Bring back our trafficked girls, or face ECOWAS court, Falana warns Mali
Step up on forensics — DSVRT
By Ebunoluwa Sessou & Okiemute Abraham
Director-General of the National Agency for Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons, NAPTIP, Dame Julie Okah Donli, has rejected castration as punishment for rapists, saying the ideal penalty should be considered on a case by case basis.
She disclosed this during a webinar conference on gender-based violence organized by Women Empowerment and Legal Aid, WELA, a non-governmental organization, (NGO), in Lagos.
The convener of the programme and human rights activist, Funmi Falana who is also the founder of WELA, alongside other stakeholders who participated in the conference urged Nigerians to maintain a sustained momentum in the fight against rape, adding that rape and other related forms of gender-based violence should not be handled with levity.
Funmi Falana expressed her deep concern on the rising wave of sexual violence in Nigeria, adding that the upsurge was not due to the unavailability of laws but the institutionalized myths about rape eating deep into various parts of the government at all levels.
Buttressing her claims with facts and instances of rape cases in Nigeria over the last five months, she emphasized the need for all hands to be on deck to profer solutions to the menace.
Donli who insisted castration is not an ideal penalty for rape offenders added that perpetrators could be left with no option but to kill their victims after the act.
Also speaking, the Lagos State Commissioner for Women Affairs, Bolaji Dada and the Ekiti State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Olawale Fapohunda jointly noted finding a way forward from the rising wave of sexual violence in Nigeria is a must for all stakeholders.
They added that stigmatization of rape survivors should be addressed and the role of forensic evidence in the fight against rape should not be ignored.
Dada lamented that the rape situation had become a pandemic as unreported cases exceeded the numerous reported ones. She further opined that ignorance and the culture of silence had beclouded the fight against sexual and gender-based violence.
Highlighting possible root causes of most rape cases as poor parenting, poverty and illiteracy, breakdown in marriages, drug usage, occultism and the influence of the internet, Bolaji submitted to the enactment of stricter laws against sex offenders and the education of the boy child as remedies to the growing pandemic.
In the same vein, Fapohunda pointed out the challenges of a progressive response to gender-based violence, stating that there was too much tolerance for sex offenders and no national consensus on issues regarding gender-based violence in Nigeria. He decried cultural practices whereby offenders recruit high standing members of society to beg on their behalves.
Although emphasizing the need for law reforms, policy change, and the creation of a sex offenders’ register, he opined that until these efforts are institutionalized at the federal level, the fight against gender-based violence would remain a struggle.
“We need a serious national conversation when it comes to the issue of rape,” Fapohunda said.
Alongside highlighting the need for temporary shelter for rape survivors especially those whose abusers are closely related, he stressed that perpetrators and not the victims must be ashamed and separated from the society.
On her part, Founder, Stand to End Rape, STER, Oluwaseun Ayodeji, highlighted the religious undertone as well as the blame-shift culture from the perpetrators to the victim prevalent in the society, noting that survivors leverage on these reasons to be silent and excuse the perpetrators afterward.
Ayodeji urged the government at all levels and the society at large to approach rape cases as murder cases with zero tolerance for perpetrators.
Addressing the role of forensic evidence in rape crime investigation, Coordinator, Domestic Sexual and Violence Response Team, DSVRT, Mrs Titilayo Vivour Adeniyi, maintained that the need to leverage on the investigation cannot be overemphasized.
She noted that more than providing women with information on where to go after a rape, awareness should also cover ‘what to do’, which includes not taking a bath before approaching the hospital. She encouraged the need for compensation of rape survivors to avoid out of court settlements by offenders.
Meanwhile, a popular human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, SAN, decried the trafficking of Nigerian women in Mali, urging NAPTIP and other related bodies to rise to the occasion and address the ugly trend.