Academic journal article Gender & Behaviour

The Prevalence of Sexual Assault and the Need for Preventive Measure in Nigeria

Academic journal article Gender & Behaviour

The Prevalence of Sexual Assault and the Need for Preventive Measure in Nigeria

Article excerpt

According to the United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon (2013, "there is one universal truth applicable to all countries, cultures and communities: violence against women is never acceptable, never tolerable".

Despite this food for thought and in spite of various efforts as seen in several reports of World Health Organizations and United Nations, the incidence and prevalence of sexual violence against women is rising across all countries regardless of economic status or religion affiliation. The main issue therefore, is that sexual violence represents a public problem that is in violation of one of the basic rights of women to protect their bodies.

During the 1993 UN World Conference on human rights, gender violence (which includes sexual assault) was defined as "violence which jeopardizes fundamental rights, individual freedom and women's physical integrity". Articles 1 and 2 of the UN Declaration on the elimination of violence against women expand this further and in many UN documents, including the Bejing platform by Action, the term:

"Violence against women means any act of gender-based violence that results in or it is likely to result in physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to woman including threats of such act with coercion or arbitrary occurring in public or private life. Violence against women shall be understood to encompass, but not be limited to the following:

(a) Physical, sexual and psychological violence occurring in the family including battering, sexual abuse of female children in the household, dowry related violence, marital rape, female genital mutilation and other traditional practices harmful to women, non-spousal violence and violence related to exploitation

(b) Physical, sexual and psychological violence occurring within the general community, including rape, sexual abuse, sexual harassment and intimidation at work, in educational institutions and elsewhere, trafficking in women and forced prostitution.

(c) Physical, sexual and psychological violence perpetrated or combined by state, whenever it occurs" (Kelly & Regan, 2005]

The term "violence against women" comprises different types of violence that includes sexual violence by an intimate or non-intimate partner, female genital mutilation, child forced marriage, honour killings, trafficking of women or children, widowhood and inheritance, violence against women and legal constraints etc. Sexual assault is one form of gender based violence against women. This paper reviews literature that focus on sexual assault, including rape, sexual harassment or coercion, which are components of GBV.

Daily, Nigerian women face different forms of sexual assaults, which affect their dignity and integrity. Although Nigeria has provisions in both her criminal and penal codes against the various types of sexual assault, they are not effectively implemented in practice, majorly due to the technicalities and evidential rules in the proof of sexual assault. For instance, "having carnal knowledge or sexual intercourse with a women or a girl without her consent or under duress" attracts a sentence of life imprisonment [The 1999 Nigerian constitution].

In more developed countries, many studies on all forms of sexual assault are available. These help to better understand the effects on women and aid in various prevention programmes. This is not however the case in the developing countries. In the African environments for instance, Female Genital Mutilation appears to be the most researched form of sexual assault, at the expense of others. This paper is going to review the extent of the problem, the prevalence and incidence of sexual assault, highlight some cases and make a call for preventive measures in Nigeria.

The Extent of the Problem

Almost on a daily basis, the news media report cases of sexual assault yet the majority of cases remained unreported. The following are some of the reasons for this:

1. …

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