Sunday Aborisade, Abuja
The Senate, on Tuesday, passed a bill seeking to recognise boys and men as capable of being victims of rape.
The bill also prescribes life imprisonment for kidnappers.
The current maximum sentence for the offence is 10 years’ imprisonment.
The bill contains amendments to the Criminal Code Act.
The proposed legislation, sponsored by Senator Oluremi Tinubu, is entitled, ‘A bill for an Act to amend the Criminal Code Act CAP. C.38, Laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 2004’.
It also seeks to delete the statute of limitation on defilement, increase punishment for the offence of kidnapping, and remove gender restrictions on the offence of rape and other related matters.
The bill also eliminates timeframe for prosecuting defilement cases by increasing the period from two months to as many years as the victim decides to take up the matter.
It removes gender restrictions on the offence of rape by explaining that both male and female can be raped.
The bill passed third reading on Tuesday after a report on it was presented by the Chairman of the Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, Opeyemi Bamidele.
The proposed legislation is coming two weeks after the upper chamber passed a bill to prohibit sexual harassment in tertiary institutions.
Bamidele, while presenting the report, said stakeholders at the public hearing expressed divergent views regarding the proposed amendments in the bill.
“The bill will address lingering issues starting with statute of limitation in the prosecution of rape as well as defilement cases, and it will curb the menace, which has been on the rise,” he said.
The report read in part, “That the statute of limitation has been omitted from the Violence Against Persons Act, 2015, which is the prevailing law on the subject matter.
“The bill seeks to amend the Criminal Code Act of 1916 and not that of the states. The bill, when enacted, will apply to the Federal High Court.”
The bill, which will be sent to the House of Representatives for concurrence, also seeks to protect mentally-ill persons from sexual defilement and rape through an amendment to Section 221 of the principal Act.
Amendment to Section 357 of the principal Act regarding rape specifically substitutes the words ‘woman or girl, without her consent, or with her consent’, with ‘any person, without consent, or with consent’.
Attempt by Senator Uche Ekwunife to effect an amendment to Section 357 to define persons susceptible to rape to accommodate “married and unmarried persons” was rejected by lawmakers during the clause-by-clause consideration of the bill.