Gboyega Akinsanmi
Confronted with the unacceptable incidence of sexual violence in the state, Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, on Monday recommended a minimum jail term of 25 years for any person tried and found guilty of sexual violence.

He challenged the state House of Assembly to amend the Protection against Domestic Violence Law, 2007 to accommodate stiffer penalty for convicts of sexual violence, noting that rape should not be met with light sentencing.

The governor strongly canvassed stiffer penalty for convicts of sexual violence after a peaceful march against domestic and sexual violence at the State House, Ikeja yesterday, noting that domestic violence at large “is a crime, and should be treated as such.”

The march, which terminated at the state House of Assembly, had the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Mr. Tunji Bello, the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Adeniji Kazeem, the state Chief Judge, Justice Opeyemi Oke, and the Coordinator of Lagos State Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Team, Mrs. Titilola Vivour-Adeniyi, among others in attendance.

After the march against domestic violence, Ambode said rape “should not be met with light sentencing. The minimum sentence of 25 years is highly recommended. We need new laws, which will respond adequately to the nature and occurrences of this era.”

He noted that domestic violence “is a crime, and should be treated as such. The Protection against Domestic Violence Law, 2007 should therefore be amended accordingly.”
Ambode acknowledged that a lot of progress “has been made in the steps taken to protect the rights of women and the girl child and in the war against the oppression of the female gender. However, there is still so much to be done.”

In Lagos, specifically, he said there “has been a significant increase in formal and informal reporting of domestic and sexual violence cases, but contrary to what it appears to be, this menace is not a recent development.”
He explained that occurrences “have been around for years, but they were seen as norms because nobody spoke out against them. So, such acts were overlooked based on misguided definitions of gender roles.

“What we are tackling today is an almost innate culture which relegates women to the background and forces them to suffer in silence. In Lagos, we are waging a war against this culture. We will do everything within our power to transform ours to a culture of equality, respect and dignity for all irrespective of gender.”
He, therefore, disclosed that the fight against sexual violence “is a journey of radical transformation. The state government is wholly committed to seeing it through. We have walked the talk as regards fighting sexual & gender based violence.”

He also disclosed that the Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Team “has executed interventions and initiatives, which include easy access to reporting incidents, speedy rescue and access to justice and medical and psycho-social support for survivors.”

The governor added that the team equally emphasised sensitisation and policy advocacy and the establishment of the Lagos State Domestic and Sexual Violence Trust Fund, which he said, would help survivors to be financially independent.

Ambode said the state government “is not just reactive in helping survivors but also taking aggressive steps to prevent future occurrences. Our aim is to build a system of trust and accountability, where survivors are encouraged to speak out and potential perpetrators are discouraged to commit future acts.”

He commended the state judiciary for heeding the call to establish a sexual offences court, noting that the establishment of the special court “has started yielding the dividends. It is our earnest hope that justice would continue to be swift.”

He, equally, commended the state House of Assembly for enacting the Protection against Domestic Violence Law, 2007, Child’s Right Law of Lagos State, 2015 and the Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2015.

He noted that all the interventions had provided a solid platform for waging the war against sexual & gender based violence, now we need to improve on this foundation and become pioneering.