Nobel laureate, Wole Soyinka, has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to withhold his assent to the Sexual Offences Bill (also known as the anti-rape bill) passed by the last National Assembly.
In a letter apologizing for his absence at an event marking the June 12 anniversary in Lagos, Mr. Soyinka said that a nation should not be founded on the sexual exploitation of the fragile and innocent.
“President Buhari – and here I make my first imposition on his presidency – should never place his assent on such a nefarious distraction,” Mr. Soyinka, a professor of Comparative Literature, said in the letter to the organizing committee of the June 12 Movement of Nigeria.
“Its implications doom the victim to afflictions that churn the stomach even to think of the human toll. Perhaps those legislators think that vaginal fistula is something thought up by arm-chair critics with nothing better to occupy their minds. No matter, let those who profess a genuine concern declare their stand on this.
“On my part, I find unacceptable any effort to build a nation on perversions that merely minister to man’s sexual appetites. This is a sordid appeasement of a minority who actually require psychiatric help.
“President Buhari should not give his assent to the Bill without amendments that address the earlier Yerimah gift to the nation. It’s a trap.”
The Sexual Offences Bill, 2015, was among the 46 bills passed by the 7th Senate in a last minute flurry of activities last week.
The bill stipulates a life imprisonment for any individual found guilty of rape or sexual intercourse with children under 11 years; 10 years for incest; 10 years for child pornography or a fine of N2 million; and 14 years for sexual abuse, among others.
Mr. Soyinka asked for help in understanding the bill which he described as a case of “rubbing vaseline on leprosy”.
“In this supposedly progressive bill, sponsored by the respected Senator Chris Anyanwu. I could not help but notice a reiteration – as if to ensure that there is no ambiguity – of the word ‘child’, near superfluously,” Mr. Soyinka said.
“Well, we understand ‘child’ as defined in most dictionaries. There is however also child as defined by the Nigerian legislature. This definition is contained in a prior Bill, sponsored, no less, by a notorious serial paedophile and cross-border sex trafficker, yet lawmaker – one Ahmed Yerima.
“Does Yerima’s Bill, gleefully assented to by his peers, not simply vitiate this latter, supposedly humane concern for the protection of the child? Again, I confess to being only a ‘bloody layman’ in such matters.
“However, reading both bills, it strikes me that all the new bill does is empower the clique of paedophiles. All you need do is ‘marry’ even a six-year old under any local laws, and do whatever you want with her. Through marriage, she is already an ‘adult’. Her ‘defiler’ is now fully protected by this law. She is not.”
Mr. Soyinka said that the issue of child protection looms large all over the world, including bills passed or under debate, adding that it defines how a people is viewed in the global community.
“The current bill is the ancient story of locking the stable door after the horse has bolted. End of story? Yerimah and his fellow perverts are having the last laugh,” said Mr. Soyinka.
“This latest addition of insult to social injury was tucked within a last-minute avalanche of bills that were passed at lightning speed during the tail-end of the last legislative assemblage – 47 bills in under 3 hours – surely one for the Guinness Book of Records. An accident? Or by design?
“This bill, subjected to wrong arguments, merely consolidates the reduction of female minors to sex objects. As long as you can afford a bag of rice or – as in the case of cross-border tastes such as Ahmed Yerima’s – ten thousand dollars, you are free to rape a child to death.
“This, surely cannot pretend to represent the will of a people who care. Once you re-define female adulthood as marital status, all subsequent protection bills for the girl-child are worthless, cynical.”
Mr. Soyinka called on Nigerians to learn from the heroes of June 12.
“Few people have done more for the cause of liberation than the hero of this day. M.K.O. Abiola was an open polygamist,” he said.
“None of his wives was ever found to be below the only age of consent that is now needlessly under contention – the scientific. We cannot substitute science and observation for any spurious alibis that sacrifice the child to private lust.”