Undoubtedly, Nigeria is failing its women and girls in so many ways. There has been an astronomical increase in the cases of gender-based violence across the country. This has underscored the critical need for government and Civil Society Organizations to act swiftly to protect its most vulnerable and ultimately put an end to gender-based violence.
According to the Nigerian Police, a total of 717 reported cases of rape have been received in January and May 2020, adding that the current covid-19 pandemic has led to increased violence against women and the girl child.
This however does not account for the number of survivors unaccounted for who chose to remain silent, afraid of the perpetrators, and even more terrified of a society where domestic violence and blaming are rife. A lot of CSOs have taken to the streets to protest the rape and murder murders of Uwa Omozuwa who was raped and gruesomely murdered. There are so many unreported cases of such occurrences (https://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/top-news/410969-omozuwa-police-parade-suspected-killers-of-uniben-student.html). With many victims dying in silence.
It is my humble opinion that a lot needs to be done to curb this menace that has besieged our country, daily a lot of women, girls, and even boys are being abused and violated by; parents, caregivers, health workers, teachers, brothers/sisters’ aunties/uncles, the list is endless. GBV could take the form; of domestic violence, sexual exploitation, forced early marriage, rape of minors, etc. sadly, these are all daily occurrences in our country, it is more saddening that a lot of us see these Human rights violations everywhere and we refuse to speak up. But the big question is “what if you are the one”, what if it’s your daughter/son, mother brother, or sister. The undeniable answer is no, no one would want such treatment mitted on their loved ones or themselves. It goes without saying what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. We all want to be treated with respect and dignity.
We, therefore, need to treat each other with dignity and respect. As guaranteed by Chapter 4 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended and International Treaties.
Lawyers Alert has been championing the campaign against Gender-based violence as this is evident in its active involvement in GBV/VAPs(W)-related issues (implementation of VAP Laws by all the states). Lawyers Alert provides free legal assistance to women and girls in Nigeria, amongst other interventions.
It is in this regard that we are providing pro bono services to women and girls who are victims of GBV. LA has actively intervened in areas of GBV also having rendered free legal services to women/girls during the #ENDSARS protest https://www.lawyersalertng.org/_files/ugd/c6dfb9_53245d3d40f843d892bf2f83f44b64de.pdf and in the face of the Covid 19 Pandemic, Lawyers Alert developed a web-based monitoring tool “LadockT” the tool captures violations across locations and states, exhibiting types and trends. Using this tool, we constantly captured and provide data on GBV and VAW in the last 3 years.
Recommendations: which are by no means exhaustive:
The domestication of (VAP) Violence Against Persons Act. It is an important piece of legislation that prohibits certain practices and violations that infringe on the rights of women/the girl child and the vulnerable and marginalized in the country. The act provides that anybody convicted of the offence of rape is liable for life imprisonment without the option of a fine while, minors are liable for a term of 14 years without the option of a fine. It is our humble opinion that juvenile correctional facilities be set up, in event of a minor offender. With only 18 out of the 36 have domesticated this law, there is a strong need to push the frontiers of VAP.
Reorientation of the men/boys to recognize the fact that some ideologies such as male dominance, sexism, and notion like “it’s a woman’s job”, and “it’s a man’s world” are all factors that contribute to gender-based violence. We all need to recognize that we are all equal. This reorientation boils down to our schools and family as agents of socialization. Religious leaders also have a very big role to play, as Nigeria is seen to be a religious nation, hence the need for their involvement in this fight
There is also the need for Governors at the state level to support the fight against women/girl child it can also provide psychological support centers for survivors and medical care.
Lastly, there needs to be a coalition of security forces, the civil society groups, media, state, and non-state actors to come up with a more proactive approach toward ending the menace of Gender-based violence in our country.
The ultimate truth is that we all have a role to play in stumping out gender-based violence in our country, Play your Role well!