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“Sex With Anyone Under Age 18 Is Rape”

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Adults who have sex with children under age 18 in Nigeria could end up in prison for rape. The law that protects children’s right in Nigeria- The Child Right Act (CRA- 2003), declares sexual act with minors or a child (anyone under age 18), an act of rape and a criminal offence in Nigeria.

And for those fond of arguing that the victim agreed to the sex act, according to the CRA, even if the child gave his or her consent, the adult or culprit have committed rape against the child and if found guilty, could face life imprisonments, (CRA part 111, section 31).

According to the Act, sexual abuse of a child is violence against the child. Explaining more about this law and its implementation. A Legal Practitioner and The Chairperson Child Right Protection Network Cross River, James Ibor, says, “A child is not capable of giving his or her consent. So any sexual intercourse with anyone under the age of 18 years regardless of the child’s consent is rape against the child.

“For example, if a 17-year-old person walks up to a 30-year-old man and say come and have sex with me, and the man does so, he has committed rape, even if he brings evidence to show that the girl actually approached him, paid for a room and forced him to commit the act,” Ibor said in Ibadan, Oyo State.

Due to the patriarchal structure of the society, he said women and girls are usually the victim of sexual violence and other forms of violence in the country.

Recently, the European Union and the United Nations came together under an initiative called EU-UN Spotlight initiative, to condemn violence against women and young girls. During the media brief, the emphasis was also made on the need to end sexual violence against the girl child.

Child Protection Specialist, UNICEF, Olasunbo Odebode called on the government to create an enabling environment so that laws such as the CRA already in place are implemented and acted upon.

In 2003, Nigeria adopted the Child Rights Act (CRA) to domesticate the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). The Act seeks to protect the rights of children so that they grow up as healthy as possible, learn in school, are protected, have their views listened to, and are treated fairly.

16 years after the passage of this law, many people are still unaware of it and the rights of children continue to be violated. Research has shown that sexual abuse of minors particularly girls remain rampant in Nigeria.

According to recent violence against children report by UNICEF, one in four girls in Nigeria are victims of sexual violence.

Unfortunately, this report shows that the CRA has been ineffective at curbing violence against children. On the reason for this, Ibor, explained that although the CRA was passed at the Federal level, the implementation is not yet adopted at all state level.

“The implementation of the CRA is very poor in Nigeria, below 20 per cent. For instance, birth registration is one of the rights of every child according to the CRA, yet many children are denied this right.

“Part of the limitation of this law is cultural and religious barriers and non-adaption at the state level”. Ibor commended states such as Lagos and Crossriver for adopting and implementing the Act.

To mark the world children’s day and the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC@30), UNICEF-Nigeria calls for every Nigerian children’s right to be respected. This was stressed in a song released with Cobhams Asuquo and several other top Nigerian artists.

According to a Communication Specialist, UNICEF-Nigeria office, Geoffrey Njoku, “the song released comes on the 30th anniversary of the UN Convention. Nigeria is also launching an App which children can find the CRC and other materials related to their rights”.

Despite the gains of emerging digital technology in recent time, UNICEF Lagos Field Officer, Muhammad Okorie, says; “Too many Nigerian children and young people are being left behind, marginalized or abused. This is happening as the world is marking the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC@30), which Nigeria has ratified and pledged to uphold.

For the world – and Nigeria especially – to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030, things must change. Nigerian children and young people need to have access to opportunities they need to develop and thrive in a safe environment.

UNICEF as the “go to’ organization for children’s right is building on this momentum around the 30th anniversary of the CRC to keep the voices of children and young people at the centre of the conversation and to support further actions- the key reason for the Youth Talk event.

UNICEF believes that children and young people are experts in their own lives and experiences and time has come for them to tell the world what matters to them; to lead the way to the world they deserve by raises their voices and demanding their right.

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