Our laws need review to protect children ― Experts
By Ike Uchechukwu – Calabar
Disturbed by the spate of cases of gender-based violence, University Don, experts have called on lawmakers and government of Nigeria to commence an immediate review of the Evidence Act and other laws for the protection of children, girls and women in the county.
The call was made during a paper presentation on “Child Right Reporting and Ethical Response from the Media at a two day Media Dialogue on Ending Violence Against Children, Women and Girls by EU-UN (European Union and United Nations) Spotlight Initiative (SI) and National Orientation Agency (NOA), Ebonyi State, in Enugu.
Dr Chidi Ezinwa, a lecturer in the Department of Mass Communication ESUT & resource person at the event, called for a review of the Evidence Act which he said was outdated and gives room for rapists to escape justice.
Vanguard gathered that findings by United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), Spotlight Initiative (SI) and others the experts revealed that “approximately six out of every 10 children experience, some form of violence.
Also half of all children experience physical violence; one in four girls and one in 10 boys experience sexual violence; one in six girls and one in five boys experience emotional violence by a parent, caregiver or adult relative.”
He said: “Lawmakers should start implementing and making laws to protect children in Nigeria… because looking at our laws a rapist can easily escape as our laws are porous.
“When we look at our laws as it is now, for instance, the Evidence Act requires corroborations. Corroborations means that there must be evidence of another party that witnessed a rape.
“Does it mean that rape has become a party that when you want to rape someone, you invite people to come and witness it? So, such a law should be reviewed.
“We don’t tend to care or have protection for the victims and there is no way people will feel free to come forward and report. We don’t protect victims and family members”.
Another resource person, Mrs Ijeoma Mike-Ajanwachukwu in her paper, “Violence Against Children (VAC): Experiences, Prevention and Response Services, Challenges and Way Forward-Especially through Media” said violence against children in Nigeria is endemic and pandemic in the world.
Ajanwachukwu who is a legal practitioner said: “We have beautiful laws but implementation is the problem. It is not enough to say castrate or execute rapists but the implementation. The life sentence on rapists is perfect and they should not be given state pardon.
She gave many instances of child abuse saying not much is done to arrest the situation as the Child Rights Act of 2003 has not been domesticated in many states in the Country yet children on daily basis pass through various forms of physical and emotional violence.
Her words: ” parents and victims are encouraged to report cases of rape or other forms of violence against them but in Nigeria, there is no functional response service put in place for victims of violence.
“We need shelter homes to protect children and to fight this battle of rape and other vices, shelter home is very important. Let communities rise up against issues of rape.”
She charged parents, the judiciary, religious and traditional leaders, schools and others to emphasis the teachings of morals on the children and the media need to dig deep and do follow-ups on various reports most especially as it concerns gender Base violence.
The Communication Officer, UNICEF, Enugu field office, Mrs Ijeoma Onuoha-Ogwe in her paper, “Harnessing Media Opportunities for Accelerated Implementation of Child rights Law, Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Law and other related protection Acts and Laws by duty bearers” said duty bearers like parents, police, Media, judiciary and others have major roles to play.
She said the government should start implementing the Child Rights Act and the media in its advocacy “needs to be consistent in its write-ups to change public opinion and influence opinion.”