The harm in lovers’ settling scores on social media

Abubakar Malami, Attorney General of the Federation

What started as an anomaly few years back has now become a fad in Nigeria as more people continue to visit the internet to broadcast their personal sexual businesses in a criminal manner just to get back at their lovers without consideration of what the action can cause the other party.

In Africa, before this era, what goes on behind closed doors between a man and a woman is a closed guarded secret that is never revealed. Then, public sexual acts or pornographic materials are information filtering into the country from across the shores or activities gleaned in a foreign film. It was a taboo and even people that watch pornographic films, called blue films, do so under the cover of darkness and behind closed doors.

No one dares to do this in public or tell people of such acts. This is simply because society not only has an unwritten rule labeling such as a taboo but they also see them as an outcast and family members also see such persons as having a spiritual and psychological problems.

All these are however a thing of the past. Now, pornographic materials are the order of the day. Many sites on the internet now specialize in displaying nude pictures of both men and women in different stages of sexual interaction. Various researches have shown that sex sites have more traffic than all other sites put together most times. And in Africa now, the sex frenzy is also on the rise as many indigenous sites crop up on a daily basis.

However, the increase in pornography has led to other unforeseen angles which are the posting of naked pictures of people on the internet. The reason for this trend some say is the advent of social media and technological development in terms of revolution in types of phones and other communications gadget.

Since the first common case of nude picture in August 2006, involving an actress, Anita Hogan whose pictures were splashed on the cover of an evening newspaper after being found on the internet. The pictures were showed her and a white man stark naked and created a lot of criticisms and speculations. But at that time, she had an excuse; the white man was her fiancée and they were just having fun and fooling around with the camera and they later downloaded the pictures into her laptop.

This was the advent of revenge porn in Nigeria and it had since been a major issue that crops up frequently. Revenge porn in simple terms is the act of downloading nude pictures or sex videos of former lovers on the internet to humiliate and degrade such women sexually and professionally. On these revenge porn sites, users upload x-rated photos of women (often ex girlfriends or lovers) without the women’s permission just to shame, humiliate and destroy the lives as well as reputations of young women. Though in recent times, men have also become victims.

The issue of revenge sex has raised a lot of questions – how do these pictures get to the site, how do the men who upload them get access to them. It was discovered that most often, these pictures are shared in love while the going is good, they send these pictures to their boyfriends as a sign of affection or just to create a kind of sexual intimacy in the relationship but the spurned lovers when the relationships turn stormy shame their once loved ones. Thus, these victims are humiliated by people they once loved and trusted just because an angry man wants to prove a point.

Many have condemned this act and there is a consensus that revenge porn is a kind of criminal act though there’s is no legislation to this effect in Nigeria. A court registrar, Sola Oni in his opinion thinks Nigeria should criminalize this as it is a crime that can lead to loss of lives.

In some countries, sex revenge has been termed a criminal offence as many victims due to the stigma and the extreme suffering as a result of this commit suicide. In Nigeria today, the rule is changing to embrace so many vices and what used to obtain is quick changing. But revenge porn seems to have no penalty under the Nigerian law.

“Perpetrators should be held responsible and brought to book, using someone’s naked pictures publicly without her consent is a grievous crime. Revenge porn should be classified as an offence in the category of rape and be a part of the criminal law,” a lawyer stated.

Worried about the spate of revenge porn, some countries have made a law to curb the menace. An example of such is California in the United States. In California, A bill which sought to amend Section 653.2 of their constitution was proposed to make it a criminal offence to electronically distribute nude images of another person with intent to cause serious emotional distress while provision is also made to punish those use concealed camera to take compromising photos of others without their consent.

A lawyer, Emeka Ozoani however believes that though the law is not in existence in Nigeria, victims can also go for a civil procedure in court for restitution through the provisions for libel. “Since such materials are seen publicly by more than two people, the victims have a right under the libel law but that is if their relationship with the perpetrator is not a secret one like the woman being married to another man while the other relationship is on because in a legal action, you can’t claim a right out of a fraudulent deal. In short, the victims must not have any scandalous secret that will spoil her case.”