…as UN Begins 16 Days Campaign
By Victoria Ojeme
The Federal Government has committed to ending all forms of violence against women in Nigeria as the world begins 16-day campaign to end gender-based violence.
According to Minister of Women Affairs, Dame Pauline Tallen, rape has permeated the rubrics of the Nigerian society, from the entertainment world, to religious institutions, to the academic community, and the country can no longer be silent in the face of this menace where no one is spared.
She said this on Monday in Abuja at the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women to mark the first day of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence.
Starting today and ‘over the next 16 days, all around the world, the event will bring to the fore, the voices of women and girls’ survivors and activists and ensure their voices and stories are heard and action is taken.
According to her, 2019 will remain a remarkable time when the issues of rape reached a climax in Nigeria.
‘’The case of the sex-for-marks saga is still fresh in our minds. The First Lady of the Federal Republic of Nigeria Aisha Muhammadu Buhari, the champion of Nigerian women and children issues is already pursuing this issue and we will support all her efforts to see to its logical conclusion. We have seen many older women speaking out about their experiences as it relates to rape.
‘’We have also seen some sound judgments in favour of victims. The Chrisland School, Lagos issue where a teacher defiled a 2 year old and was jailed for 60 years readily comes to mind. We will not also forget in a hurry the Ekiti State conviction in favour of a 7 year old girl who was raped by a53 years old, and many more. We have also seen high profile cases which were thrown out under technical reasons, but at least it is victory for the victims who were able to confront their shadows by speaking out boldly.
‘’The issue of rape in addition to physical assault of the victims takes many emotional and psychological forms. It is a human rights issue, and is extremely disabling to the victims. It inhibits their contributions to national development. It is of crucial importance to improve and increase their freedom of action and influence. I hereby appeal to those who are always ready to blame the victims to reconsider their positions,’’ she said.
According to her, education remains the fulcrum to solve the problem.
‘’When a girl child is educated, half of society’s issues will be resolved. Already, we are in partnership with the Ministry of Education at all levels to increase enrolment, retention and completion rates of the Girl-Child in Primary and Secondary Schools. We are also promoting second chance education for those girls and women who were victims of rape and were denied further education to pursue an education This explains why I was a main participant at the just concluded National Council on Education in port Harcourt, Rivers State.
‘’Our collaboration with the Ministry of Health to eradicate Harmful Practices to Women and Girls, including Female Genital Mutilation is yielding supports. We are negotiating with the Honourable Minister of Health, to facilitate fee waiver to victims of rape and other Gender-Based Violence in the Federal Medical Centres and other related Health facilities. The Minister of the Federal Capital TerritoryFCT), as our Landlord and my sister the Minister of State of FCT are both supporting us to grant free waivers to victims of GBV in PHCs and hospitals under the purview of the FCT.
‘’From now to the next 16 Days, we have earmarked some of activities to commemorate the period. That is not to say that we do not identify with activities by other partners and C505 towards achieving the goal. I am aware that similar activities are going on in all almost all States of the Federation as agreed upon at the just concluded National Council on W Affairs and Social Development in Akure in October, 2019.
‘’Immediately after this Joint Press Briefing, today, we have other activities to include: Launch of the Sex Offenders Register by His Excellency, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, GCON, Vice President, Federal Republic of Nigeria and other events.’’
Also speaking at the event, the UN Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed said that while governments have committed and recommitted to ending all forms of violence against women and girls, including sexual violence, rape and sexual abuse are everyday violent occurrences – affecting hundreds of millions of women and girls over their lifetimes. We must renew efforts to end this scourge.
‘’Rape and other forms of gender-based violence inflict huge economic, political and social losses to individuals, households, and nation-states, and continue to be an obstacle to achieving equality, development, peace as well as to the fulfilment of women and girls’ human rights. The attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and its promise to leave no one behind cannot be fulfilled without putting an end to violence against women and girls.
‘’Rape is the extreme manifestation ‘of a continuum ‘of violence against women and girls. In Nigeria this continuum spans a wide range of gender-based violence including domestic violence; sexual exploitation of adolescent girls and women in ID? camps in Norm-East Nigeria; wide-scale incidences of ‘sex for grades’ in schools and institutions of higher learning across the country; trafficking of thousands of young girls across the Attainment early marriage of girls who should otherwise be in school; and violence against women in politics. Just last week, we witnessed the horrific murder of a woman politician in Kogi State. The perpetrators of this crime must face justice.
‘’Over the last year, a number of widely reported cases of rape of women have highlighted the pervasive nature of this crime in Nigeria. The ease of Ochanya Ogbaje, who died at the age of 13 years, having brutally endured rape over many years at the hands of these entrusted to protect her in Benue; the case of young woman who was drugged and raped by two young men in Lagos State, who proceeded to film this criminal act; the report by INEC that some of their officials were assaulted and raped during the 2019 elections; and cases of brave women daring to break the culture of silence to tell their story of rape endured at the hands of powerful individuals in society, all provide evidence of the deep-rooted nature of the problem.
‘’In order to end rape and other forms of gender-based violence, we must invest in prevention, by addressing the root causes of the problem. Given that gender-based violence is rooted in gender-based power inequalities and regressive gender nouns, we must focus of transforming gender relations and social norms. We must empower women through education, economically and politically to exercise their rights, choices and decision-making. We must ensure that those who commit rape are brought to justice and thus end the culture of impunity.
‘’Preventive measures also requires engagement of families, communities and community gate-keepers such as traditional and religious leaders and men and boys in efforts to transform social norms and attitudes towards prevention of violence against women and girls.
‘’The UN is committed to supporting governments the world over, including Nigeria, to safeguard the rights of women and girls from violence. The EU/UN Spotlight Initiative, to End Gender-based Violence which is being rolled out in a number of countries including Nigeria, is an important expression of the “support of the international community to the efforts of the Government of Nigeria.
‘’While it is encouraging that the Government 18 making notable progress to address these crimes, more needs to be done given the challenge ahead of us. As the United Nations, we are committed to working With other stakeholders including civil society and the private sector to support the Government to make a much faster progress in this area,’’ she said.