The issue of rape being gender biased has been a jurisprudential issue in Nigeria for a while because our law, as it then was, does not recognize situations wherein a man would or could be raped.
Sexual violence against men and boys is alarmingly common and takes a markedly consistent form across contexts in terms of how it affects victims and societies as a human rights violation that is a taboo to talk about.
It has been committed in all cultures, geographic regions, and time periods. Today, while some of the silence surrounding the issue of sexual violence against women is being broken, unfortunately effective measures of justice and redress are still not understood or applied in ways that can support male victims.
Rape and sexual assaults are seen as a woman’s issue, the stereotypical instance is that of the female being the victim, and the perpetrator male.
Recently though, it is no longer adequate to pretend, as some people do, that rape and sexual assault are only committed by men against women, the proportion of men who report sexual abuse cases are exceedingly low and the number of victims are also far greater than the government or media coverage would suggest.
Male rape victims are usually faced with a colossal amount of social prejudice in coming forward. An international organization working with male victims said “very few men would attempt to report to the police a rape situation, they do not want to feel emasculated, and they do not want to feel gay”
There are more organizations and bloggers talk about female victimization and their needs and due to decades of
Women speaking out and speaking up, they have developed a broad array of resources and the funding to support them but comparing this with the case of men and boys is sadly different.
We need to do a better job of raising awareness so that when a guy admits he’s been raped, we don’t scorn him for being vulnerable, but instead we give him the support he needs.
We need to develop more resources so that when a guy acknowledges that he’s been hurt and needs help, he can get it.
Sexual discriminations also stems from assumptions about gender, for example that men are strong and able to cope while women are weak and vulnerable. Men and women are still persecuted for not conforming to gender stereotypes. Not only does ‘society’s persistence in equating ‘feminine’ with ‘inferior’ results in a continued discrimination against women, it also results in discrimination against men perceived to have ‘transgressed masculine norms’ hence the flawed assumption that men cannot be raped.
Preceding the advent of The Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act, the Criminal and Penal Code were the laws in force in Nigeria, governing all issues concerning sexual abuse.
Section 357 of the Criminal Code Act, CAP 77, LFN 1990 defines rape as:
“Any person who has unlawful carnal knowledge of a woman or girl, without her consent, or with her consent, if the consent is obtained by force or by means of threats 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, in the case of a married woman, by personating her husband, is guilty of an offence which is called rape.”
The Criminal Code applies exclusively to states in southern Nigeria. Laws regarding sexual abuse in northern Nigeria are governed by the Penal Code. The Penal Code terms rape as: “A man can be held guilty of rape if he has sexual intercourse with a woman without her consent, or with her consent, if consent was unlawfully obtained”.
From the aforementioned definitions, it is clear that the various definitions of rape under Nigerian law had one thing in common: they were only applicable in the case of women and girls, not only by explicitly stating so, but also through their technical definitions of rape, thus, the absence of the mention of women as possible perpetrators of rape, totally excludes them from ever committing such an offence.
For many years, there had been calls by various interest groups for a reform of our penal and criminal codes to incorporate emerging acts classified as violence and abuse in our society. Our penal and criminal codes have some of the offences defined as domestic violence, it fails to capture the expanded definition to incorporate emerging issues and practices over time; hence the passage into law of the The Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act, 2015.
One of the very notable provisions of the Act 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; hence, the VAPP Act has taken a giant stride to expand the meaning and scope of rape. 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.