Defilement is the violation of the chastity of a child. Section 8 (1) of the Sexual Offences Act provides that a person who commits an act which causes penetration with a child is guilty of an offence termed defilement. Defilement is a notorious evil in our society today.
When we talk about defilement, the victim that comes to many people’s minds is the girl-child. The definition in the Sexual Offences Act is however such that it includes the boy in its definition. Research has shown that the boy-child is also defiled, even though not as much as the girl-child.
All the efforts geared towards curbing the ill vice have been concentrated on protecting the girl-child, forgetting that boys are also being defiled. The boy, just like the girl-child, should be accorded equal protection.
Article 27 (1) of the constitution provides that every person is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and equal benefit of the law. The purview of defilement under Section 8 of the Sexual Offences Act is alive to the need of equal protection, and therefore accommodates both male and female children.
Defilement is an offence that attracts serious punishments by the law. These are well set out in the Sexual Offences Act, and vary depending on the age of the child. Section 8 of the Act provides that:-
• A person who commits an offence of defilement with a child aged 11 years or less shall upon conviction be sentenced to imprisonment for life.
• A person who commits an offence of defilement with a child between the age of 12 and 15 years is liable upon conviction to imprisonment for a term of not less than 20 years.
• A person who commits an offence of defilement with a child between the age of 16 and 18 years is liable upon conviction to imprisonment for a term of not less than 15 years.
Our society today treats sexual-related offences as though they belong to a different category of crime than other offences. In instances where children have been defiled, the parents of the defiled child and the perpetrator of the crime prefer to sit in kangaroo courts in their neighbourhoods and dispose of the matter.
They don’t treat the offences as serious and weighty, considering the punishment that has been prescribed in the Sexual Offences Act. This practice of settling the issues out of court has contributed to the prevalence of the crime, since the offenders are never brought to book. This violates the right of the child to get justice. The victims of the offence suffer life long stigma and health complications as a result of the violations.
The family that ought to protect them betrays their right to justice by entering into out of court settlements and not making formal complaints about the incidents. The cultural practices also make it difficult for the victims to get justice from the perpetrators. The cultures treat the matter lightly and forbid the victims from making complaints to the authorities, and hence deny the victims justice.
Sexual offences are different from other categories of offences. One of the major distinctions that has been made is that in other offences the complainant can choose to withdraw the complaints against the accused person.
In sexual offences however, Section 40 of the Sexual Offences Act provides that the decision as to whether the prosecution or investigation by any police officer of a complaint that a sexual offence has been committed should be discontinued shall rest with the Attorney General.
This provision was meant to curb and prevent instances where, for example in defilement cases, the parents of the child and the offenders reach an out of court settlement and agree to withdraw the charges, irrespective of the injustice that will be suffered by the child.
If a child is defiled, the parent/guardian, or anyone, should report the matter to the police, who will then investigate the matter, and then subsequently charge the accused person.