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 genderbased
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 re-trained 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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