BY MOST accounts, violence against
women is a serious social and public health
issue. “Violence against women and girls is
a global pandemic,” some observers said.
The United Nations (UN) defines violence
against women as “any act of gender-based
violence that results in, or is likely to result
in, physical, sexual or mental harm or
suffering to women”.
A UN report shows that one in every
10 girls faces sexual abuse. The report
also states that 35 per cent of women will
experience one form of violence in their
lifetime, while 30 per cent will experience
violence from their current or former
partners.
Similarly, United Nations Population
Fund (UNFPA) said violence against
women and girls is one of the most prevalent
human rights violations in the world. “It
knows no social, economic or national
boundaries. Worldwide, an estimated one
in three women will experience physical
or sexual abuse in her lifetime.” The Fund
further stated that gender-based violence
undermines the health, dignity, security
and autonomy of its victims, yet it remains
shrouded in a culture of silence.
As part of efforts to check the aberration,
Women’s Rights Advancement Protection
Alternative (WRAPA) urged government
to strengthen the legal framework for
the protection of vulnerable women.
The Executive Secretary of WRAPA, Mrs
Saudatu Madhi, said the violence in some
homes even transcends the violence in the
society, adding that most perpetrators of
such violence are not strictly punished.
“The society has not decided to tag violence
against women as a criminal act, and unless
we criminalise violence in the home, we will
see such violence perpetuate itself. Children
who are being brought up in such homes
will see violence as a normal thing; they
will come out and exhibit violence and join
violent gangs.
“We need to build our legal framework
to protect the vulnerable woman. The legal
framework can only take care of her by
holding perpetrator of violence against her
accountable squarely; government must also
take responsibility,” she said.
Besides, the WRAPA scribe emphasised
that it is the duty of government to secure and
protect the lives of its citizens, particularly
vulnerable women. She, therefore, urged the
government to collaborate with and support
relevant stakeholders that fight to protect
women’s rights.
She said this is because vulnerable persons
who go through abuse are rarely bold
enough to seek help, adding that any form of
domestic violence is absolutely unacceptable.
Besides, Madhi urged the general public to
support the family system, underscoring
the need to strengthen the society’s social
structure in order to provide support for
vulnerable women.
She said women ought to be reassured
of their support and acceptance in the
society, adding that women should also be
encouraged to develop their capacities.
On her part, Justice Fati Abubakar,
Chairperson, Board of Trustees of WRAPA,
said the “unacceptability of the reality of
women’s rights has deterred women from
occupying their rightful place in the society’’.
She, nonetheless, underscored the need for
stakeholders to sensitise women to their
rights.
Abubakar said there is a compelling need
to review the content of the Gender and
Equal Opportunities Bill, pending before the
Senate, “to make it beneficial to everyone.
The bill needs a lot of research; it needs wide
consultations for a better representation,” she
said.
Sharing similar sentiments, Mrs Odi Lagi,
Senior Programme Officer, Network of
University Legal Aid Institutions (NULAI)
Nigeria, advocated the training of police
officers to specifically spearhead the crusade
against gender-based violence. She argued
that the police ought to be trained and retrained
on how to respond to domestic
violence.
“They must be trained to see domestic
violence as a severe offence,” she added. Lagi
urged the police to treat domestic violence
as a crime and not as a family affair that
should be settled at home. “ If the society
recognises that violence against women is a
crime, then it should support victims instead
of stigmatising them,” she said. Besides,
Lagi said the National Orientation Agency
(NOA) can make meaningful contributions
to the fight against violence against women
by educating the public on all elements of
domestic violence.
She insisted that even though governments
have enacted laws on domestic violence,
there is a need for victims to report cases of
violence. She frowns at the situation where
some churches and other religious places
often advise victims of domestic violence to
go and pray, rather than encouraging them to
report cases to the appropriate agencies.
“Most churches would rather advise the
woman to stay in the marriage and pray,
rather than take steps to tackle perpetrators of
the violence against her,” she said. Lagi said
NULAI, through its project, “Amber Alert
for Social Justice”, is working to sensitise
members of the society to the dangers of
domestic violence and its dire consequences
on the lives of those who are involved.
“Be mindful of the fact that domestic
violence can negatively affect children who,
in turn, may continue the chain of abuse
when they grow up. Amber Alert tries to get
as many voices as possible working together
to fight the menace,” she added.
It is, perhaps, very pertinent to note
that National Human Rights Commission
(NHRC) recently signed a Memorandum
of Understanding (MoU) with the National
Council of Women Societies (NCWS) on
the protection of the rights of women,
youths and children
Prof. Bem Angwe, the Executive
Secretary of NHRC, said that the
MoU is part of designed efforts to end
discrimination against women by ensuring
that they are educated and empowered to
claim their rights. According to Angwe,
women, who constitute the majority of
Nigeria’s population, still remain the most
vulnerable, the poorest and the weakest
members of the society.
He said that implementation of
the agreement will enable women to
enjoy equal opportunities with men,
while allowing them to attain their full
potential. Angwe bemoaned that fact that
women in Nigeria still experience certain
disadvantages because of their gender,
regardless of the fact that the constitution
prohibits discrimination.
“By signing this agreement, the Nigerian
woman, represented by the NCWS, is
stating clearly that she undertakes to assist
the commission to realise its statutory
responsibility and mandate of promoting
and protecting human rights in the country.
“That Nigerian women are committed to
ensuring that the requisite framework, to
which the parties can collaborate, enlighten
and train the public on human rights, is
appropriately put in place, particularly as it
relates to the rural areas in major concerns
of health, education, family and societal
values.
“That the Nigerian women are committed
to supporting the work of the commission
to put an end to all forms of domestic
violence, sexual exploitation and abuse of
the Nigerian woman, henceforth.’’
On her part, the National President of
NCWS, Mrs Nkechi Mba, said that the
association is the most viable organ to use
in efforts to communicate with women
across the country. This is because NCWS
has representation in all the 774 local
governments of the country, she said.
She, however, observed that in spite of
several efforts being made, a lot of women
are still ignorant of their rights. The NCWS
president noted that the signing of the
MoU is one way of ensuring intense and
effective public sensitisation, in efforts to
make every Nigerian woman aware of her
rights.
She said women, with the needed
awareness, will be in a better position to
ensure the protection of their rights. All
in all, experts insisted that prevention
and elimination of gender-based violence
will require increased advocacy and
partnerships between the international
community, governments, multilateral
organisations, private sector companies,
and grassroots advocates.
“It will require empowering women
and girls to speak up for themselves, and
educating men and boys to speak up and
speak out for their mothers, wives, partners,
sisters, and daughters. It will also require
adequate legal and judicial frameworks,”
they added.
NAN

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