By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA — The Federal Government, on Thursday, inaugurated an Inter-Ministerial Management Committee on Eradication of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence, SGBV.
The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, who performed the ceremony at the Federal Ministry of Justice, said the government was deeply perturbed about the worsening cases of sexual and gender-based violence in the country.
Though Malami noted that the problem was not peculiar to Nigeria, he, however, blamed the increased number of reported cases on the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown measures that were imposed to curb the spread of the virus.
The AGF stressed that SGBV is not only a grave violation of human rights of victims as guaranteed by the 1999 Constitution, as amended, but also prohibited by several domestic laws and international human rights instruments.
He said: “Sexual and Gender-Based Violence is a prevalent global problem not peculiar to Nigeria. According to a study conducted by the World Health Organization, 35% of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence.
“For clarity, this translates to one in every three women! This staggering situation has been worsened in Nigeria particularly by the Covid-19 pandemic and consequent upon the lock-down measures that were imposed to curb the spread of the virus.
“The dramatic increase in incidences of SGBV has generated public outcry and resulted in it being described as a pandemic within a pandemic.
“The excruciating impact of SGBV is not limited to only victims and their families but also involves devastating social and economic costs to our nation.
“Reports show that violence against women is estimated to cost some countries up to 3.7% of their GDP. Research also reveals that children who were raised with violence are more likely to become perpetrators of violence in the future.
“The need for concrete and urgent actions to combat this problem can therefore not be overstated”, the AGF added.
He disclosed that the Committee would as part of its mandate, conduct a review of all the existing laws and policy instruments touching on offences of rape, child defilement and gender-based violence.
As well as to develop for adoption, national prevention of sexual abuse/violence strategy for the period of 2021- 2025, “that identifies and encapsulates measures to enhance response to rape and gender-based violence, set new targets for prevention, intervention and treatment.
Meanwhile, in their goodwill messages at the event, both the United Nations and the European Union pledged to support FG’s effort at eradicating sexual and gender-based violence in the country.
The representative of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) Ulla Mueller, noted that Nigeria witnessed a spike in sexual violence with the Covid-19 pandemic, even as she commended the government for rising to the challenge by setting up the Committee.
She said: “We cannot say it often enough. We all have a responsibility to end gender-based violence. It is a devastating occurrence that happens every day in Nigeria. It is a reality that women and girls live in fear every day.
“Unfortunately recently we have seen a spike in gender-based violence during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We will be delighted to commend the government of Nigeria for taking this initiative. It shows the commitment and dedication to put action behind the words of wanting to eradicate gender-based violence.
“We stand by you during these crises, we stand by you during the Covid-19 pandemic. We also stand side by side working with you in ending gender-based violence in Nigeria”.
Likewise, the First Counsellor and Deputy Head of Delegation of the EU to Nigeria and the Economic Community of West African States, Alexandre Gomes, commended Nigeria for the initiative.
Noting that the country witnessed nearly 300 percent increase in cases of sexual and gender-based violence during the Covid-19 lockdown, he urged Nigeria not to treat the issue as usual business.
He said the inauguration of the Inter-ministerial Committee was a milestone in the fight against what he described as “pandemic within a pandemic”, adding that the EU was prepared to support Nigeria in her quest to eradicate the menace.