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Why the conviction of rapists in Nigeria has remained atrociously low

The abusers are either unpunished or given light sentences

Nigeria’s rape cases are becoming unsolved tragedies. The low conviction rate for these cases is contributing to the state of insecurity for its citizens, especially women and children.

Samuel Agweh, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (equivalent to the queen’s counsel in the United Kingdom) gave some reasons for lack of conviction of rapists in Nigeria. During an interview with Global Voices, Agweh emphasised that, “most culprits bribe victims or the family with money so as to stop the charges against them.” The lawyer stated that due to bribes, families decline to testify. Sometimes, the survivor still wants to, but is immediately stopped from taking the stand in court by their family members.

Some survivors refuse to come forward if the abuser is a family member and may not want to hurt the family name. Society cherishes the value of family especially in Nigeria, so a family member accused of raping their own family member will be shamed. Therefore it is easier to push the issue away, Agweh, the Senior Advocate of Nigeria, further explained.

The survivors’ unwillingness to report the case because they lack faith in the Nigerian legal system is another reason for the low conviction of rape. These survivors don’t believe that the legal system is able to help them if since the legal system has been standing for years but only eighteen rape cases have been prosecuted since that time. It doesn’t encourage anyone to bring their case forward. Furthermore, communities in Nigeria often blame the victim, often looking for loopholes in the story. 

While a colleague of mine was interviewing a rape survivor, who had the same story as the scenario above, he claims that the reason why his case never got the justice it needed was that the “would have been” prosecutor of the case said that “a boy can never be raped.” The legal system believes that it is not possible for a male to be raped in Nigeria. Hence, Nigerian men must deal with their own traumas secretly because they don’t want labels or seen as cowards. 

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