Members of Civil society groups have called for review of the Sexual Offences Bill 2015 and its harmonization with existing laws to forestall its manipulation by perpetrators of sexual violence.
They made the call at a media forum with theme: “Discourse on New Sexual Offence Bill & NAPTIP ACT 2015: Clearing the controversies,” held in Lagos recently at the instance of Media Concern Initiative, an NGO.
According to the members, although the intent and purpose of the bill which was sponsored by Senator Chris Anyanwu is good, it left gaps which could be exploited by perpetrators.
Some of the gaps identified by them include breaking of offence of the sexual violence against a child into three categories given that same punishment is attached to them, non-definition of who a child is(age), provisions that a complainant gets same punishment as an offender if the allegation is false, exclusion of protection of the boy child in the bill, non provision for cases where the abuser and the abused are both minors.
Other grey areas identified include the provision that that deception or previous sexual relations with an accused can serve as defence for persons accused of sexual violence under the bill.
Speaking at the forum, the Executive Director, ACTS Generation, Laila St Mathew-Daniel who noted that age was not mentioned in the controversial bill said, “What is the age of the person who is defiled?” She argued that the fact that the bill was silent on age left a “loophole that can be manipulated by paedophiles.” She also faulted the provisions of 10 years imprisonment for incest which she said is inadequate for the serious psychological and physiological violation.
The Executive Director, Partnership for Justice, Itoro Eze-Anaba faulted the provision that previous sexual relationship as defence in rape. “ I do not agree with the section that says it is not rape if there is previous sexual relationship? What if I had a sexual relationship with my colleague and he got promoted and I decide I don’t want to continue the relationship?“ she queried.