Nearly a year after 300 boys were rescued from what Kaduna Police Chief Ali Janga told the BBC was a “house of torture,” the Nigerian state’s lawmakers approved a bill that would make child rape an offense punishable by castration.
The lawmakers acted after recognizing a significant increase in sexual violence. In June, all of Nigeria’s 36 governors declared a state of emergency due to the high incidents of rape and according to a UNICEF study, a quarter of girls and one out of ten boys experience sexual violence as children.
Amnesty International’s Osai Ojigho said, “Violence against women is a national crisis in Nigeria. There are cases from homes, schools, places of worship, police cells, displacement camps. Nowhere is safe or immune to this violent crime against women,” according to CNN.
In addition to sexual violence, tensions between Northern Kaduna’s Muslim Hausa-Fulani community and Southern Kaduna’s Christian multiethnic groups have spilled over into chronic incidents of violence, leading gunmen, for example, to kill 43 people from July 21 to 24, according to Human Rights Watch.
300 Boys Were Rescued After Suffering Physical & Sexual Abuse in 2019, the New York Times Reported
More than 300 men and boys rescued from a boarding school in Nigerian city of Kaduna, where they were detained and raped by staff for years pic.twitter.com/8gLaCVOf2G
— TRT World Now (@TRTWorldNow) September 27, 2019
300 boys were rescued from a Koranic school in September of 2019 after Janga received a tip that there was suspicious activity, according to BBC. The tip followed rumors of abuse and exploitation that had persisted for years Islamic schools (called “almajiri”), which are very common in that part of the state, such as “pupils (being) forced to beg for money on the street,” BBC reported.
Some of the allegations were that the “pupils” had been held like prisoners, starved and sexually abused. “I have spent three months here with chains on my legs,” Bell Hamza said, according to BBC, which also reported that people who tried leaving were tied and hung from the ceiling.
BBC reported that eight of those believed to be responsible for the abuse, most of whom were teachers, were arrested.
Janga said, “This place is neither a rehab or an Islamic school because you can see it for yourselves. The children gathered here are from all over the country. They were used, dehumanized,” according to the New York Times.
Kaduna Has Been Home to Sectarian Violence
According to Human Rights Watch, the Muslim and Christian communities have clashed over land and political control.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide, which has a Kaduna base, said “The attacks are a part of a campaign of violence targeting communities in southern Kaduna which has been ongoing since January 2020, and is characterised by murder, looting, rape, abductions for ransom and forced displacement,” according to CNN.
“Christian leaders in these states often accuse the Hausa-Fulani of starting the violence, allegations that the Hausa-Fulani leaders usually deny, while Hausa-Fulani point out that far more Muslims have died in mass killings at the hands of the Christians,” according to a Human Rights Watch report.
In July, hundreds of women in southern Kaduna took to the streets in a protest of the killings.
Nigeria’s federal government released a statement blaming the July attacks on bandits, criminal gangs with ethnic and religious affiliations and revenge killings. The government has faced backlash for not taking a more active role in preventing the violence.
One of the women who led the protest, Ruth Habila, told CNN, “We protested at the palace of our King because, since the curfew was imposed by the government, Fulani herdsmen have been coming in to attack our communities. The government is not helping us. We love the Fulanis, but they are killings us. We also love our governor, but he has abandoned us.”
Kaduna Recently Passed a Law Allowing for the Castration of Child Rapists
Kaduna state House of Assembly has approved Castration as punishment for rapists https://t.co/am7TIg5Xww
— Abdulazeez (@Abdul5762) September 10, 2020
In light of the sectarian violence, last year’s events, high cases of rape and a recent high-profile rape and murder that took place, Kaduna’s lawmakers passed a measure that would approve surgical castration for those convicted of raping children under the age of 14.
Nigerian federal law already set the punishment for rape as a sentence between 14 years and life imprisonment, but the actual sentences can vary depending on the state, according to BBC. Kaduna’s governor, Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai, still needs to sign the bill, but, “he has previously supported castration to prevent rapists from re-offending.”
Kaduna lawmakers’ actions follow a June 24 vote in which Nigeria’s House of Representatives voted down a measure to make rapes punishable with castration, according to Sahara Reporters.
However, events such as the gruesome rape and murder of Uwavera Omozuwa, an undergraduate student and 22-year-old aspiring pastor, helped push the lawmakers of Kaduna, which has already experienced so much violence.
Kaduna lawmaker Shehu Yunusa told the BBC, “We feel that the new law will go a long way to curbing rising cases of rapes in our state. If the Kaduna governor signs [this] into law, the next rapist caught in Kaduna might become the first person to be castrated under this new law.”
Rape survivor and gender activist Dorothy Njemanze also said the bill would represent an important deterrent. “In retrospect, if everyone that raped me was put through that [surgical castration] other people that they might have also raped would have been spared the calamity,” she said.