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 Criminalise out-of-court settlement of rape, Foundation charges the government

The Roost Foundation on Monday urged the government at all levels to criminalise out-of-court settlement of rape cases, saying the practice is sabotaging efforts toward curbing the trend.

The Executive Chairperson of the Foundation, Mrs Julie Okah-Donli, made the call in Kaduna, on the sideline of a one-day training of Non-Governmental Organisations on curbing Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in schools.

Okah-Donli told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that religious and community leaders, including parents of victims of rape, always tried to talk the victims into settling out-of-court.

According to her, prosecution of anyone pleading on behalf of a rapist to settle out-of-court will go a long way in curbing sexual and gender-based violence.

“If anyone encourages a victim or the family of the victim to settle the crime of rape out-of-court, such a person should be seen as a criminal and as someone who is aiding and abating a crime of rape and should be punished.

“If you make it a crime for anyone who is pleading on behalf of a rapist to settle out-of-court, I think it will go a long way in reducing the crime of rape.

“It will also help address the lack of diligent prosecution of perpetrators of rape or any form of sexual and gender-based violence.

“If we do this, then the issues and the rate of settlement when rape happens will be minimised because the offenders will go to jail, or would be tried and go through the course of law,” she said.

She pointed out that Kaduna and other states across the country had enacted laws to curb the incidence of rape, with punishments ranging from castration, death penalty and life imprisonment.

She, however, added that not much was being achieved because people were also being convinced to settle out-of-court.

“If you settle out of court, then the issue of taking perpetrators to the extent that they will be castrated or sentenced to death, will not happen.

“If you did not take anybody to court you cannot implement the law; you can only implement a law when the perpetrators go through the court process of trial and sentencing.

“As long as people continue to plead on behalf of the perpetrators to settle out-of-court, then we are not going to be getting justice; we are not going to be getting convictions of perpetrators of various crimes,” she said.

On his part, Mr Sadau Garba, Executive Director, Kaduna Human Rights Association, told NAN that most parents opted for out-of-court settlement so as not to expose the victim to stigmatisation.

Garba, a legal practitioner, stressed the need for massive awareness creation for the victims and their parents to report all cases of sexual and gender-based violence.

Also, Hajiya Habiba Halilu, Coordinator, Women Trafficking and Child Labour Eradication Foundation, Niger State, identified poverty as another factor hindering the prosecution of offenders.

“The rate of poverty is very high in this country; if victims are offered some amount of money, substantial money, they will naturally drop the case.

“Besides, most families want to safeguard their family’s name against stigmatisation,” Halilu said.

Advocate.ng reports that the training was organised by Roost Foundation, under the World Bank-supported Better Education Service Delivery for All (BESDA).

The goal is to curb Gender-Based Violence (GBV), sexual exploitation and harassment in schools, as well as create a safe learning environment for children to learn without being exposed to gender-based violence. (NAN)

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