Why VAPP Law is important
You must have heard us talk about the VAPP law a lot at the Stand to End Rape Initiative (STER). We have even implemented the #PassVAPPAct Project in Adamawa and Kebbi states. But why is this regulation so important and why are we at the forefront of efforts to domesticate and implement it in all 36 states of Nigeria and the Federal Capital Territory?
What is VAPP law?
First of all, what is the VAPP law? The Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) (VAPP) law is self-described to “eliminate all forms of violence against persons in private and public life and provides maximum protection and effective remedies for victims and punishment of offenders: and all related matters.”
The VAPP Act was signed into law by Former President Goodluck Jonathan in 2015. Since then, it has been an uphill battle to get all 36 states in Nigeria to domesticate it.
Through our #PassVAPPAct and SGBV Accountability Projects, we have directly lobbied state governments to adopt the law, rated the implementation level of the law, done recommendations and encouraged cross learnings.
Still, you must wonder why we are so invested in the VAPP Act.
Why is the VAPP law important?
The VAPP law is an incredibly important piece of regulation for Nigerians. Not only does it prohibit multiple forms of SGBV, but it also appends punishment for offenders, accomplices and anyone caught in an attempt.
The first part of the law has twenty-six sub-sections which include offences such as rape, coercion, threatening a person with physical injury, offensive conduct, female genital mutilation, depriving a person of his or her liberty, forced financial dependence or economic abuse, forced isolation or separation from family and friends, verbal and psychological abuse, negative widowhood practices, abandonment of spouse, children and other dependents, stalking, intimidation, spousal battery, harmful traditional practices, among others. This tremendously validates the work we do at STER and makes it possible for our clients to get justice.
Key highlights of areas where the VAPP law is groundbreaking are listed below:
- It defines rape broadly
While the VAPP law is not limited to sexual and gender-based violence, it does have key focuses on crimes that are of this nature. For the first time in Nigeria, rape is not limited to forceful penetration of the vagina alone and includes non-consensual oral and anal sex. The rape and assault of boys and men are also criminalised.
Rape is defined as follows:
(a) he or she intentionally penetrates the vagina, anus or mouth of another person any part of his or her body or anything else.
(b) the other person does not consent to the penetration, or
(c) the consent is obtained by force or means of threat or intimidation of any mind or by fear of harm or by means of false and fraudulent representation as to the nature of the act or the use of any substance or additive capable of taking away the will of such person or in the case of a married person by impersonating his or her spouse.
The law also recognises that sexual acts obtained under false pretenses, through threats or intimidation are rape and that the use of objects or any other body parts to commit the offense.
2. Justice is distributive
One area we are particular about at STER is getting justice for victims and survivors and the VAPP law does a good job of making that possible. In section 1, subsection 2, criminals convicted of rape would receive a life sentence except if they are less than 14 years old. For other cases of sexual assault, the given punishment is 12 years without an option of a fine.
Furthermore, the law also awards compensation for victims which is novel in the criminal justice system of Nigeria. Attempted rape, inciting, aiding and abetting others to commit the crime are also punishable offences under this law.
3. The creation of the sex offender register
A sex offender register is a compiled list of all convicted sex offenders in a state. It helps citizens, as well as the authorities, stay alert and keep track of convicted sex offenders. It typically includes the offender’s name, picture, and criminal offence.
Prior to the passing of the VAPP law, only 10 states had an active sex offenders register and out of all these states, only the Lagos state government regularly updated theirs with new offenders. With the VAPP law, there is a central database created by NAPTIP that features convicted rapists and assaulters. Not only is this a form justice of justice for victims, but it could also serve as a deterrent.
4. It effectively criminalises Female Genital Mutilation
According to the NDHS, 27% of Nigerian women between the ages of 15 and 49 were victims of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). This violent practice is common across cultures in the country and involves cutting the external part of the girl or woman’s genitalia for the sake of ‘purity’.
While some states have criminalised Female Genital Mutilation, there was no central law prohibiting it. The VAPP law is the federal law that prohibits (FGM), which is still prevalent in Nigeria, across the whole country. It also proscribes a 4-year jail term and/or a 200,000 naira fine for offenders. In addition, anyone who is caught attempting to or aids and abets people who carry out this act, would be liable to a 2-year sentence and/or a 100,000 naira fine.
How effective is the VAPP law?
So far, 29 states and the Federal Capital Territory have adopted this law. As for its implementation, our SGBV Accountability is currently monitoring and gathering data on the performance of all states in implementing it. We would release our data-backed findings soon.