Lawmakers in Nigeria’s state of Kaduna have approved surgical castration as punishment for those convicted of raping children under the age of 14.
The move follows public outrage over a wave of rapes, which prompted the nation’s state governors to declare a state of emergency.
Nigeria’s federal law provides between 14 years and life imprisonment as punishment, but state legislators can set different sentencing rules.
Stigma often prevents victims from reporting incidents of rape in Nigeria and the number of successful prosecutions is low.
Since 2015, when a new law was introduced, about 40 rape suspects have been charged, in a country of some 200 million people, according to the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (Naptip), which has a sex offenders’ list on its website.
The new law broadened the scope under which sexual offences can be penalised in Nigeria and removed the time limit of two months during which rape cases had to be tried before they became ineligible to be heard in a court.
There was widespread outrage in July following the murder of a 22-year-old university student who her family say was brutally raped and bludgeoned to death.
It was one of several shocking cases within a week that led to street protests, an online petition signed by thousands and a Twitter hashtag #WeAreTired.
Uwavera Omozuwa was raped and murdered in July in the southern city of Benin Many Nigerians called for tougher laws, such as the death penalty for rapists.
“We feel that the new law will go a long way to curbing rising cases of rapes in our state,” Kaduna lawmaker Shehu Yunusa said. “If the Kaduna governor signs [this] into law, the next rapist caught in Kaduna might become the first person to be castrated under this new law,” he said.
Gender activist Dorothy Njemanze – a former victim – welcomed the bill and said she would like to see it adopted in other Nigerian states.