Nigeria launched its first national sexual offenders register on Monday, setting up a database of those convicted for sexual violence in a move seen as an important step towards clamping down on abuse.
The “Sexual Offender Register” will contain the names of all those prosecuted for sexual violence in Africa’s most populous nation since 2015.
The record will be available online to better help the public, state bodies and police conduct background checks and identify repeat offenders.
Suspects who are cleared will also be recorded in a part of the register only available to law enforcement agencies, amid concerns by campaigners that the majority of sexual offenders escape prosecution due to failings in the justice system.
At the launch in the capital, Abuja, Nigeria minister for humanitarian affairs, Sadiya Farouq, praised the initiative.
“The register will serve as a strategy to stop those engaged in violence against women,” she said.
Farouq said the humanitarian and security crisis in northeast Nigeria caused by a decade-long jihadist insurgency had seen a rise in cases of sexual abuse which needed to be addressed.
Ordinary citizens will be able to access the register, which is managed by Nigeria’s National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking Persons (NAPTIP) and is funded mainly by the European Union.
An initial group of 15 NGOs will monitor police and media reports across Nigeria and update the register on a monthly basis.
According to the United Nations children agency UNICEF, one in four Nigerian women are sexually abused by before they turn 18 — and the majority of cases of sexual abuse in the country are not prosecuted.
Currently, only two of Nigeria’s 36 states — Lagos and Ekiti — keep databases of those convicted of sexual offences.