Peace Obi
The Young Women’s Christian Association in joining other international human rights organisations in the campaign against gender-based violence has called on governments at levels in addition to their various efforts to step up more actions in the area of records and data keeping in the war against all forms of violence against women and girls.

Speaking at a roundtable discussion recently, at the YWCA office in Lagos after a road walk as part of the activities of the organisation in marking this year’s 16 days of activism against gender-based violence campaign, the National President of YWCA, Lady Chikwue Ochiagha, said that while the group appreciates government efforts, she however urged governments to take some proactive steps so as to curb and deter intending perpetrators.

“We want to encourage Lagos State government because this is where we operate from to establish offenders’ register so that names of people who are accused as well as those who have been convicted will be entered in this register. And when employers like schools wants to employ teachers, they will check the records and make sure that they do not employ anybody whose name is on that register in order to secure the children. Otherwise, how do you explain a teacher molesting a two or three year old girl in the class.

So, we are asking government to take some proactive steps, do some proactive things that will act as a check on these abuses,” she said.
Joining her voice with other human rights organisations in this year’s International Human Rights Day with the theme, ‘Orange the World: Raise Money to End Violence Against Women and Girls’, she said that YWCA was committed to efforts that would rid the society of abuse, permanently.

And that with the YWCA’s 2016 campaign theme, ‘Demystifying Violence Against Women in Nigeria’, Ochiagha called on Nigerians not to condone gender-based violence under whatever guise or excuses. “Violence against women and girls has a lot to do with indiscipline in people, not being able to control their bodies, not being able to control their emotions. And some do it out of wickedness just to rubbish, stigmatise, or even put an end to the career of their victim.

“So, some acts of wickedness are involved, some acts indiscipline are involve, some acts of mischief are involved. We do not want to agree to the reason of indecent dressing, because we are campaigning and saying ;No Excuse’. Whether somebody is indecently dresses or not, it is not an excuse to violate the woman or the girl,” she said.

And calling on the families to rise to their responsibility as watchdogs over their children, the President said, “Every woman, every man in the home must become a policeman and policewoman. That is to say, you must monitor, you must be on alert to discover your children, especially the girls and be able to know when there is danger and prevent it even before it occurs,” Ochiagha said.

A representative of the Police, Mr. Lanre Ogunlowo noted that for gender-based violence to be demystified, families, religious bodies, civil society organisations and governments have roles to play. According to Ogunlowo, government’s efforts include changes in law, diligent investigation and conclusive prosecution of offenders. “The government takes very seriously, issues that border on gender-based violence and from time to time, there are changes to our law and measures on how we can deal with this problem.”

Enumerating some of the steps by the police in ensuring professional handling of gender-based violence cases, Ogunlowo noted that the police has created in some stations, a special unit, ‘Family Support Unit’ manned by specially trained personnel.

Encouraging participants to always report cases of abuse, whether domestic or sexual, the police officer noted that the force has through its partnership with national and international NGOs, now have increased capacity to deal with the problem.

Speaking also, the Director, Citizen Mediation Centre, Mrs. Oluwatoyin Odusanya, observing the low turn up of men at the discussion said the importance of men’s participation to discussions of this nature cannot be overemphasised.

According to Odusanya who was represented by her Assistant Director, Mrs. Odutola Rotimi, “In gathering like this, I believe that it’s an avenue where we can educate ourselves. But I am looking forward to when we are able to address the men folks. More often than not, the offenders or violators are usually men, so they also need to listen to some of these talks. They also need to be educated so that we can have a safer society,” she said.

And for wider spread of the message on the war against gender-based violence, Odusanya advised that more collaborative efforts with appropriate government agencies and civil society organisations is necessary. Others participants include Office of Public Defenders and many more others.