In 2022, a lot of Nigerian celebrities had explicit videos of them in consensual sexual acts leaked to the public. Before them, many such images and videos were posted by scorned lovers and perverts of unknowing persons, especially women. The intent of this is to humiliate and intimidate the victims while in other non-malicious cases, these videos are posted to gain notoriety and monetary gain through the popularity of these explicit media. 90% of the victims of these heinous acts are women.
Like most acts involving women’s violation, emphases shift from the perpetrator of the crime to the victim. The term ‘revenge porn’ was the initial name for this act, but it was coined to blame the victim. It subconsciously implies that the victim is in the wrong, the consequence of which is revenge. It downplays the breach of trust and privacy of the victim. The term also does not cover other aspects of the distribution of this non-consensual explicit media as they might be motivated by material gains other than a personal relationship.
Image-based sexual abuse is a more encompassing term for the act as it covers both the name of the crime, its intent, and the consequences of it. The act of non-consensually posting sexually explicit images or videos of a person is not pornography but rather a form of gender-based violence under sexual abuse. In a viral Twitter post on the 9th of May, the existence of a group chat on Telegram for the sole purpose of sharing explicit images of girls for sexual entertainment and perversion was exposed. The perpetrators are very aware of the impact of the damage these acts have on their victims.
Most of the Victims of this form of abuse face adverse psychological effects and in a few recorded cases physical harm when recognizable details of their lives are posted alongside. The violation of their privacy leaves them vulnerable, deeply distrusting of others, and forced to deal with anxiety, depression, and in most cases suicide ideations. Because of socio-cultural norms that defend the perpetrators and silence victims, most women are unaware that they can seek legal recourse against the culprit.
Legally, image-based sexual abuse or ‘revenge porn’ is a cybercrime according to the Cybercrime Prohibition and Prevention Act Section 23 approved by the former President, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. Section 24 of the 2015 Cybercrime Prohibition and Prevention Act prohibits the illegal sharing of explicit content, with the offence punishable by a maximum of 3 years imprisonment or the perpetrator paying a fine of N7,000,000. The law states;
Any person who knowingly or intentionally sends a message or other matter by means of computer systems or networks that –
(a) is grossly offensive, pornographic, or of an indecent, obscene, or menacing character or causes any such message or matter to be so sent; or
(b) he knows to be false, for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred, ill will, or needless anxiety to another or causes such a message to be sent: commits an offence under this Act and shall be liable on conviction to a fine of not more than N7,000,000.00 or imprisonment for a term of not more than 3 years or to both such fine and imprisonment.
Although the law does not account for possession and other forms of distribution, it addresses the current most popular platform on which this form of sexual abuse thrives and helps victims seek legal recourse. Most importantly, authorities should also be trained on response techniques that encourage victims to get the best start to prevention and recovery.