For Persons Living With Disability, PLWDs, the issue with Sexual and Gender-Based Violence, SGBV, is not only painful but lingering in the memory.
From hatred to castigation and rejection, to betrayal, the stories of SGBV victims vary and are indeed devastating.
During a Town Hall meeting organised by Women’s Rights and Health Project, WRAHP, for PLWDs in partnership with the European Union-funded Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption, RoLAC; held in Ikotun Igando Community hall, Lagos, and managed by British Council of Nigeria, WO gathered that PLWDs are either ignorant about accessing the right channel to report cases of SGBV, or they are afraid to go to the police station to report.
Their heart-wrenching tales
Sharing their different experiences, they lamented that their pains were not only caused by their husbands or wives but from families and relations, among others.
Ruth, a banker speaks on how she was molested by her spouse. “My husband was always molesting me because I am physically challenged. Financially, I provide everything in the home while my husband only drives me to work.
“He subjected me to torture, beats, and sleeps with me whenever he wishes. I became ridiculed in the presence of his visitors, despite all I did for him. When I could not bear the torture anymore, I reported the case to the NGO within my community,” she lamented.
Another survivor, Eunice, is a banker in one of the 1st generation banks in Lagos. She has a husband that batters her.
“I was a banker and I have a husband who is a pastor. Whenever I collect my salary, I put it on the table while my husband decides how to spend the money. I was doing this for a while, although my husband was a wife beater. I was enduring it until I could no longer bear it.
“I reported the case to my friend who later told my husband’s friend who is also a pastor about how his friend maltreats and beats me constantly.
“I built my first house and my husband and I was living there. His pastor friend advised him not to beat me on the face but that he can beat me on my body so as to be able to cover it up with my clothes.
“After a while, I ran for my life due to constant battering. I went to my parents’ house and started a new life. I closed down my shop and could not continue my business again.
I later set up another shop around my parents’ house. My husband then came to my new shop and heaped refuse in front of my shop. I was helpless until I got solace through an NGO.”
Thee was another story of a physically challenged young man who was denied marriage.
“My story is pathetic. “Although I was not born with the condition, I had an accident and was amputated.
“I proposed to a woman and she agreed to marry me, but one of my brothers went behind me and discouraged the lady. I have decided to be on my own without a wife,” he lamented.
Another survivor, Toyosi, a 42-year-old entrepreneur told WO how her mother and siblings were mocking her. “My mother and siblings were molesting me, my mother told my siblings to always beat me with my walking stick whenever I beat them. My mother told them that I was useless and cannot be relevant.
“She told my younger sisters to collect the stick and beat me up even if they are the ones that offended me.
“On the day of my engagement, my mother-in-law asked if I would be able to conceive with my condition and even if I conceive, she asked if I was going to bear the child or back the child by myself and that was how the engagement ended,” she said.
For Chigozie, the story was painful. “I was demoralized by members of my church. They discouraged the man who proposed to me, telling him that he should not marry me because I am physically challenged. I went to a programme organised by my church and before I came back, the man had proposed to another woman and the marriage was announced.
“The members of the church claimed that I would not be able to conceive or give birth to a child or back the baby. I was demoralized and I stopped going to church for a while, but, I have overcome that challenge”, she said.
For the Persons Living with Disability, PLWDs, the town hall meeting was an eye-opener for them to be able to know how to address issues with Sexual and Gender-Based Violence and how best to overcome challenges.
According to an investigation conducted by WRAHP, it was revealed that there is no place to report cases of rape and gender-based violence. SGBV victims are afraid to go to the police station to report cases. Most victims are afraid of reporting to the police when cases of gender-based violence occur. There is no tangible evidence.
There is family intervention. Prejudice by police when cases are reported: the police usually do not give judgment when cases of Gender-Based Violence, GBV, are reported.
Lack of boldness to report the cases
Most victims of rape are afraid to report the case which may be due to the emotional trauma caused by the incident.
Fear of being shamed
Most victims of SGBV, especially sexual abuse, usually feel ashamed to talk about the experience and fear being ridiculed by their friends and even family members.
There is ignorance, insecurity, religious interference, personal reasons, immaturity, slow response time and lack of information about where to report cases of SGBV. Also, absence of NGOs or officials in communities to report cases of SGVB and diffusion of responsibility.
Other issues are, fear of juju, fear of death, social media and nude pictures, family issues, fear of law enforcement agents, failure to take action, lack of knowledge or proper education about domestic violence, peer group influence, and financial incapability among others
Speaking to the consciousnesses of his members, Chairman, National Association of People Living With Disability, Igando/Ikotun Local Government, Town Planner Akinbode Samson disclosed: “Most of the time, our people do not have the courage to report cases except for those who were already enlightened. They have not overcome challenges including inferiority complex, fear, ignorance among others.”
Nneoma Eruma, Centre Assistant, Ireti Resource Centre revealed that for the past five years, Alimosho has recorded the highest rate of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence, SGBV, and the Director of the Foundation saw this as a problem and decided to source funding from the International Community.
“We have been working on this project since January 2020 in Alimosho. Our responsibility is to educate and enlighten them on what to do and make them ambassadors in their environment so that they can come together to build their community and fix it. They have now become advocates for change.
“SGBV should not be seen as normal. It is a pandemic that needs to be eliminated from our communities.
“Last year especially during the lockdown, research showed that the rate of SGBV had increased. As an organisation, we thought it was necessary to intensify efforts on sensitisation.
“It was on this premise that the Ireti Resource Centre was established so as to address challenges and report cases of GBV where necessary.
The centre works directly with the community leaders, police among others. There is a Sexual Assault Referral Centre in Alimosho General Hospital. All these are established for justice to be served.