Nigeria is in dire straits regarding issues of Gender Based Violence (GBV). United Nations Women shows that 30 per cent of girls and women aged between 15 and 49 report being victims of sexual abuse. As if that is not bad enough, cases of violence against women went through the roof during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown.
Prosecution of rape cases in Nigeria is reported as very low because most victims do not report to authorities and perhaps with genuine reasons too, as many who took that bold step have been stigmatised or blamed for what happened to them and usually do not receive justice.
The 16 Days of Activism is a time between November 25, International Day For the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and 10 of December, known as Human Rights Day. The 16 days between these two dates are days universally observed for furtherance of rights of women and girls, to advocate for elimination of violence against them.
A breakfast meeting hosted by UN Women yesterday, looked at GBV crimes and ways to implement policies to protect girls and women. GBV includes: Sexual based violence, human trafficking, physical violence, violence against women in politics among others.
Deputy Representative, UN Women Nigeria, Lansana Wonneh in a chat with me, says UN Women works with government on several levels to adopt laws and policies that can punish GBV and prevent GBV against girls and women.
“We also strengthen those institutions that are responsible for enforcing laws, an institution such as the Police, educating them, creating awareness among them, improving their own knowledge about what GBV is, because sometimes, culture prevents people from properly understanding what violence is against women and girls.
“Once they understand that, then they are better equipped to punish and prosecute cases that are related to gender based violence including the worst forms such as rape,” he noted.
Mechanisms are set in place to protect and support victims who report cases and they include: engaging with communities at all levels, engaging with families, creating awareness among them that victims should not be blamed, but rather perpetrators ought to be blamed and punished.
“We work with communities to understand that their role is to support survivors rather than stigmatise them,” he said, adding that elsewhere where he works, this sort of education is introduced into police training programmes, so that when new police officers are recruited they are trained on GBV and how to prevent them.
Programme Manager, Humanitarian, Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism, Busola Ajibola, also says they are doing a lot contributing to efforts to eliminate GBV in Nigeria. “First, our focus is to build the capacities of journalists themselves to appropriately report gender based violence in a way that would spur the society, the public, the judiciary the law enforcement agencies to not react to GBV but to be proactive in their engagement,” she said.