By Vera Anyagafu and Prisca Sam-Duru
Rape and sexual assault against women in Nigeria have become issues in dare need of global intervention. Although there has been concerted efforts towards protecting the rights of the girl child as well as women in their homes and society at large, there is still much to be done, to put an end to it.
The Department for International Development (DFID) project, an initiative of the British Council in Nigeria which according to the UK High Commission, is specifically aimed at helping to combat violence against women and to assist the victims of sexual violence, psychologically and otherwise, is one of the UK’S numerous strategies to combating the ugly trend.
Also last week, the British High Commission in Nigeria organized a forum that heralded the London Global Summit on violence in conflict, where the issue of domestic violence against women both in Nigeria and other countries around the globe, was extensively discussed. The forum culminated in a protest to “# Bring Back Our Girls”
The British Deputy High Commissioner, Peter Carter expressed the need for committed efforts towards ensuring that actions are taken against marginalization of women in key sectors of countries’ economies.
Bringing to justice the perpetrators of violence against women and the need to provide support for the victims and also providing an international frame work in which those who committed the violence would be punished, were addressed at the conference.
Carter, who disclosed UK’s long term relationship with Nigeria and its readiness to provide more practical assistance to help Nigeria strengthen her defense and security institutions with needed expertise to fight terrorism, added that the conference in London, specifically, was organized to look into challenging issues in Nigeria, both in the area of violence in conflict and the terrorists insurgencies.
The conference, hosted by British Foreign Minister, William Hague, ensured participation of all Nigerian regional heads and governments that are working with Nigeria to help them recover the abducted Chibok school girls and also combat the insurgencies in North East, Nigeria.
Also reiterating the UK’s commitment towards assisting Nigeria to combat violence against women, be it physically or emotionally, the Commissioner said, “It is imperative to look at the whole issue of violence against women, and how it totally affects the society.
It is also important to look at how we can combat the impunity of menace, and better protect the victims, supporting them in every way possible.” he said, adding that “there is need to avoid early marriage which is happening in the northern part of Nigeria.”
The Deputy High Commissioner, who emphasised the need for sex education, also stressed that it is important for the United Nation, international organizations, NGOs and others, work together to eliminate sexual violence in conflict and also to breakdown the cultural impunity that goes with it.
Also stressing the need to pay more attention to violence against women and girls in the society, the chief panelist, Mrs. Itoro Eze-Anaba, noted that the London global summit on sexual violence was expected “to critically address the issue of violence against women and girls in Nigeria and affected countries across the globe, as well as provide opportunity to talk about other related issues.”
Commenting on the increasing number of cases of violence against women, she said, “At the Mirabel center of the Lagos State teaching hospital (LASUTH) Ikeja, Lagos, we noticed that for one year now, we have had over 280 people coming to receive treatment. There are several reported levels of violence against women, and it is difficult to determine which area is on the increase or decreasing. It is rather difficult to compare notes.”
Mrs Eze-Anaba also noted that “It is important to start from creating awareness. Also, the Federal government of Nigeria should endeavour to put money into the Human Rights Funds and implement the international instruments that they have signed up to.”
Her words, “ The Human Rights Funds is not working right now and the government can actually begin to look at how they can put money in that fund and then the government can also implement the international instruments that they have signed up to. They can domesticate it. They can put in place mechanism to ensure that it is enforced, so that ordinary Nigerian can benefit from the provision of those instruments. We have a lot of laws on human rights at the national assembly and at different States House of Assembly. We can pass them into law and ensure they are implemented, so that we can begin to see what changes it can make in people’s lives,” She pointed out.
Mrs. Yemisi Ransome Kuti a member of the panel, focused on the need for victims, fathers, women, girls and the perpetrators to have a platform where there can be dialogue. According to her, “There is sexual violence in peace time not to talk of in times of conflict. If during peace time we are experiencing so much domestic violence, incest, violence against girls, boys, women and violence against everybody at the moment, then we shouldn’t wait till there is conflict before taking action.”
“I don’t think there’s anyone that is excluded. Women are murdered, men are murdered and violated in several ways. What we are saying is that prevention is better than cure. The people have to be fully involved in governance structure so that we don’t get to a situation where the society breaks down. We also need to tell women that we must move from the position of the afflicted, those who are always looking for who will do something for them because our creator has given us charge of the human race.” She said.
Citing the protest demanding release of Chibok Girls, Ransome Kuti said, “If we had waited for the government or organizations, we would have waited forever, but the women stood up and said no, we want the girls back and alive and we want support for them and their parents. And international community stepped in. In this case of sexual violence against women in conflict, this evil is perpetrated against women and we must take the bull by the horn and work together.”