Answers To All Questions On Rape (Part II)

26.    If a rape victim kills her attacker in self-defence, can she be charged with murder or manslaughter?

She may be charged with murder or manslaughter, depending on the circumstances of each case. She may however be set free, if she is able to justify her action in the circumstances she found herself.

27.    If a rape victim dies in the course of a sexual intercourse, what offence can a perpetrator be charged with?

The perpetrator may be charged with either manslaughter or murder, depending on the peculiar circumstances of each case but certainly not rape anymore.

28.    Can rape be proved without the evidence of a third party?

Yes. It may be proved without the evidence (corroboration) of a third party, especially where medical evidence strongly connects the accused person to the crime or the accused person confesses to have committed it.

29.    Can a rape case be heard in camera or a victim be allowed to wear mask in court?

Usually, a rape case, like every other case, must be heard in the open court where, though press-men may be barred, other members of the public may watch the proceedings. The rape victim may not be allowed to wear mask. This is because the court needs to be able to see and watch the demeanour of the victim in order to form an opinion on whether she is a credible witness or not. No doubt, rape is a heinous; yet, the supposed rapist is presumed to be innocent and can only be found guilty, if the case against him is proved beyond reasonable doubt. However, in some cases, especially where a victim is a minor, every other person, apart from lawyers and court staff, may be barred from watching the proceeding for the purpose of protecting the underage victim from public ridicule.

30.    Should rape victims be asked embarrassing questions in court?

It is most likely that, no matter what, a victim of rape may be confronted with certain discomforting questions under cross-examination by the lawyer representing the accused. This is a task that must be performed in order to ensure that the accused person is not unjustifiably punished and bearing in mind that the punishment for rape is severe. However, the court is empowered by law not to allow questions that tend to expose the rape victim to ridicule .

31.    Should underage children who are victims of rape be required to appear in court to give evidence?

Like adult victims, children too must appear in court to give evidence if a perpetrator is to be held accountable. However, in some exceptional cases, especially where a victim is of extreme tender age, her evidence may be taken in camera . This is likely to be so upon the application of the prosecution.

32.    Can rape be committed by fingering or entering a woman’s genital with an object?

Under the Nigerian law, it is not possible to commit rape without the use of a male penis. It is however immaterial whether the penetration is only slight or that there is no ejaculation. All that is needed to be proved is that the penis penetrates the vagina, even if it is just its tip.

33.    Can rape be committed by having anal sex with a woman?

It may amount to sexual assault but not rape under the Nigerian law.

34.    What is the difference between rape and sexual assault or defilement?

In relation to rape, there must be a penetration of vagina with a penis without the consent of the female counterpart, while in a sexual assault, there need not be sexual intercourse at all. For example, inappropriate touching of a woman may amount to sexual assault. In the case of defilement, on the other hand, it is a sexual intercourse with a girl under eleven (11) years. It is immaterial in this situation whether there is consent or not as the law presumes that such a girl is incapable of giving consent. The crime also carries life imprisonment but the case must be prosecuted within two months of its commission.

35.    Is there age limit as to who can be charged with rape?

A male under 12 years of age is incapable of committing rape under the Nigerian law . So, if it is alleged that a boy below 12 years commits rape, as soon as it is established that the boy is below 12 years, the case will be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction, even if he has attained puberty. He may however be punished for indecent assault.

36.    Is attempted rape a crime? If yes, what is the punishment?

Yes. It is a crime and on conviction, it carries 14 years’ imprisonment.

37.    Is it a defence that a rape victim dresses provocatively?

No. It is not a defence.

38.    Can rape be committed where a rapist and his victim have had sex in the past?

Yes. A woman has right to refuse sex on a particular occasion, not minding the fact that it has taken place between them in the past.

39.    Does it matter if a rape victim does not resist her attacker or shout for help during the incident?

What is important is to prove that there was no consent to have sex. However, convincing a court on the issue of lack of consent may be achieved faster, if it is also established that the victim shouted or resisted in the course of the forced intercourse.

40.    Can a man be accused and tried of raping a prostitute?

Yes. It is not a defence to the offence of rape that a victim is a common commercial sex worker. In Nigeria, prostitution is neither legal nor clearly illegal  but a court of law will not come to the aid of an aggrieved party in this kind of “contract” because it is inconsistent with public morality and decency. For example, if a prostitute after collecting money from a customer refuses to give him sex, such customer cannot receive any remedy at law and he cannot justify rape on the basis that he has paid for the sex.

41.    Can a guy be accused and tried for raping his girl-friend?

Yes. Being lovers is not a defence to forcefully have sexual intercourse with a girl or woman when she is not given her consent to it.

42.    Can a rape victim sue for financial compensation?

That is possible only after the rapist must have been tried and found guilty of committing the crime.

43.    Can a woman raped some years ago still report at a Police Station?

Yes, if it is possible to gather evidence which may be subsequently presented in court but in case there is no evidence, the implication is that the victim can no longer get justice. Unlike developed countries, Nigeria does not have the requisite technological facilities for forensic investigation. It is therefore advisable that rape incidents be reported as soon as they occur, at best within 24hours. A rape case can also be charged to court many years after its occurrence but unlike election petition cases, there is no time limit within which it must be concluded.

44.    How can a woman raped in Police or Prison custody get justice?

Any woman raped while in the custody of the Police or Prison Authorities may complain to the head of such public institution and if no desirable step is taken following the complaint, the victim may contact a lawyer through her family who will in turn write a petition to the National Human Rights Commission. It must be noted that evidence is important and so, a victim must strive to obtain a medical report.

45.    Is it legally permitted to abort a pregnancy occasioned by rape?

No. The Nigerian law on abortion is very strict. Abortion is only permitted if a pregnancy threatens a woman’s or girl’s life.

46.    Is there government support for victims of rape in Nigeria?

There is no special institutional support for victims of rape in Nigeria. Like other crimes, victims of rape need to lodge complaint of their experience in any Police Station close to the scene of crime. However, some NGOs  exist that assist rape victims, especially in places like Lagos, Port Harcourt and Abuja.

47.    What are the effects of rape?

Rape is a heinous crime and it usually leaves a victim emotionally disorganised. It may also lead to the following: (a) unwanted pregnancy, (b) transmission of sexual diseases e.g. HIV/AIDS, (c) abortion, (d) suicide tendencies, (e) trauma, (f) loss of self-esteem, (g) untimely death, (h) damage to body organs, among others.

48.    What are the causes of rape?

So many factors are responsible for the commission of rape. It is impossible to exhaust the list. However, some of the causes, both immediate and remote, are the following: (a) negative and judgmental societal attitude towards victims of rape, (b) drug abuse, (c) pornography, (d) seductive dressing, (e) spiritual reason, (f) poor, gender-insensitive, victim-insensitive and unscientific police investigation, (g) reluctance of victims to speak out and give evidence in court, (h) weak judicial system, etc.

49.    Should the punishment for rape be reviewed?

The punishment may be reviewed which will require judicial officers not to impose penalty below 14 years’ imprisonment where rape is established, while in some other cases maximum punishment should be imposed, especially if established that the perpetrator is a serial offender. The law as it is appears to give judicial officers wide discretion in terms of the punishment they may impose. It is noted that in some cases, judicial officers impose penalty which is considered ridiculously low .

50.    Should the definition of rape be reviewed?

In view of different advancements of the modern world, the definition should be expanded. It is suggested that the US Department of Justice’s definition should be adopted.


How can the rising rate of rape cases be stemmed in Nigeria? There is need for a multi-dimensional approach but above all, there must be awareness and proactive campaign against rape, while an enabling environment must also be created to ensure that rape victims can come out to report the offence.

Law enforcement agents must show empathy to rape victims and must not be judgmental by seeing victims as the cause of what happens to them. Investigative capacity of the Police especially needs to be enhanced through the introduction of forensic techniques of evidence gathering. The Criminal Procedure Law also needs to be amended to accommodate the peculiarity of rape cases. For example, rape cases should be given expeditious hearing so as to encourage victims and witnesses to come to court and give evidence. In addition to punishment, every person convicted of rape should also be made to pay compensation to the victim.