Auwal, he denied it, saying he does not know anything about it and therefore, the Saratu’s family took the case to the Human Right Commission and the Commission sent them to court.

It was gathered that the court ordered a DNA test and adjourned the case until after Saratu put to bed. Since the court adjourned the case, investigations reveal Saratu before her death received messages from an unknown number threatening her if she did not drop the case. But Saratu and her family were resolute that they would see the case to its conclusion.

In a twist of events, after Saratu was put to bed and the DNA was conducted along with the suspect, Auwal before the result could come out, she went missing and her corpse was found inside a pond on their street.

The baby is now with Saratu’s sister and the family are in a terrible situation, pleading to the government to come to their aid and ensure justice for Saratu’s, saying that their lives are no longer safe because the suspect is now free, and the uncle is becoming suspicious.

A community head in Nassarawa LGA, Malam Bala Shehu, said the issue of rape has now become common as they always frequently receive cases in the community.

Shehu pointed out that it is not that community leaders do not do anything about the issue but that there are no working laws to deal with the issue. According to him, new laws must be enacted so that offenders will start serving proper punishment.

“I believe if the new law ensures punishment of the perpetrators, most of them will stop doing it.”

Amidst all these, how does the Kano Police, others handle the trend of rape cases?

According to the Kano State Police Coom and’sPolice Public Relation Officer (PPRO), Abdullahi Haruna Kiyawa, the Head Quarters has a Gender Desk and they handle SGBV cases including rape, professionally.

“Yes, we do have a Gender Desk at the Police headquarters and we treat such cases diligently and professionally by taking the victims statements, carry out our investigations and taking the victims and culprits to court for prosecution.

Kiyawa noted that the Police is not experiencing any increasing trends though he could not provide the number of the rape cases handled by the command.

The Human Right Commission is saddled with the responsibility of promotion, protection, and enforcement of the rights of the citizens.

Picture of Mr. Abdullahi Shehu, Coordinator of Kano State Human Rights Commission
Picture of Mr. Abdullahi Shehu, Coordinator of Kano State Human Rights Commission

According to the State Coordinator of Human Right Commission, Abdullahi Shehu, the agency is working hard in responding to rape cases and other cases of sexual assault.

“We do responds to cases of rape and other cases of sexual offences, and we work diligently alongside relevant stakeholders including the law enforcement agencies, particularly the Nigerian Police. Anytime we receive such call on rape case, especially if it is in a rural area, we would tell them to go to the nearest police station to report the case and then we will call and speak to the officer on desk and tell him about the situation and will take the report. The reason we do this is to ensure that all evidence is intact so that the offender will not have a reason to lie or deny what he did.

“After the Police report, we take an appropriate step in bringing justice to the victims by arranging the suspects. Investigation will be conducted and the case will go to the court of jurisdiction for prosecution.”

He said the Commission employs a pragmatic approach in dealing with rape cases, adding that they also follow the cases diligently from the point of investigation to prosecution and up to the point of ruling to ensure that justice is done. However, he noted that dealing with rape case is sometimes difficult because of lack of working laws regarding rape and other sexual assault in the state.

Shehu pointed out that their only challenge now is the issue of the VAPP Act not being domesticated.

“We put a lot of effort in such cases but our challenge now is the issue of not domesticating the VAPP Act. You know when there is a legal framework, it will definitely assist in the promotion of Justice.

On the part of the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), Kano State chapter, the Non-Profit Organisation (NGO) says it is putting more efforts in fighting against SGBV through advocacy programs and ensuring the offenders face the consequence of their crimes.

Hajara Safiyo Hamza FFIS, a Senior Magistrate at the Kano State Judiciary and also the Vice Chairperson of FIDA, said issue of rape is worrisome as there is currently an increasing incidence of cases in Kano State.

She highlighted that the minimum punishment for rape is 14 years imprisonment with or without fine, adding that an offender can also bag a life sentence.

Safiyo said they are putting more efforts to see that offenders serve the punishment they deserve but noted that the existing laws do not directly render significant help to rape victims because there is a gap in the legal framework.

She posited that the VAPP Act is the only law that contains all the necessary provisions for the punishment of the offenders, adding that it is the only way to eliminate or mitigate incidence of rape cases and other sexual assault.

Efforts of Kano State government towards mitigating SGBV

The Kano Ministry of Women, Children and Disabled said that it has been working towards dealing with the issue of SGBV and creating a safer environment for both girls and boys.

According to Yakubu Muhammad Salihu, the Director of Planning Research and Statistics in the ministry, who spoke for the Commissioner, the state government is aware of the increasing incidence of rape and it is already working on it.

“We do receive cases of GBV incidents from SARC and the report includes all forms of abuses from different local governments. Currently, we have recorded 300 rape case, and it is because of the increasing incidence that the government is making more effort to establish additional sexual referral Centres across the three Emirate Councils and the Rano LGA is awaiting equipping.”

He said further: “We have put a multi-sectoral responsive and preventive mechanism in place. We also advocated to the Kano Ministry of Justice to revisit the draft copy of the harmonized state VAPP Bill with the review of Kano Penal Code. The review of the referral mechanism is awaiting validation soon.”
When asked the kind of help the ministry renders to the rape victims, Salihi said they offer psycho-social support and empowerment services to the victims.

He further said the government has drafted a gender equity, social inclusion, child protection law, a safeguarding policy as well as a Persons with Disabilities policy as part of the efforts to curtail acts of gender violence and human rights abuses in the state.

However, Salihi said passing the VAPP Act has been the major challenge and attributed a lack of political will as the reason preventing the domestication of the law.

Is Kano State Government effort enough to mitigate rape and other forms of sexual assault?

Various organisations that have been working towards eliminating SGBV in Kano pointed out that the efforts put in place by the state government are not enough to do away with rape cases and other forms of sexual abuse.

The Centre for Awareness on Justice and Accountability (CAJA), an NGO working around public awareness on the dangers of SGBV, highlighted that the Centre has done a lot of advocacy and enlightenment programs to educate the public and young girls on the dangers of the menace and how to go about it.

The Programme Officer of CAJA, Akibu Hamisu, said they have done a series of advocacies, sensitization programs for girls and the general public on the issue, but that alone is not enough unless relevant laws are put in place.

He said that the government needs to put in more effort by domesticating and implementing the VAPP Act and Child Protection Act in the state, adding that “only that can solve the problem and reduce the menace, thereby creating a safe environment for our wards and sons.”

On the part of the Centre for Information Technology and Development, it advocates leveraging the use of technological innovations to reduce the incidence of SGBV in Kano.

According to the Centre’s Gender Technical Officer, Mrs. Zainab Aminu, the organization sees technology as a tool for development and believes that leveraging technological innovations in eliminating the issue of SGBV is important.

“As part of our initiatives to eliminate SGBV in Kano, we created, designed and deployed a Gender Based Violence Mobile Application (GBV App) in 2021, which is available on Google Play Store, to be monitoring and reporting cases of SGBV with the aim to connect survivors with the support they need and also yield an extensive database on SGBV cases across Kano state, particularly in public schools, so that Kano citizens especially, women and girls can plan safer education for themselves and their loved ones.”

She said that the GBV App monitored and recorded 171 SGBV cases between November 2022, and February 2023, mainly cases of rape and other sexual abuses.

Zainab also revealed that CITAD has put a lot of effort into dealing with the problem but expected impacts are not seen because of no legal frameworks to complement such efforts.






     

     

    She said it is on this note that the Centre has been advocating and writing to the Kano State government to domesticate the VAPP Act.

    Also, Dr. Zubaida Nagee of Baobab for Women’s Human Rights, an organization working towards eradicating SGBV through advocacy campaigns, sensitization programs and psycho-social supports to rape victims, stressed on the need to have the VAPP Act in Kano State as the way forward to end the menace.

    “The issue of increasing rape incidence in Kano is quite alarming and it is a high time to take a bold step to curtail the menace as it has left so many unforgettable scars on our young girls and boys, leaving them shattered and some even lost their lives in the process,” she observed.

    This report republished from PrimeTime news was done with the support of the International Centre for Investigative Reporting, under its Promoting Democratic Governance in Nigeria Project.

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