Rebecca Ejifoma writes that in a recent webinar by Women Empowerment and Legal Aid, experts called for renewed and systemic approach to tackling gender-based violence
Experts from across the country have called for balanced parenting, review of the academic curriculum and renewed systematic approach to tackling gender based violence in country.
This was part of the submission at the virtual event held on Friday August 14, organised by the Women Empowerment and Legal Aid (WELA) on the theme, “Gender Based Violence: The Way Forward”.
The speakers included the DG National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) Dame Julie Okah Donli; Commissioner for Women Affairs Lagos State, Mrs. Bolaji Dada; Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice Ekiti State, Mr. Olawale Fapohunda; Coordinator of Domestic Sexual and Violence Response Team (DSVRT) in Lagos, Mrs. Titilola Vivour-Adeniyi; and the Founder, Stand to End Rape (STER), Oluwaseyi Ayodeji Osowobi.
According to Donli, “We need an increased alertness on the side of parents and parental figures upholding various victims’ protection principles as a way forward.”
She called for ending the stigmatisation of the victims, domestication of the rape act in all states of the federation, the use of alternatives of victims’ testimony in court and refusal to settle rape cases out of court.
“Every rape case must be prosecuted, making stigmatisation, blame and justification a crime, increased enrollment of the boy and girl child in education – boys and girls should be in free and compulsory primary school – this subject should be infused in the curricular of the primary and secondary schools as well, enactment of stringent laws among others.”
Donli, who described rape as a form of penetrative sexual act with a person without the other person’s consent, cited that the 2020 World Population review indicates that Africa has maintained a notorious reputation on rape over the years.
She hinted that female subjugation in Africa remains the major factor fueling rape. “There has been an increase in rape incidences in recent times especially during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown”.
Donli, who is also the founder of Donli Kidney Foundation and DG of NAPTIP, recalled the gruesome rape and murder of the 25 years old undergraduate in Edo State and others.
“In the last one year, we have had about 425 reported cases alone, we have been able to get 27 convictions. UNICEF reported in 2015 that one in every four girls and one in 10 boys experience sexual violence before the age of 18 but most of them are not reported. We still have some cases of underage marriage still occurring in some parts of the country that still have to be abolished,” she highlighted.
Some of the factors, in her words, fueling underage rape are exposure to modernity; misuse of modern technology as a lot of young people have access to sophisticated phones which they use to log on to pornography easily; gross parental negligence and lack of proper training of the male children; one-sidedness in cultural orientation with excessive attention on the girl-child; and weakening forces in legal instrument providing a shield for perpetrators of underage rape and marriages among others.
She suggested that continuous capacity building for relevant personnel on concurrent duties, establishment of special courts for expedited trial of rape and violence cases, community sensitisation through dialogues and strategic persuasive communication, as well as creation of avenues for extensive trainings on balanced parenting, increased advocacy with community leaders and traditional institutions, strengthening the capacity of caregivers and counsellors of socio-psycho support, promoting the use of the sexual offender register which is meant to name and shame perpetrators of rape and violence issues, preventive and remedial action to rape should feature more in the curricular of schools and religious bodies among others.
“It is important to shelter the victims, to protect them and put the perpetrators behind bars,” she tasked the institutions of government.
The Commissioner for Women Affairs in Lagos State, Mrs. Bola Dada, condemned all forms of sexual assaults, describing them as evil, despicable, and condemnable.
She added: “It is pertinent to dig into the root cause of this menace before we can proffer solutions. “
She also harped on review of academic curriculum. “I quite agree with the submission of the former speaker on review of our educational system curriculum to incorporate moral instructions. “
The Attorney General of Ekiti State, Fapohunda, who spoke on what the government of Ekiti State is doing in terms of gender based violence said the state government identified four interventions which have worked for them.
He mentioned them as legal will, law reform, policy change, and institutional struggle and public awareness.
“We understand that we have to harmonise our laws for effective prosecution, and also necessary that the laws that we enact in response to gender and sexual violence is well organised,” Fapohunda said.
Following the Ekiti State interventions, the AG maintained that today “we think we have probably one of the most progressive gender-based violence law in the country. Part of what the Ekiti state government has adopted include, recognising that government policy is also very crucial in response to gender and sexual violence.
“We know that rape matters are time bound, so we have a time line for issuance of DPP’s advice as well as the AG’s. That is a crucial approach we have adopted in the ministry of justice.”c
The founder of WELA, Mrs. Funmi Falana said the pandemic situation brought to the fore the vulnerability of many of our people, not just people with disability, but also many of the minority in the system and also in the country.
She noted: “Most especially now our children, our women also who have been victims of several forms of gender-based violence under the current dispensation and also moving forward on some of the political issues at the same time proffer way forward for all the stakeholders, the civil society, the media, government at the national and subnational level to respond to this challenging situation that is calling on all of us to rise to the occasion.”
While stating WELA’s goal to protect and promote the rights of women and children in Nigeria, Falana maintained that as a major stakeholder in the right of women they are deeply concerned about the rise in case of sexual offences in our society and putting an end to it.
Also speaking, DSVRT’s Coordinator, Vivour-Adeniyi said: “What we have been doing in Lagos, some time in 2016, the Lagos Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Team worked on possible factors why people commit sexual violence including rape, defilement and sexual assault by penetration.
“ We were able to partner the Nigerian Prison Service. We engaged 140 sex convicts – people that were serving time. Our findings were quite remarkable. We found out that out of convicts we engaged, 80.9 per cent of the inmates said they had been abused before the age of six and unfortunately they had not received psychosocial support – didn’t receive counseling and they had been exposed to the abuse trend.
“Thus, we need to institutionalise our reforms.
When we have data on tape victims, it makes it easy to make policies.”
Osowobi of STER harper on stigmatisation of sexual violence survivors, adding that it has been on for a very long time.
”Times have changed. We have evolved. More awareness has contributed to changing people’s perception about sexual violence and why survivors should be supported. We still have a long way to go,” she added.