By Bose Adebayo
In every country, women and girls are in most cases vulnerable to violence with its attendant suffering. Such violence undermines development, creates instability and makes peace much harder to achieve. It was in recognition of this that November 25  was set aside as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

Last Wednesday, the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) in collaboration with the Women’s Optimum Development Foundation (WODEF) organised a get-together in Lagos to commemorate the globally recognised 16 Days Activism.  The United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, used the opportunity to call on all concerned stakeholders to unite and take action to end all forms of violence against women.

Some participants at the event
Some participants at the event

With about six schools in attendance, it was a forum for stakeholders to discuss and assess the performance, level of acceptability and public responsiveness to human rights issues, especially the protection of women against violence in Nigeria.

The occasion with theme, “UNITE to End Violence Against Women”, treated various topics like domestic violence, women trafficking, rape, female genital mutilation, wife battering, sexual harassment, girl-child education and harmful traditional practices, among others.

Mr. Nosa Osazuwa who read an address on behalf of the Secretary-General called for commitment to women’s human rights. “Women around the world are the very linchpin keeping families, communities and nations together. On this International Day, let us reaffirm our commitment to women’s human rights; let us invest more resources in countering this violence; let us do all it takes to end these horrific assaults once and for all,” he charged.

He called for elimination of all forms of violence against women. “Our goal is clear: An end to these inexcusable crimes-whether it is the use of rape as a weapon of war, domestic violence, sex trafficking , so-called ‘honour’ crimes or female genital mutilation/cutting. We must address the roots of this violence by eradicating discrimination and changing the mindsets that perpetuate it,” he noted.

Continuing he said: “The ‘UNITE to End Violence Against Women’ campaign that I launched last year is galvanizing action across United Nations system. It calls for all countries to put in place, by the year 2015, strong laws, multi-sectoral action plans, preventive measures, data collection, and systematic efforts to address sexual violence in conflict situations.

The new entity will promote gender equality and the empowerment of women, and hold the UN system itself accountable for supporting measures to eliminate discrimination against women and end violence against them,” he said.

WODEF President, Mrs. Bimbo Oloyede applauded the fact that the issue of violence against women and girls is no longer treated as simply a woman’s concern. “We still live in a world where violence against women and girls is a major source of insecurity for half the world’s population, from domestic violence to female genital mutilation; from so-called ‘honour’ killings to mass rape in times of war.

The gap between the promises and realties on the ground is still too wide and violence against women and girls continues to pose some of the world’s greatest challenges. It is noteworthy that over the past decades, recognition of the problem of gender-based violence has changed and great advancements have been seen in terms of commitments to women’s rights, both nationally and globally,” she explained.

She lamented that about 70 per cent of women have been maltreated by men. “It is shocking that based on available country data, up to 70 per cent of women experience physical or sexual violence from men in their life time. It happens everywhere- at home and work, on the streets and in schools, during peacetime and in conflict,” she said.

One of the students, Olaide Owoyemi who spoke on women battering attributed the trend to illiteracy and inferiority complex on the part of men, saying the effect of battery should not be taken with levity. “Children from such homes usually lack concentration in schools. Women should be respected and given equal treatment by their men counterpart,” she noted.

Owoyemi called on government to enforce a law that will take care of violence against women. “Government should enforce a law or look into this problem because women are special and should be treated with respect,” she added.

In his contribution, Collins Ehue of Mayday College said men engage in rape to show their ego and called on victims to report cases of violence to designated authorities. “It is a pity that most victims prefer to be quiet over this because of shame. I hereby call on affected people to report cases to law enforcement agents,” he stated.

Recently, the 10th anniversary of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women as well as the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) was observed.

The gathering reiterated the position that women are a special breed that should be handled with care. The argument, however, remains that the reverse is usually the case in many countries of the world as women are being maltreated by the men folk. Women and girls are being subjected to various forms of humiliation ranging from assault, battery to rape.

It is said, for instance, that many women or girls are usually battered, humiliated or raped by men without any penalty. It is also on record that violence against women and girls takes place all over the world and it has been a major source of insecurity and concern for the female folk.

It is 10 years since the United Nations recognised November 25 as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.  On this date a decade ago, the Mirabal sisters were violently assassinated in 1960, by the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo in the Dominican Republic.

If you have a wife or mother, she deserves your utmost care and respect. Women or girls should not be humiliated but be handled with utmost care. It ‘s high time we stopped all forms of violence and humiliation against women and girls.

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