Nigeria: Death penalty for rapists mooted

BY: Enoch Darfah Frimpong

Nigeria should consider imposing the death penalty on convicted rapists, the women's affairs minister has said.

Rape had reached an alarming level, with seven to 10 cases reported weekly in Nigeria, Zainab Maina said.

The BBC's Chris Ewokor in the capital, Abuja, says poor communities are worst affected by rape and there are few successful prosecutions.

The death penalty exists in Nigeria for crimes such as murder, but it is rarely implemented, he says.

Mrs Maina said her ministry was determined to tackle rape.

"It is also trying to make the police set up a gender desk in every police station to handle such cases so that serious punishment, perhaps death sentence would be handed to culprits," she is quoted by Nigeria's This Day news paper as saying.

Our reporter says the main problem in socially conservative Nigeria is the stigma attached to rape.

Many people are scared to disclose they have been raped, either because they will not be believed or because of the difficulty in proving cases in court, he says.

In the few cases where there are convictions, rapists are fined or sentenced to a few months in prison, our reporter adds.

In recent years there have also been some prosecutions of men accused of raping children from poor communities.

While Mrs Maina's attempt to focus on the problem will be welcomed by civil society groups, it is too early to say whether the rape laws will be overhauled, our correspondent says.