As Nigeria gets ready to join the world to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on Monday November 25, 2019, the issues of Gender discrimination have again come to the fore as journalists converged on Ibadan for a 2-day media engagement on how to end the violence against women and girls.
Violence against women and girls is one of the most widespread, persistent and devastating human rights violations in our world today.
According to the United Nations, 1 in 3 women worldwide have experienced physical or sexual violence. Women and girls are disproportionately subjected to violence, including femicide, sexual violence, intimate partner violence, trafficking and harmful practices.
For this reason, the European Union (EU) and the United Nations (UN) have embarked on a new, global, multi-year initiative that focuses on eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls.
Dr. Sunbo Odebode, Child Protection Specialist at UNICEF at the media engagement, said the Spotlight Initiative directs attention to the issue of violence against women and girls, moving it into the spotlight and placing it at the centre of efforts to achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment, in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
She said the focus in Africa is to eliminate sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), harmful practices (HPs), and address related aspects of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHRs) in 8 Priority Countries, namely Nigeria, Liberia, Niger, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Uganda and Mali.
Dr. Odebode said the Spotlight Initiative which rests on 6 pillars, will operate through 5 UN Agencies, UNDP, UN Women and UNFPA as core agencies with UNICEF and UNESCO as associate agencies.
“The focus States will be Adamawa, Ebonyi, Cross River, Lagos, Sokoto and the FCT” she said.
Violence against women and girls in Nigeria is against the law and survivors do not usually receive full legal support, as they may prefer to stay in abusive relationships than leave to face the ridicule of living outside relationships and/or wedlock. Women and girls subjected to violence are unwilling to lodge formal complaints due to a lack of trust in the police force and stigmatization in the society.
With the disturbing statistics by NDHS (2013) that 43% of girls are married before age 18, 17% before they turn 15; and 20,000 new cases of obstetric fistula occur every year. Human Rights Activist and Lawyer, James Ibor whose paper focused on implementing the laws, confronting the political and social challenges around Violence Against Women and Girls, called on the media to create more awareness about Harmful Traditional Practices, Sexual, Physical, Emotional and Economic violence so that women who feel exactly hurt can speak up about it and seek redress within the ambit of the law.
“Not many persons today understand that Gender Based Violence constitutes a breach of fundamental human rights to life, liberty, security, dignity and equality between women and men”
“We must also understand that Violence against women is deeply entrenched in our society and that’s why some persons don’t frown at it”
Mr. Ibor enumerated some of the legal instruments on Violence Against Women and Girls which exists to seek redress personally, or on behalf of a survivor (victim-fatality)
Section 21 of the Child Rights Act Provides that no persons under the age of 18 years is capable of contracting a valid marriage
Section 22 & 23 prohibits child marriage, betrothal and prescribes imprisonment for a term of 5years for those found guilty in Section 21, 22 & 23 respectively.
Recall that Nigeria ratified the Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 1985 but International treaties can only go into effect when parliament has put in a corresponding domesticated law, thereby limiting the international treaties to disuse. Another commendable effort by government is the Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Act enacted in 2015 as a Federal Law to address all cases of violence.
The VAPP Act provides a legislative and legal framework for the prevention of all forms of violence against (vulnerable) persons especially women and girls and makes provision for punishment of offenders/perpetrators.
According to Ibor, “a better understanding of the issues by the media would ensure that the stories written could actually cause the change desired in ending the violence against women and girls”
A UN statistics shows that only 52% of women married or in a union freely make their own decisions about sexual relations, contraceptive use and health care worldwide, 71% of all human trafficking victims worldwide are women and girls, and 3 out of 4 of these women and girls are sexually exploited.
Executive Director, Always Sisters Foundation for Care and Support, Chika Obiechina said some of these figures could come down with the the media mobilizing communities on these issues of violence against women and carrying out extensive media campaign in partnership with CSOs and NGOs.
For an effective, harmonious relationship or synergy to achieve the spotlight initiative, Mrs. Obiechina said the CSOs and the NGO’s would have to work hand in hand with the media in ending the Violence Against Women and Girls.