In commemoration of the ‘16-Days of Activism on Gender-based Violence (GBV) globally celebrated from November 24, of every year, the Network on Police Reform in Nigeria (NOPRIN) in partnership with Project Alert has called on all concerned stakeholders to pay attention to sexual offences perpetuated by law enforcement agencies who ought to be protecting victims of sexual violence.
This call was made recently during a press briefing tagged ‘Sexual Abuse of Women by Law Enforcement Officers’ held in Lagos state. It was in tandem with the global theme for this year’s 16 Days of activism tagged ‘Orange the World: Generation Equality Stands against Rape’.
The day was set aside by the United Nations General Assembly in 1999 to mark the international day for the elimination of violence against women, in remembrance of the Mirabal sisters – Patria, Minerva and Maria Teresa Mirabal – who were brutally executed on November 25, 1960 by agents of Rafael Trujillo, the then dictator in the Dominican republic.
Addressing journalists, National Coordinator, NOPRIN Foundation, Emmanuel Ikule, said the awareness was aimed at promoting law enforcement’s accountability, transparency, responsible policing and respect for human rights and rule of law.
“Being the beginning of 16 days of activism against gender-based violence, we are doing this to help mitigate the challenges we have been facing, especially on issues of human rights and also enable oversight agencies to carry out their mandate of ensuring discipline and accountability on the police and other law enforcement agencies, and humanise the police enough to comply with Violence against Persons Prohibition act, VAP 2015,” he said.
Ikule also bemoaned the fact that acts of sexual violence against women are perpetuated by law enforcement agents who rather than defend the people, defile them, adding that those acts of sexual violence are either ignored or allowed to continue with impunity.
“It happens every day. It has come to the level whereby people that are supposed to be defending us are the ones defiling us. And it is high time we make that change and ensure that that change is well effected. And it has to start with us.
“Every day we cry. Even if you are not crying in your own comfortable home, know that somebody out there is complaining and is suffering because of these issues we are mentioning here.
“We encourage everybody that is here for us to give our all to ensure that our fight for a more responsive police that actually attend to the needs of the people instead of violating their rights will be adhered to at the end of the day and constantly as a group would work towards helping and mitigating these issues.”
Progamme Officer, Project Alert on Violence against Women, Nsini Udonta, on her part, said the 16 days of activism is like a birthday to her organisation because it has to do with the issue of the elimination of violence against women.
“And Project Alert as an organisation has been working, doing a lot of advocacy on the issues of rape and sexual violence in Nigeria,” she maintained.
Udonta, however, drew the attention of the audience to the fact that a research carried out by her organisation some time ago, which showed that 77 per cent of victims of sexual violence in Nigeria are children.
“We were very glad when we noticed that even the world is trying to look at sexual violence in these 16 days of activism. It’s a welcome development. During these 16 days of activism, individuals, government, non-governmental organisations and corporate bodies all over the world are expected to be actively involved in taking steps to empower women and girls though various advocacy, one of which we are doing here today. As we are aimed at eliminating all forms of violence against women, including sexual abuse of girls.”
“You will agree with me that there is no day that cases of sexual violence against children neither are nor reported in the media. We have a case whereby a two year old child was raped. We have a case whereby a six months old baby was defiled. We have several cases which we need to draw the world’s attention to all these.”
Representative of the Federation of Women lawyers, FIDA, Philomena Nneji, on her part, encouraged all stakeholders to join the fight against every form of sexual violence.
According to her, “we are also encouraging everyone to amplify their voices against this dehumanising and barbaric act. The theme for this year is quite apt, looking at the incidence of violence in our country.
“FIDA stands against rape and other sexual violence. And we have been engaging ourselves in legislative advocacy from this angle.
“There is need for every one of us to focus on the need for how to gear efforts towards putting in place comprehensive and multi-sectoral services that is acceptable for all survivors of rape and sexual violence.
“And also explore how we can collectively change our response to be survivor-based, timely and efficient in order to end the prevailing culture of impunity in this direction and foster a culture of justice and support. We all have to really stand against this social menace.”