By Joseph Erunke
The United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, has identified parents, teachers, caregivers as well as neighbours as major perpetrators of violence against children in Nigeria.
The global child rights agency, speaking yesterday, in a keynote address through its
Child Protection Specialist, Dr. Olasunbo Odebode, regretted that perpetrators of violence against children were usually people known to them.
While also noting that 36 percent of married women experience gender-based violence in the country, UNICEF also pointed out that
perpetrators of violence against women were their spouses and intimate partners.
The event was a webinar with the theme ‘Role of Media in Promoting Accountability for Ending Violence Against Women and Girls,’ organised by the Spotlight Initiative Nigeria.
Odebode said at least 36 percent of women who have ever been married, have experienced one form of violence or the other from their spouse.
He disclosed that women and girls were circumcised before the age of five in some parts of the country, bringing the national prevalence to about 20 percent, adding that 19 percent of girls in Nigeria were married before the age of 15.
“31 percent of women aged 15 and 49 have experienced physical violence, 9 percent of women have experienced sexual violence, women and girls with disability are twice as exposed to experience violations of any form.
“36 percent of ever-married women have experienced physical, sexual or emotional violence in the hand of their spouses, 6 percent of women have experienced physical violence during pregnancy and 1 in 4 girls have experienced sexual violence,” she said.
She listed the drivers of violence against women and girls to include; negative socio-cultural norms, low status of women and children especially girls, harmful practices, culture of silence, taboo and shame, low educational and economic status.
United Nations Resident Coordinator, Mr. Edward Kallon who raised concerns over the massive increase of violence against women and girls at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, urged media practitioners and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), to continuously work towards breaking the culture of violence against women and girls in Nigeria.
“It’s a menace we cannot understand but there are intricate issues we need to better understand; Issues of mental health, poverty, and socio-cultural settings that need to be addressed.
The media plays a significant role in shaping public discourse to shape the narrative around violence against women and girls. Take the lead in educating the realities of gender-based violence implications and responsibilities therein.”
UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, Peter Hawkins who charged Nigerian media to spotlight the role of men in ending violence against women and girls in the country, called on women to break the silence, tell their own stories stressing that they were the victims and not the problem.
“The shocking statistics and stories have to ignite us to do something very important and special to change the statuesque. We need to spotlight the issues against violence against women and girls, break this culture of silence that prevails in households, communities, villages and right across the country.
“There is no forum where men can discuss these issues of sexual abuse. they hid it in their houses and black areas of their villages.
The media can highlight the debate and the behavioural change that is required, hold men to account, and encourage men to discuss the issues and bring it out to the open.
“There is a need for women to feel confident to tell their stories, to know they are not the only ones and they are the victims and not the problem and bring what is happening to the open.
Garba Shehu, Senior special adviser media and publicity to President Muhammadu Buhari who called on Nigerian media to sensitise men and boys on the effects and consequences of violence against women and girls in the country, appealed to the UN to support Nigeria with the deployment of necessary technology and jurisprudence to address and end the menace of violence against the female gender once and for all.
While noting that deploying the strategy of naming and shaming perpetrators of such acts would deter many from indulging in such activities, he frowned at the pervasive use of the internet to live stream cases of child abuse and violence, even as he noted that content that threatens national security, bullies, harasses or affect the safety of women and children and vulnerable was unacceptable.
“If the media choose to bring the spotlight to bear on the violators of women and girls a lot of changes will be made. The fear of exposure is even more effective than even the jail term as witnessed in some places. The media can help by bringing the spotlight on the victims who must be protected but on the violators who must be named and shamed.
“We have a lot of laws and legislations in this regard but a lot of these laws have also not gone far enough and they have not been very consistent to keep Nigerian girls, children, and minorities safe. Organisations such as the UN will do a lot of good to help us improve and strengthen our jurisprudence on the law and most importantly, deployment of technology as part of the solutions.”