By Kuni Tyessi
The Director-General of the National Centre for Women Development (NCWD), Mrs. Mary Ekpere-Eta, has called for family, institutional and community support for survivors of Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV), saying all forms of violence against women should not be treated as family matters.
Ekpere-Eta opined in a personally signed statement to mark #16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence 2020, that genuine support for women and girls who survive acts of violence will help in breaking the culture of silence around domestic violence which has led to many deaths and truncated dreams.
She urged that friends, families and associates of women who survive violent crimes should back them to seek justice, as there are laws that address violence against women.
Ekpere-Eta, who stressed that families should stop treating SGBV as ‘family matter’, also counselled survivors of gender-based violence to seek professional help for their physical and mental health.
The NCWD Director-General expressed regret that the COVID-19 lockdown led to the worsening of an already bad situation of violence against women across the country.
According to the statement, “We have recorded progress in terms of enacting laws that protect women from sexual and gender-based crimes. Laws like the Violence Against Person Prohibition Act (VAPP), other bills waiting to be passed by the House of Representatives, having been passed by the Senate like the prohibition of Sex-For-Grades bill, the amendment of the Criminal Code bill, which stops rape from being statutes barred, will help in protecting women from sexual predators.
“I call on states which haven’t domesticated the VAPP to do so, as timely prosecution and adequate sentencing of perpetrators of violence against women will embolden survivors to report cases for prosecution.
“The Covid-19 lockdown saw Nigeria’s already high incidence of domestic violence and rape worsen. This has brought to the fore, the need for government at all levels to invest in the protection and safety of our girls and women.
“At the federal level, I seek that among other interventions of government, that the scientific investigation and prosecution of sexual and domestic violence is factored into the Police Trust Fund. As it stands, Nigeria doesn’t have a standard rape kit, talk more of other modern equipment to scientifically prove rape and other acts of violence in court.”
On the prevention of sexual and gender-based crime, she said that families and communities must ensure that almost everywhere a woman or girl finds herself is a safe place, adding that boys must also be raised to respect women’s choices, just as children are taught sexual education through culturally acceptable ways to prevent sexual exploitation.