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Senate passes Criminal Code bill, maintains gender neutrality for rape, sexual offences

The Senate on Tuesday passed a Bill for an Act to amend the Criminal Code Act 2004.

The passage of the bill followed consideration of the report of the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters.

The piece of legislation, if assented into law by President Muhammadu Buhari, broadening the definition of rape and sexual offences.

Amendment to Section 357 of the principal Act, specifically substitutes the words ‘woman or girl, without her consent, or with her consent’, with the words, ‘any person, without consent, or with consent.

The bill also seeks to protect mentally challenged persons from sexual defilement and rape through an amendment to section 221 of the principal Act.

Attempt by Senator Uche Ekwunife (PDP – Anambra Central) to effect an amendment to section 357 to define persons susceptible to rape to accommodate “married and unmarried persons” was rejected by lawmakers during the clause-by-clause consideration of the bill.

The upper chamber while retaining the provision of Section 364 of the principal Act, however expunged the gender specific term “him” and substituted same with “such person” in defining the punishment for the offence of kidnapping.

Earlier, Chairman of the Committee, Senator Opeyemi Bamidele (APC – Ekiti Central), in his lead debate on the bill, said the piece of legislation “will address the lingering issues of status of limitation in the prosecution of rape/defilement cases and the incessant kidnapping menace, which are on the rise, in recent times.”

The lawmaker stated that contrary to views by those opposing the passage of the bill by the National Assembly, on ground that its passage will usurp the powers of the states to legislate on the subject matter, the bill seeks to amend the Criminal Code Act of 1916 and not Criminal Code of the States.

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