By Bashir Bello – Kano
Fatima Ahmad LL.B, B.L is a Member of the International Federation of Women Lawyers in Kano State and currently the Kano state Coordinator under the Women Rights Advancement and Protection Alternative, WRAPA /Rolac project on Sexual and Gender-Based Violence, SGBV. The advocate for women and child rights, in this interview, speaks on the spike in SGBV cases recorded in the state with 127 cases between April to June.
What is your coalition all about and out to achieve?
The coalition has the aim to enhance collaboration between Sexual and Gender-Based Violence service providers in Kano. That is to ensure and enhance collaboration between SGBV service providers and government service providers in Kano and lastly to ensure that challenges faced by SGBV service providers in Kano are identified and addressed.
Who are the SGBV service providers and what are the challenges they face?
The SGBV service providers are organisations that are involved in receiving and responding to cases of SGBV. Challenges faced vary from the health sector- whether it is fully equipped to render services to victims; or to law enforcement agencies where investigations should be dully carried out in order to gather enough evidence for the prosecution in courts. So it depends on the angle you are looking at it from as challenges are also faced with families of the victims.
Looking at the rampant cases of rape in Kano state, particularly the spike during the lockdown which has been described as alarming, what’s your take on this as a coalition working around this?
The spike was anticipated. Unfortunately, this is due to the forced proximity occasioned by lockdown and on the other hand due to overburden on our health facilities and law enforcement agencies.
What we ensured we did was to emphasise on creating awareness and sensitisation on reporting protocol to educate people on steps to take when reporting cases of SGBV.
Again, when we say the increase in rape cases is alarming in the state, can you make a comparison of the number of cases recorded before and now, maybe on monthly basis, daily or yearly?
During the Covid-19 Lockdown Kano Waraka Sexual Assault Referral centre recorded a high rise of cases of SGBV. According to the SARC data, 127 cases of SGBV were recorded from April to June.
And who are the most affected victims?
There are no criteria or yardsticks for measuring that can and cannot be victims of sexual and gender-based violence. During the lockdown, our coalition was part of an initiative by the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, Kano with the technical support of Isa Wali Empowerment Initiative to address SGBV cases during the pandemic.
Questions still arise as to why the rampant cases of SGBV and whether the legal framework we have are consistent with the punishments as provided?
I was made to understand; VAPP Act if implemented is capable of ending issues of rape and others. What is the VAPP Act all about and what is the status in Kano State?
The Violence against Persons Prohibition Act is known as the VAPP became law in 2015. Since then, many advocates have clamoured for the domestication of the law in their State, and Kano state is not an exception.
It was the need to protect people from people that led to the enactment of the Act at the Federal level. With the upsurge of different forms of violence that our existing laws have not accommodated and recognised there is a need to domesticate an all-encompassing law which is the VAPP Act.
The importance of the VAPP Act cannot be well understood without looking at the peculiarities of the VAPP which makes it unique in itself.
The definition of rape is more encompassing, for example, who can be raped? What can be used to rape? What happens when there is more than one rapist?
Introduction of new offences to include:
Female Genital Mutilation, Harmful traditional practices, stalking, forced ejection from home, emotional, verbal, and psychological abuse among others.
And also the provision of compensation for victims empowers other persons to seek redress on behalf of accused persons, monitoring and oversight mechanism which will facilitate resource allocation and government funding.
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So what is the status of VAPP Act in Kano and what are the chances of it tackling rape and other issues of SGBV if implemented?
In 2017 the coalition for Policy advocates, C. PAK (which consists of 21 member organizations was formed to ensure facilitation for the passage of the VAPP Act. The movement is still on and there have been recent meetings to see to it that the VAPP Act is passed soonest Insha Allah.
The call for castration for a rapist in the state is causing some controversies, where the Assembly has commenced a process to recall the State’s penal code amendment (No. 12) law of 2014, to provide castration punishment for rapists in addition to the 14 years imprisonment for rapists; and Islamic scholars have kicked against proposed castration for rapists. Castration or no castration for the rapist, where do you stand?
To start with, no punishment can be said to be too much for a rapist due to the gravity of the offense and I believe this is what drove the Kano State House of Assembly members to propose for castration.
I think the efficacy of castration (surgical or chemical) as a deterrent can be more explained by medical professionals as some have questioned whether it stops a person from having an erection or not but basically the definition of rape has been broadened over time and now includes various forms and stages of sexual Assault.
Questions might arise as to what stage should it be carried out? Who can be castrated? The controversy over the death penalty is on. Meanwhile, the death penalty has not stopped the offense of armed robbery. We will keep on advocating for a more realistic approach that will make a difference in reducing the incidents of this menace.
And which approach do you think is realistic?
A realistic approach will be a capital punishment for the rapist.