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A state of emergency was recently declared in the state of Kaduna, Nigeria, following an uproar and public outcry over the steep rise in reported rapes during the coronavirus lockdown.

A new law in the state of Kaduna dramatically increased the legal consequences facing convicted rapists. In cases where the victim is over the age of 14, any man convicted of raping them will be surgically castrated and be handed a life sentence. Men convicted of raping children under the age 14 will be surgically castrated, before being executed. Similar laws have been put in place for female adults convicted of raping a child under the age of 14. Female adults will face salpingectomy (removal of fallopian tubes) and death,  and if they have raped someone over the age of 14, they will serve a life sentence. Previously, the penalty for rape was a maximum sentence of 21 years and for raping a child it was life imprisonment. Kaduna now has the strictest rape law across Nigeria.

The Minister for Women’s Affairs, in Nigeria has stated that last December two million women and young girls were raped in the country each year. In June of this year the Minister confirmed  that the number of rapes had spiked to three times the typical rate, because women and young girls were locked down with their abusers during the coronavirus pandemic. Kaduna’s governor, Nasir el-Rufai, said  that the new measures were “required to help further protect children from a serious crime.”

Whilst many Nigerians have welcomed the new law some are of the opinion that it is incompatible with the country’s Constitution and the new law may lead to fewer rape cases being reported. Unsurprisingly, the recently signed law in Kaduna has been condemned. United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet has said that “Penalties like surgical castration and bilateral salpingectomy will not resolve any of the barriers to accessing justice, nor will it serve a preventive role,” She added that “Surgical castration and salpingectomy violate the absolute prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment under international human rights law”. 

Capital punishment in South Africa was abolished on 6 June 1995 by the ruling of the Constitutional Court in the case of S v Makwanyane. In the wake of several high profile murders and acts of violence against women in South Africa there have recently been

calls by many citizens for the death penalty to be re-instated in the country. Early in 2019, our President faced with questions on the plausibility of the death penalty been re-instated said quite categorically that, it is not the state’s place to take life.

 “Our constitution has enshrined the right to life. This means that the state should not be the one to terminate a life. The surge in criminality should be addressed in other ways rather than ending people’s lives,” Ramaphosa said.

As the sharp increase in both woman men and children being attacked, raped and murdered in South Africa continues, it remains to be seen how our government is going to deal with the overcrowding of its prisons to facilitate these criminals or whether a harsher form of punishment will need to be considered.

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Author – Kate Bailey – Hill

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