Rapists will face surgical castration under a new law passed in a state in Nigeria, while those convicted of raping a child under 14 will face the death penalty.
Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai, the governor of Kaduna state, where the legislation has been introduced, said the “drastic penalties are required to help further protect children from a serious crime”.
While some Nigerians are pleased that drastic action is being taken, critics say the new law is too harsh and may even lead to fewer rapes being reported.
The new law follows a spike in reports of rape in Nigeria over the course of the coronavirus pandemic, leading women’s groups to call for harsher penalties against sex offenders.
The country’s minister for women’s affairs said in June that the number of rapes had tripled due to women and girls being in lockdown with their abusers.
In the same month, all 36 state governors declared a state of emergency of violence against women and girls.
The country has a long-standing problem of sexual violence. One in four girls is sexually abused before they turn 18, according to Unicef.
The change to the penal code may backfire, one Nigerian lawyer and activist, Chidi Odinkalu, told the New York Times.
As many rapes happen within marriage – in Nigeria and elsewhere – women and girls may be less likely to report a crime that their husband could be castrated for, in fear of being ostracised by their families and communities.
“You’re going to get fewer cases of rape and sexual violence reported,” he said. “What’s wrong with life imprisonment?”
The human rights activist described the new law as “legislative sadism”.
The state’s new law is the strictest against rape in Nigeria.
Putin, Saudi King Discuss Joint Vaccine Production
Saudi King Salman and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed Monday the possible joint production of a Russian coronavirus vaccine, the Kremlin said.
In early August, Russia said it had developed the world’s first vaccine against the virus and claimed that more than a billion doses had been pre-ordered by 20 countries, including Saudi Arabia.
Russia’s sovereign wealth fund has provided much of the financing, and it has identified Saudi Arabia as one of the countries interested in the vaccine.
On Monday, Putin and Salman discussed “collective efforts aimed at overcoming the negative impact of the coronavirus pandemic,” a Kremlin statement said, while noting the call had come at the Saudi king’s initiative.
“Particular attention was paid to the perspective of joint production of a vaccine that was developed by Russia,” the statement added.
It also said that Russia and Saudi Arabia, two major producers of crude oil, would continue to “pursue close coordination” to ensure stable oil prices.
Crude prices have fallen over the past week as traders consider the outlook for long-term demand owing to fallout from the virus pandemic.