After a lot of agitations for the protection of persons facing different forms of violence, especially at home or in love relationships, the Violence against Persons (Prohibition) Act, otherwise known as VAPP Act was passed into law in 2015.
This Act came as the much needed improvement on the Criminal Code and Penal Code with regards to varying forms and degrees of violence, as news of partners battering, maiming or killing one another had become a pandemic.
The Act in its explanatory memorandum states that it aims to prohibit all forms of violence against persons in private and public life, and provide maximum protection and effective remedies for victims and punishment of offenders. It specifically provides that infliction of physical injury, coercion, offensive conduct, willfully placing a person in fear of physical injury, forceful ejection from home, forced financial dependence or economic abuse, forced isolation, emotional, verbal and psychological abuse, harmful widowhood practices, and spousal battery, among others are crimes punishable under the Act.
It is true that even the most feeble minded of men knows that inflicting domestic violence on their partner within the context of a marriage is wrong. As no one does wrong and not know what he does is wrong. He may not conduct himself in line with his knowledge, but in his heart of heart, he knows he does wrong.
The VAPP Act has therefore provided for imprisonment term of up to 3 years and up to
N200,000 fine or both where a person is guilty of beating their spouse. This provision seeks to reduce or limit the cases of spousal abuse, where a person turns their spouse to a punching bag.
In a situation where a person forcefully ejects or evicts his/her partner from his or her home or refuses them access, such a person commits an offence attracting imprisonment up to 2 years or to a fine up to
N300,000 or both.
Also, where a person is found guilty of abandoning their spouse, children and other dependents without sustenance, they are liable to imprisonment of not less than one year or a fine of not less than
N100,000. Even a person who receives or assists another who, to his or her knowledge, committed this offence is considered an accessory after the fact and is liable on conviction to a term of imprisonment not exceeding 1 year or to a fine not exceeding N100,000 or both.
Further, The VAPP Act defines incest to mean “an indecent act or an act which causes penetration with a person who is, to his or her knowledge, his or her daughter or son, granddaughter or son, sister or brother, mother or father, niece or nephew, aunt/uncle, grandmother or granduncle”, and goes further to provide that any person who knowingly and willfully has carnal knowledge of another within the prohibited degrees of consanguinity and affinity contained in the Schedule to the Act with or without consent, commits incest and is liable on conviction to a minimum term of 10 years imprisonment without an option of fine where sex was without consent, and where the two parties consent to commit incest, 5 years imprisonment without an option of fine.
This provision of the VAPP Act is so important, as it seeks to end cases of fathers or step fathers having carnal knowledge of toddlers and teenagers.
The VAPP Act is a landmark legislation, but it is still subject to domestication by states for it to be applied locally, otherwise, its application is only limited to the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. Till date, only Kaduna, Anambra, Oyo, Benue, Ebonyi, Edo, Ekiti, Enugu, Osun, Ogun, Cross River, Lagos, Plateau, Bauchi, Akwa Ibom, Abia, Kwara and Yobe states in Nigeria have domesticated this Act, whereas most of the Northern states have not.