Violence against women is any gender-based aggression that results in or is likely to result in physical, sexual, or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of acts such as coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life. According to available data by United Nations, UN Women, from 2005 to 2016, 19 percent of women in 87 countries between 15 and 49 years of age said they had experienced physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner. In the most extreme cases, such violence can lead to death.
In 2012, almost half, that is, 50 percent of all women who were victims of intentional homicide worldwide were killed by an intimate partner or family member, compared to six percent of male victims. The Sokoto State Hisbah Commission says it recorded 30,160 cases of domestic violence from January 2017 to April 2018. The commission also said it settled 48,000 cases of domestic violence in 2017 and received 2,160 new cases from January to April this year.
Women experience violence in many ways, ranging from physical abuse to sexual assault and from financial abuse to sexual harassment or trafficking. The most common form of violence against women comes in the form of physical and sexual attacks at home within the family or with those they share intimate relationship. It includes intimate partner violence, marital rape, assault and battery and sexual abuse in the household. Worldwide, an intimate partner kills 40 to 70 percent of all female murder victims.
Another extreme case of violence against women is female genital mutilation/cutting. Between 100 and 140 million women and girls in the world are estimated to have undergone female genital cutting. This harmful practice has declined by 24 percent since around yeat 2000. Nevertheless, prevalence remains high in some countries of the world including Nigeria.
According to the country representative, United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), Ms Comfort Lamptey, over 23 million girls are victims of child marriage in Nigeria, and one in three women and girls aged 15-24 has been a victim of violence while one in five has experienced physical violence. This prevalence is the highest in Africa.
These statistics are, no doubt, worrisome for a nation like ours that prides itself as not just the giant of Africa but also a nation with arguably the most religious people on earth. Women and girls constitute the majority of trafficked persons in Nigeria. Also a gender analysis of the impact of the Boko Haram insurgency reveals that while men have been disproportionally killed, women constitute an overwhelming majority among the estimated 1.8 million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the most affected states in the North East.
Women and girls have for too long been subjected to various forms of violence, yet they remained silent due to the stigma and shame it could cause them among other inhibiting factors. With women and girls bearing the brunt of abduction, forced marriages and often used as human bombs, gender-based violence is evident also in the political realm, where women have reported numerous cases of victimisation, intimidation and harassment by political actors who want to sideline them in the political and electoral process.
Next year’s elections should provide an important opportunity to increase the current level of representation of women in politics and to create a more conducive environment for women to seek political offices. In this regard, the media, no doubt, has a pivotal role to play to champion and spearhead this effort.
Recently, the case of 13-year-old Elizabeth Ochanya, whose life was cut short due to the rape and violence she suffered for many years in the hands of her uncle and his son, awakened the country to the fact that violence against women is real and demands urgent, collective action.
It is our considered opinion that one important factor to stress in the campaign against this menace to womenfolk is the need to speak out early enough when they have suffered such violence. Often they bottle it up and continue bearing the brunt until they pass breaking point, or it is too late, as in the case of Ochanya. But they really do not need to get that far before seeking redress.
It is in the light of this that we commend the Nigerian government for the adoption of an Action Plan for implementation. Its domestication in 11 states, with significant impact is also commendable in addition to the passage into law of the Gender and Equality Opportunity Bill (GEOB) in some states of the federation.
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