Last week/post, we introduced the VAPP Act, read it here if you haven’t already.
This week we’ll take you through the specifics of the Act. Let’s just get right into it:
Some Specific Provisions
- By virtue of the Act, rape is when a person intentionally penetrates the vagina, anus or mouth of another person with any other part of his or her 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 or in the case of a married person by impersonating his or her spouse. The issue of rape being gender biased had been a jurisprudential issue in Nigeria for a while because our law, as it then was, did not recognize situations wherein a man would or could be raped. The VAPP Act changes as by this definition it provides, both males and females are protected against rape.
- Prohibition of Female Circumcision or Genital Mutilation: Circumcision and genital mutilation, a practice that is still practiced in our society and even regarded as a culture among some, is now, by virtue of the provision of the Act, an offence irrespective of the part of the country she comes from. 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 N200,000.00 or both. Also, anyone who attempts to carry out the offence of female circumcision or genital mutilation also commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a term of imprisonment not exceeding 2 years or to a fine not exceeding N100,000.00 or both. A person who also incites, aids or abets or counsels another to commit the offence of female circumcision or mutilation commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a term of imprisonment not exceeding 2 years or to a fine not exceeding N100,000.00 or both.
- Domestic Offences:
- Abandonment of children, spouse and other dependents without means of sustenance: The VAPP Act has now made it a crime to abandon one’s spouse, children and other dependents without sustenance and anyone guilty of this will face charges of imprisonment of not less than one year or a fine of not less than N100,000. Even a person who receives or assists another who, to his or her knowledge, committed this offence is considered an accessory after the fact and is liable on conviction to a term of imprisonment not exceeding 1 year or to a fine not exceeding N100,000.00 or both.
- Forceful ejection from home: Forceful ejection by any marriage partner is also now prohibited. Any partner who forcefully evicts his/her partner from his or her home or refuse access commits an offence attracting imprisonment not exceeding 2 years or to a fine not exceeding N300,000.00 or both.
- Spousal Battery: A person who batters his or her spouse commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a term of imprisonment not exceeding 3 years or to a fine not exceeding N200,000.00 or both.
- Incest: The VAPP defines incest to mean “an indecent act or an act which causes penetration with a person who is, to his or her knowledge, his or her daughter or son, granddaughter or son, sister or brother, mother or father, niece or nephew, aunt/uncle, grandmother or granduncle” and goes further to provide that any person who knowingly and wilfully have carnal knowledge of another within the prohibited degrees of consanguinity and affinity contained in the Schedule to the Act with or without consent, commits incest and is liable on conviction to a minimum term of 10 years imprisonment without an option of fine where sex was without consent, and where the two parties consent to commit incest, 5 years imprisonment without an option of fine.
- Compensation to Victims: The Act provides that the Court should award appropriate compensation to the victim as it may deem fit in the circumstance. In addition to the rights provided for under chapter IV of the Nigerian Constitution, victims and survivors of violence are entitled to comprehensive medical, psychological, social and legal assistance by accredited service providers and government agencies or non-governmental agencies providing such assistance; information on the availability of legal, health and social services and other relevant assistance and be readily afforded access to them; rehabilitation and re-integration programme.
- Protection of Victims: Taking cognizance of the fact that victims or potential victims might not want to come forward to lodge complaints in relation to offences under the Act because of the fear of further victimization in the wider society (especially at the work place), the Act provides that no complainant of any offence under the Act shall be expelled, disengaged, suspended or punished in any form whatsoever by virtue of the action of compliance with the provisions of this Act. The identities of victims of offences under the Act is also protected. The Act provides for the number and categories of persons that may be in court during trial, it empowers the Court to hear proceedings privately or to exclude any person from attending such proceedings and prohibits the publication of certain information in relation to the trial. This is to ensure that the dignity of the victim (and other parties to the trial) is protected.
- The Act provides extensively for protection order. Protection order, according to the Act is an official legal document, signed by a judge that restrains an individual or State actors from further abusive behaviour towards a victim. This provision of the law is a very laudable one in that it curtails and mitigates, on the short term, the abuse of persons especially in private spaces. It also shows that the Act is both protective and preventive in its measures. Thus, a person who has been a victim of violence, and in the risk of further violence, can apply for a protection order to be issued against his/her violator(s). The protection order is to be accompanied by a warrant for the arrest of the respondent and it remains valid throughout the period of the protection order. Where the respondent has contravened any prohibition, condition, obligation or order contained in a protection order, a complainant may hand the warrant of arrest together with an affidavit in the prescribed form to any police officer may proceed to arrest the respondent if he has reasonable grounds to suspect that the complainant may suffer imminent harm.
- Attempt as an offence: In the Act, an attempt to commit an offence is an offence in itself. The Act thus provides for appropriate punishment for the attempt of commission of offences under the Act.
- Provision for smooth operation of the law: The Act makes it an offence for any person to defraud or conceal an offence or frustrate the investigation and prosecution of offenders under the Act or any other enactment which is deemed a felony and is liable on conviction to a term of imprisonment not exceeding 3 years or to a fine not exceeding N200,000.00 or both. Similarly, a person who wilfully makes false statement, whether oral or documentary in any judicial proceeding under the Act with the aim of initiating investigation or criminal proceedings under the Act against another person commits an offence is liable on conviction to a fine of N200, 000.00 or a term of imprisonment not exceeding 12 months.
- Socio-economic violence: Abduction, prohibition of harmful widowhood practices, abuse, harmful traditional practice, attack with harmful substances, date rape, damage to property with intention to cause distress, deprivation of liberty, forced financial dependence or economic abuse, forced isolation or separation from family and friends, stalking, coercion, intimidation etc. are some of the socio-economic violence prohibited by the Act.
- Sexual offender’s Record: Nigeria does not have a register of sexual offender even though a few states e.g Lagos and Ekiti have tried to develop for their states. The Act has thus provided for a register for convicted sexual offenders, which shall be maintained and accessible to the public and where a person has more than one conviction of sexual offence, the court may declare such a person a dangerous sexual offender. NAPTIP is the agency tasked with creating this register but we believe that the police would be better placed to lead this.
- Superiority of the Act: Where there is a conflict between any provision of the Act and any other provision on similar offences in the Criminal Code, Penal Code and Criminal Procedure Code, the provisions of the Act shall supersede. We are very pleased about this superiority as it ensures that people can’t escape from things not covered in the criminal and penal codes.
- Political Violence: The Act defines political violence to mean ‘any act or attempted act of violence perpetrated in the course of political activities, such as elections, and including thuggery, mugging, use of force to disrupt meetings or the use of dangerous weapons that may cause bodily harm or injury’ and anybody found guilty of such, commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a term of imprisonment not exceeding 4 years or to a fine not exceeding N500,000.00 or both. A state actor who commits political violence commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a term of imprisonment not exceeding 4 years or to a fine not exceeding N1.000,000.00 or both. Where the offender is a state actor, the State is liable for the offence committed by its agents and the Court shall award appropriate compensation commensurate with the extent and amount of damages.
A law is useless if it is not enforced, it is up to you and I to ensure the enforcement of laws by taking advantage of the rights and access they bestow on us and by collaborating with law enforcement agencies to make sure they also comply as required. The VAPP Act is here to protect all of us, let us draw on that protection.
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