UN charges Nigerian govt, stakeholders to end shadow Pandemic, Gender-Based Violence

Says 3 in 10 women experience GBV

Almost half of Nigerian girls are married before they turn 18

By Funmi Ajumobi

The United Nations has urged the Nigerian government to rise to the occasion in terms of ending Gender-Based Violence in the country.

The UN while marking the 2020 fight to eliminate GBV said a large number of Nigerian women have been assaulted but they keep to themselves.

In a statement by the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria Edwin Kallon, stakeholders, in the country were implored to put efforts together and end the terror reign of GBV in Nigeria.

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Recall that November 25th of every year marks the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women around the world.

According to Kallon, three of every ten women have experienced physical, sexual, economic or psychosocial violence simply because of their gender, which is known as gender-based violence (GBV).

“Though these three women know their perpetrator, only on6e of them know about what health support is available, and only one would approach the justice system.

The two other women are shameful, they would not speak about the violence they experienced out of fear of stigma from their community, friends, and family, who might say she should be more careful or that she dressed improperly.

“During the Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdown, states reported more than a doubling of the already existing pandemic of violence against women. We call it the shadow pandemic because it is equally deadly, global, and harmful, but often invisible to the eyes of the public.

“In June 2020, Nigeria witnessed something remarkable. For the first time, 36 Governors united to speak up and out and declared a State of Emergency on sexual and gender-based violence. This was the response to women and men across the nation standing together, defying Covid-19 restrictions, and protesting online and offline to demand decisive, cohesive action to tackle GBV on all fronts.

Continuing, Kallon said starting 25th November each year, marking the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence, until Human Rights Day 10th December, the United Nations stands with all who stood in the streets in June to push for the GBV Declaration of Emergency or shared their anger towards the increase in gender-based violence.

During 16 Days of Activism, the whole world, led by civil society, the United Nations, Governments, media, and the private sector, join forces and call for the prevention and elimination of violence against women and girls. The 16 Days of Activism Campaign forces us to have serious conversations and to map out actions that address the GBV pandemic.

Meanwhile, the United Nations System in Nigeria urges the Government of Nigeria; civil society; the media; traditional, religious and community leaders; schools and institutions; the private sector; health practitioners, social workers, emergency responders – and all other stakeholders in positions of power and influence to take swift action.

“Our appeal to the Governors, together with key stakeholders  is to take action and end gender-based violence  in the following areas:

We must fund, and make sure funding is flexible and available for women`s rights organisations, that essential services are available, and funds for GBV prevention included in fiscal stimulus packages.

“Almost half of the Nigerian girls are married before they turn 18, we must acknowledge that the health sector is key to address the challenge, and fund sexual and reproductive health care for these girls, and survivors of GBV, so they don`t carry life long scares from early pregnancy, such as HIV or fistula.

“We must respond with adequate funds to address the GBV crisis in the North East, amplified by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We must prevent gender-based violence from happening in the first place, declaring a state of emergency is the first step, what we need now is an action plan and campaigns that change behaviors and men speaking up and out against violence against women. Unequal power relations between men and women feed and fuel gender-based violence. Religious, traditional, community and political leaders can undo harmful practices and dismantle stereotypes wherever they may be found.

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“We must respond to this violence. The police must have trained staff and gender desks to support survivors of GBV, and access to justice is critical to protecting women and girls. Federal and state legislators must tackle GBV via the domestication of the Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Act, develop a third National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security, and the passage of the anti-sexual harassment in tertiary institutions bill.

“The national gender machinery must be empowered to equip sexual assault referral centres and develop sex offenders’ registers in the states. The health sector is a key institution, without skilled health workers, evidence of GBV will not be collected, and no one will be held accountable. “There are positive developments out of some states, but with 20 states yet to pass the VAPP, they only amount to a drop in the ocean in the grand scheme of things.” Added Kallon

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