Barka, a student of the University of Maiduguri, was the subject of a meme. While others laughed and made a mockery, it was not a funny experience for her. Instead, it gave her a memory she won’t forget anytime soon – a trauma.
According to the 21-year-old, she was on Facebook, a social media platform, when she saw her picture in one of the groups, Unimaid Gist, with the caption, “part one student going for a lecture with shorts”. Someone had taken her picture unaware and shared it online with the caption. Although Barka’s face was blurred, the picture was taken such that she was still recognizable.
“Although my face was blurred, it was clear that I was the one. There were lots of comments mocking me, and it was so disturbing. I didn’t know how the guy snapped me and I can’t just explain how I felt,” she lamented.
While others laughed, the experience left a bitter taste in her mouth.
In Dosshima’s case, her nudes were leaked. The 21 year-olds ex-partners took naked pictures of her while she was asleep. When the relationship ended, and he could not persuade her to get back together, he threatened her with her nudes and went ahead to leak them.
“While we were dating, I was so free and comfortable around him that I allowed him to take pictures of me. Unknown to me, he took naked pictures of me when I was asleep and sometimes when I was dressing up. We broke up and after so much persuasion from him to get back together which I refused, I started receiving threats from him with the statement “watch and see”. A few days later he posted my nude pictures on our school faculty Whatsapp group and students started posting on their statuses. I felt like dying.”
Cases like Barka and Dosshima’s are not isolated. Globally, violence takes various forms and it is perpetrated in different ways. However, it is often dismissed, even by victims, when no physical injury is inflicted on the victim. Beyond physical damages however, are psychological and emotional traumas which redress can be sought for.
Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) VAPP Act
In Nigeria, one of the laws that protect against violence and seek to help victims in cases like Barka and Dosshima’s is the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) VAPP Act. Passed in 2015, the VAPP act is the only legislation that is focused on Gender-based Violence in Nigeria. It eliminates violence in private and public life and prohibits all forms of violence against Persons and provides for victims and persons under threat of violence to apply for a protective order.
Upon its passage by the National Assembly, the VAPP act was only applicable in the FCT, Abuja. However, over the years, some states across Nigeria have passed different versions of it to combat gender-based violence. Some of the states include Abia, Bauchi, Bayelsa, Cross River, Oyo, Lagos, and Ekiti states.
While the six-part part act covers various sections of gender-based violence, here are 3 sections of VAPP every Nigerian should know about:
Part 1, Section 1 (Rape)
This section defines rape and the penalty for committing the offense. According to the Act, rape offense occurs when a person (he/she) intentionally penetrates the vagina, anus, or mouth of another person with other parts of his body or anything without consent, or if consent is obtained by force, or means of threat or intimidation of any kind or by fear of harm or using false and fraudulent representation as to the nature of the act or the use of any substance or addictive capable of taking away the will of such person or in the case of a married person by impersonating his/her spouse/partner.
Notably, this act recognizes that males can be victims of rape and it spelled out the various parts of the body where penetration would be considered rape, as well as other conditions.
As written in the Act, the sanction for this is imprisonment for life. However, in the case where the offender is less than 14, a maximum of 14 years imprisonment can be given; and a minimum of 12 years imprisonment without the option of a fine in other cases.
In the case of gang rape (rape by a group of persons), the punishment is a minimum of 20 years imprisonment for each person. Victims can also claim compensation and a register for convicted sexual offenders is expected to be maintained and accessible to the public.
Part 1 Section 6 (Female Genital Mutilation)
This section prohibits female circumcision or genital mutilation. It stated that a person who performs female circumcision or genital mutilation or engages another in the act of female circumcision or genital mutilation commits an offence. The sanction for this is a maximum of 4 years imprisonment or a maximum fine of N200,000.00 or both.
Anyone who attempts to commit the offense is also liable on conviction to a term of imprisonment not exceeding 2 years or a fine of N100,000.00 or both. Whoever aids, abets or counsel another person to commit the offense, is liable on conviction a term of imprisonment not exceeding 2 years or a fine of N100,000.00 or both.
Part 1 Section 14 (Abuse)
Section 14 covers cases of abuse and the penalty for them. It stated that a person who causes emotional, verbal and psychological abuse on another person commits an offense and is liable on conviction to a term of imprisonment not exceeding 1 year, or to a fine not exceeding N200,000.00, or both. It further stated that whoever commits the act of violence and who aids, abets, or counsels another person to commit the act of violence is liable on conviction to a term of imprisonment not exceeding 6 months or a fine of N100,000.00 or both. This also applies to whoever receives or assists another who, to his or her knowledge, committed the offense.
Not dwelling on what others consider abuse –physical—this section went on to include emotional, verbal, and psychological abuse of another person as an offense.
According to a legal practitioner, Olawoyin Mustapha, this section provides for cases like Barka and Dosshima’s. Mustapha went on to explain that Dosshima’s case can further be pursued under the Criminal Code and Cybercrime Act which frowns at revenge porn.
Stories used in this report are interview excerpts from SGBV stories collected by Education As A Vaccine (EVA) with funding from LUMINATE