• Thursday, July 25, 2024
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Akwa Ibom plans special offences court for sex, domestic violence offenders

Man regains freedom after 15 yrs in prison without trial

Akwa Ibom government is mulling the establishment of a special offences court to try offenders and ensure quick dispensation of justice. This plan follows the growing incidence of sexual and gender-based violence,

So far, the state has recorded 1467 cases of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) with 401 rape cases, 118 cases of attempted rape and 520 spousal battery cases while it has achieved 53 convictions involving rape cases.

Emem Ette, a lawyer and Secretary of the SGBV management committee made this known in Uyo, the state capital during a media interaction as part of the ongoing one-month enlightenment campaign launched by the state government to raise awareness on the dangers of sexual violence and sensitisation on the provisions of the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Law 2020.

Under the VAPP law which came into force 10th June, 2020, it prohibits all forms of violence against persons and provides maximum protection and effective remedies for victims and punishment of offenders who run foul of the Law and for other matters including life imprisonment for anybody that has been convicted of rape while that of an attempted rape carries 14 years in prison.

According to Ette who is a also a director in the SGBV response unit in the state ministry of Justice said the committee was currently investigating 210 cases with 425 pending cases before the courts while 322 cases have been withdrawn involving abandonment of children and spouses because of settlement by family or religious bodies as well as mediated cases since not all cases involving spousal battery could be taken to court.

She said the state government through the committee has rehabilitated 350 survivors and responded to 667 victims in various centres across the state adding that it has able been to record “this remarkable achievement after it formed a coalition against SGBV involving 300 groups and organisations working to eliminate SGBV in the state.’’

“The committee is a masterstroke, we have achieved a lot since its inaugural years ago. We have toured all the 10 federal constituencies of the state to carry out sensitization programmes and sexual referral centres have been established and free medical services are being offered to victims as well,’’ she said.

She said though there have been cases of sexual violence in the state, it became a disturbing issue during the COVID-19 pandemic where many people were all locked inside their homes adding that people who were supposed to be protectors became predators and violated many people including unnatural offences and cases that were not covered by the criminal code.

“A law was needed to prosecute a male who rapes another male, or a female who rapes another female, or a female who rapes a male because under the criminal code, the only person who could rape was a man and not a woman.

‘So when we started having unnatural cases of a woman raping a man, or a man raping another man or a woman raping another woman, we needed a law to deal with such cases.

“But since we already had the VAPP Act at the federal level, there was a need for Akwa Ibom state to adopt that Act to become a law in Akwa Ibom state to deal with those cases. So on 10th june, 2020 the Akwa Ibom state government enacted the VAPP Law.

“She frowned against the involvement of royal fathers in settling rape cases adding that all cases involving rape should be taken to court for justice to be serve both the victim, the offendder the society.

“The danger of settling rape cases is you enable the perpetrators to continue in his act or her act, so we are encouraging everybody to report and ensure that the perpetrator or a rapist faces the law , let it be the law that will set him or her free, because if he or she comes home, he or she might rape someone else.’’ she said.

She also denied reports that the law was only meant for the ordinary people in the society, adding that the law has no respect for any individual who runs foul of its provisions.