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 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.

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