As stakeholders call for action to end violence against women in Nigeria

By Luminous Jannamike

23,638 sign petition asking States to domesticate VAPP Act
From left, Programme Specialist Joint EU-UN Spotlight Initiative UN Women Nigeria – Tosin Akibu, Nigeria Country Director, Global Citizen – Maimuna Maibe, Secretary General of  Women Right Advancement & Protection Alternative (WRAPA) – Saidatu Mahdi, Senior Special Assistant Technical To The Minister of Women Affairs – Princess Jummai Idonije, Dakore Egbuson-Akande, Chief Executive Connected Development – Hamzat Lawal and Dr Otun Adewale of National Prog. Lead Wellbeing Foundations Africa  chatting during a High-Level Round table  Program on Action Against Gender Based Violence: Full Domestication of the Violence Against People Prohibition Act by All States in Nigeria held in Abuja. Photo by Gbemiga Olamikan
As this year’s 16 Days of Activism against gender-based violence draw to a close tomorrow, at least 23,000 people have signed a petition calling on State Governments to domesticate the Violence Against People Prohibition (VAPP) Act.

The petition, which was initiated by an international advocacy group, Global Citizen, was addressed to the government through the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs Abuja.

Checks by VANGUARD on globalcitizen.org showed that the petition had hit 23,638 as of 5.04pm on Wednesday.

The petition read in part, “It is time for accountability. Every state should commit to safeguarding the lives of women and girls, by approving and enforcing the VAPP Act, with a focus on vulnerable populations.”

At a high-level roundtable on Wednesday in Abuja, which was tagged: ‘Action Against Gender-Based Violence: Full Domestication of VAPP Act by All States in Nigeria’, stakeholders within and outside the country noted that nearly 30 per cent of Nigerian women have experienced physical violence by age 15.

The Country Director of Global Citizen, Ms Maimuna Maibe, regretted that six years after the senate passed the VAPP bill, some states have not adopted the legislation for implementation.

“During the COVID-19 lockdown, service providers reported a three-fold increase in cases of domestic and intimate violence in areas like Lagos, Ogun, and Abuja. Almost 45 per cent of the women who have experienced violence never sought help or told anyone about the incident,” Maibe said.

She said that a uniform legal provision against gender-based violence in all the 36 states and the FCT against would make sure that survivors received the help they need, and perpetrators were called to justice.

Speaking also, the Country Representative of UN Women, Comfort Lamptey, said deeply-rooted masculine hegemony in the political system has not allowed some state actors to put in place relevant systems to close the gap of gender inequality which, according to her, fosters violence against women and girls.

“If we approach the VAPP law the right way, it can open up a vista of opportunities where, as a nation, we can clearly sit down and move several steps forward towards development,” she said.

In his remarks, the Chief Executive of Connected Development (CODE), Mr Hamza Lawal, regretted attempts by some States to water-down the provisions of the VAPP law by including it into the penal code.

He identified cultural norms, religion, poverty, lack equipment for investigation of cases, and difficulties associated with seeking justice as some factors hindering the fight against gender-based violence in the country.

Lawal recommended the use of data-driven messages in the advocacy to the government at subnational levels on the need for domestication of VAPP Act as well as budgetary provision for its implementation.

Earlier, the Minister of Women Affairs, Dame Pauline Tallen, described gender-based violence as the worst crime against humanity.

She also said both women and men had suffered from the menace, stressing that such crimes should be given a special place in Nigeria’s criminal justice system.

The Minister called for more collaboration among states, non-governmental organisations, civil society organisations as well as government agencies such as the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons to expose and prosecute sexual offenders.

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