Defilement of a child is any sexual intercourse with a child under the age of eighteen years old, whether or not the child consents, and s.27 child Rights Law of Lagos State 2015. The offense of defilement is an issue which has been given less concern in our society today and treated with reckless abandon. Notwithstanding the various law enactments by various states to protect the interest of a child, the record of defilement cases has become so alarming that it has become a daily occurrence in our society.
The question then is…. Are there no laws prohibiting the committal of such offense, or are the punishment prescribed for such offense not severe enough to deter prospective offenders? Let us examine some of these laws….
S.218 of the Criminal Code Act 2004 provides “any person who has unlawful carnal knowledge of a girl under the age of 13 years is guilty of a felony and is liable to imprisonment for 14 years with or without canning”.
S.27 child Rights Law of Lagos State provides that “A person must not have sexual intercourse with a child, it is immaterial that the offender believed the person to be above eighteen years or that the sexual intercourse was with the consent of the child”.
Irrespective of all these provisions of laws prohibiting and punishing defilement of a child, the increased rate of the offence in our society today points to the fact that the measures set out for curbing such offence are not adequate.
First of all, the triviality of the issue of defilement of a child can be seen from the provision of the law in s.218 Criminal Code Act which provides that cases of defilement of a child must be commenced within two (2) months from the time the offence was committed.
The question is….Why should a serious offence as defilement be statute-barred after two months of its committal? This issue will not be considered as it is not the focus of this research.
Secondly, on the issue of bail in defilement cases, why should the offence be made a bailable offence considering the seriousness of the offence and the great effect it has on its victim? The offence is not just made bailable but the report has shown that in most of the cases bail are mostly granted on liberal terms. It is the trite law that one of the rights of an accused person is the right to bail, even though there are offences which the statutes creating them has prescribed to be non-bailable, for instance, murder, armed robbery, kidnapping etc. This suggests the fact that some offences are non-bailable.
One should ask, what is/are the rationale for making the penalty of some offence bailable? One of such reason, in my opinion, could be because such offences are considered very serious offence which is against humanity and committed against the state. My question is….does the offence of defilement of a child, not a more serious offence which is against humanity and is also committed against the state.
We’ve acknowledged the fact that every accused has a right to bail and should not be denied of such right; let us also not lose sight of the fact that under the Child Rights Act and under the various child rights laws, a child has the right to dignity. Where however the perpetrator of this offence has elected to deny a child of such right to dignity, invariably it won’t be wrong or illegal to deny the perpetrators of their right to bail.
However, where the circumstance of a case makes it imperative that bail should be granted, it is the duty of the court to grant such bail only on stringent conditions considering the gravity of the offence and the consequences thereof on the victim. This will also serve as deterrence to prospective offenders.
There are so many reported cases where perpetrators of this offence disappear without any trace after bail has been granted. In so many of such cases bail was granted on liberal terms. How then can justice be meted out on those culprits? One of the most recent cases is that of the defilement of an autistic ten years old girl by a 38 years old man as reported by the punch. What an evil!
It is high time we focus more on the preventive rather than curative measures and one of such measures, in my opinion, is making the penalty for defilement of a child a life imprisonment and making it a non-bailable offence, that way the perpetrators of such offence cannot flee away and will surely be dealt with in accordance with the law.
It is worthy to state here that in Zambia, the punishment for the offence of defilement of a child is 15 years imprisonment and research show that a bill is been proposed to review the punishment for such offence from 15 years to life imprisonment. This would be a welcomed development in Nigeria.
In conclusion, the incidence of defilement cases in the country is so absurd and alarming. Something drastic and urgent should be done to check the trend. The trauma suffered by victims cannot be overemphasized.
There should be a harsh legislation that would serve as deterrence to those who engage in such acts. What we’ve failed to understand is that psychologically, whatever you do to a child, the consequences stay and affects that child later in the future.
That’s is why an abused, neglected and maltreated child will see life differently from a child who was trained in the right way and shown the better ways to handle life. Children are the leaders of tomorrow, for us to create good leaders with good morals, we have to start training them from the beginning when they are born until they grow into leaders.
Article By Barr. Nze Ginikachukwu Success