By Alex Enumah
The International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) Nigeria has raised its voice in condemnation of the rising wave of rape and other gender-based violence in the country and called on relevant government authorities to rise to the occasion.
The body, in a statement signed by FIDA Nigeria’s Country Vice-President/National President, Mrs Rhoda Tyoden and National Publicity Secretary, Eliana Martins, lamented that the increasing rate of rape, particularly being witnessed as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, is an indication of how debased the society has become.
“FIDA Nigeria expresses great dismay at the continuous rise in gender-based violent cases reported during the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown in Nigeria, often resulting in grievous bodily harm, psychological trauma and even death.
“The facts of the reported cases across Nigeria are heart wrenching,” the statement said.
Noting that the development, “is indicative of a debased society bereft of a value system that emphasizes safety at home or even in worship centres, from parents, spouse or even police”, the women lawyers said something drastic must be done immediately as the consequences and effects on the victims and their families have long-term negative impact on the society.
“It is unacceptable that the police mandated to arrest and prosecute are presently not forthcoming, leaning on compliance with Covid-19 regulations, which include social distancing in their stations and the decongestion of cells, as an excuse. They would rather push parties for a prompt settlement and compensation of the victim for an offence, regardless of the severity of such offence.
“The Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Act 2015 is a landmark legislation on the prohibition of all forms of violence against persons in Nigeria. The Act prohibits all forms of violence against persons in private and public life, and provides maximum protection and effective remedies for victims and punishments of offenders.
“Therefore, all stakeholders should call for a stop against all forms of violence against persons especially women, children and the vulnerable in our society,” FIDA said.
Specifically, the organisation urged the public to closely watch children/wards and protect them so they are not raped or abused and the police to keep open all gender desks at each police station to accommodate reports on domestic violence and make quick responses/intervention when called, adding that the police must prosecute all offenders and should not compel settlement of cases.
“The government must provide the requisite infrastructure, equipment etc., to ensure citizens are adequately protected; enable the police to carry out their functions; set up special dedicated courts for the trial and prosecution of gender-based offenders during the lockdown to send a clear warning to all; equip and enable the Judiciary to sit regularly during the lockdown to attend to such GBV matters; provide more shelters for the care and protection of victims; enable and support stakeholders collaborative rapid response teams for GBV across states,” the statement said.
FIDA Nigeria however expressed its commitment towards the provision of legal support to the vulnerable to ensure that all offenders are brought to justice and adequately punished in line with the law and thereby serves as a deterrent to others.
“Rape is certainly not a family matter; it is an offence! We all have a role to play in ending the rape culture in our society. Let’s demand accountability and through our actions, say an unequivocal no to rape,” the statement added.