The last time I checked, Article 4 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child states that, "state parties shall undertake all appropriate legislative, administrative, and other measures for the implementation of the rights recognized in the present convention."
With regards to economic, social and cultural rights, state parties shall undertake such measures to the maximum extent of their available resources and, where needed, within the framework of international cooperation. Governments have a responsibility to take all available measures to make sure children's rights are respected, protected and fulfilled. When countries (including Nigeria) ratified the convention, they agreed to review their laws relating to children.
As it stands today, there is no law protecting the rights of the Nigerian child adequately (I stand to be corrected). The Nigerian child, especially the girl-child, being the prey of sex predators is a burning issue of public discourse that needs to be treated with utmost exigency. With the growing rate of incest and sexual abuse making headlines almost every day and the girl-child being the unfortunate victim, it is about time Nigerians started questioning the existence of a bicameral legislature whose presence makes no difference whatsoever.
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While other countries have set higher legal standards than those in this convention, Nigeria has no law of her own that protects the rights of the child and still finds it a herculean task to implement the provisions of this convention of which it is a party to. Even though governments are obliged to take all necessary steps to ensure that the minimum standards set by the convention in these are met, what we have had in Nigeria is our lawmakers sponsoring bills to legalize girl-child marriage due to the inconsistencies of the several laws operated in the country.
I would highlight few of the many laws that help pedophiles get away with sexual abuse. · Chapter 21 section 218 of the Criminal Code Act which states that: "Any person who attempts to have unlawful carnal knowledge of a girl under the age of thirteen years is guilty of a felony and is liable to imprisonment for fourteen years, with or without caning." This is fair enough, some will say, but this law has clauses attached to it which renders it impotent. "A prosecution for either of the offences defined in this section shall be begun within two months after the offence is committed. "A person cannot be convicted of either of the offences defined in this section upon the uncorroborated testimony of one witness."
The conditions attached to these provisions are disheartening and out rightly condemnable. If found wanting, why wait another two months before prosecuting a criminal. It is generally believed that 'justice delayed is justice denied' . Whereas putting these child abusers behind bars is the panacea to thwarting further sinister motives and also send a warning to others who might habour such thought. Taking a look at the other clause, what happens if the child abused cannot describe what was done to her and no one witnessed the dastardly act? Should these happen, the criminal vindicates himself from the crime he committed.
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Also Section 221(2) of the Criminal Codes Act states that: "Any person who knowing a woman or girl to be an idiot or imbecile, has or attempts to have unlawful carnal knowledge of her is guilty of a misdemeanor and is liable to imprisonment for two years, with or without caning." This section is not without a condition.
It states that if the accused person is able to prove that the victim is of or above sixteen years of age as at the time of the crime, he might evade trial. This is iniquity at its peak!!! This is more or less taking advantage of a psychologically or mentally deranged person due to their medical condition.
The law in its entirety is binding on all but why operate so many laws which are binding on few persons? Why operate so many laws which pretend to punish but what it does is pat defaulters on the back? These questions and more are begging for answers. The existing laws in Nigeria needs total overhaul. As stipulated in Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights ,"No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment". However, a child does not have to be battered before it is termed torture or inhuman treatment.
One should also think of the post-traumatic disorder the victim suffers after this ungodly act. Nothing is more inhuman or degrading than having carnal knowledge of a child either forcefully or seductively. It is the apogee of insanity. All this piece is asking for is coherence in every law utilized in the administration of justice. Let no law vindicate a criminal either by default or inconsistency; let not the lesser laws contradict the parent law (the 1999 Constitution) or other international conventions of which the country is a party to. With these measures taken, all things being equal, the spate of sexual abuse against the girl-child can be exterminated from our society.
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