In order to deter perpetrators of gender-based violence (GBV), a group of human rights advocates, Mothers And Marginalised Advocacy Centre (MAMA Centre), have called on policy makers to come up with adequate sanctions to address the menace which mostly affects girls.
The call which was contained in a communique issued by MAMA noted that the involvement of policy makers is critical to winning the fight against gender-based violence in Nigeria.
The communique was issued after a one-day sensitisation of Secondary School girls on Gender-Based Violence (GBV), organised by MAMA Centre weekend, ahead of International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, in Abuja.
It partly reads; “Involvement of school girls in public outcry against Gender-Based Violence is vital to create a formidable voice demanding adequate policy sanctions, and community attention and appropriate justice on the incessant girl child violations and abuses at all levels in Nigeria.”
The communique also noted that the problems of GBV occur often among girls isolated in private homes as domestic workers, who suffer psychological, physical, and sexual abuse with resultant depression, abortion and life-threatening infections.
Speaking during the sensitisation programme, Executive Director of MAMA Centre, Chioma Kanu, said it is ‘paramount,’ for school girls to join in public outcry against Gender-Based Violence in Nigeria.
The exercise held at Regina Pacis College had in attendance over 600 participants comprising Junior and Senior Secondary School girls, School Representatives, Civil Society groups and media.
According to her, the sensitisation aimed at educating and enlightening girls at Secondary School levels on incessant violation, harassment and abuse, while alerting them about various preventive measures and existing platforms to seek redress and demand justice.
She said, “Involvement of school girls in public outcry against Gender-Based Violence is paramount to create a formidable voice demanding adequate policy sanctions, and community attention and appropriate justice on the incessant girl child violations and abuses at all levels in Nigeria.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) estimates that that 246 million girls and boys are harassed and abused at school every year with girls being particularly vulnerable, school-related Gender-Based Violence.
Kanu lamented that Gender-Based Violence manifests in severe health and psychological effects of earlier child marriage that subsequently hampers socio-economic attainment of child bride and renders her unproductive with minimal earning capacity.
The International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women is celebrated on November 25, every year.
She added, “Massive sensitisation of school girls to commemorate the day is paramount to creating public awareness on the plights and concerns of girl children and amplifying under-reported cases of abuse and violence at all levels.
“Deliberate delayed adoption and transmission (into law) of the Child Right Act in many states since its passage in 2003 exposes girl-child to early marriage resulting in poor cognitive and socio-economic achievement as well as identified life-threatening illnesses.
“These include, Vesico-vaginal Fistula (VVF), Anaemia, High Blood Pressure, Premature Birth, Malnutrition, Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) and Post-partum depression (PPD), and even suicide.”
She urged appropriate policy attention to the effective rehabilitation, recovery and reintegration programmes through medical, psychological and legal services for the survivors at all levels.
The Executive Director called for adequate policy response in institutionalising proactive measures and enabling reporting systems as well as well-informed judicial interpretation of processes and laws to effectively sanction offenders and avert recurring incidence at all levels.
She demanded prompt adoption and full implementation of Child Right Act to protect them from physical, mental or emotional injury, abuse, neglect or maltreatment, including sexual abuse, torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Kanu further called for rapid adoption and full implementation of Anti-Sexual Harassment Bill by all State Houses of Assembly in the country, as a demonstration of sincere commitment by the State Governments to secure health, emotional and physical well-being of girls in the country.
She canvassed for full implementation of Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act with sincere political will to punish offenders.
Kanu urged for a more independent judiciary to constructively interpret cases and impose sanctions without fear, intimidation or favour; prompt reformation of discriminatory laws and policies against women and girl children with demonstrated community support at all levels.
Also, Mrs. Betty Omang, School Guidance Counsellor, Regina Pacis College, explained that sensitisation of school girls will generate more critical discussions and reports on media platforms for appropriate actions and justice.
Since GBV occurs more among domestic female workers in homes, Omang advised, “Anytime a girl feels uncomfortable around an uncle or aunty, parents must be attentive and devise prompt intervention to ask genuine questions.”
She also counselled that affected girls, suspected to have been violated, are rehabilitated with immediate effect to avert potential damage to her emotion and psychology, while relevant authorities should be contacted for appropriate justice.
The Guidance Counselor recounted that women at childbearing age are on several occasions marginalised when in the areas of appointments, promotions and remunerations at workplaces for gender reasons.
Frowning at this development, Omang stressed that every woman deserves a similar opportunity like male counterpart to reach her full potential in life.
Mrs. Omang also called on the United Nations (UN) to look into the reported cases of paedophiles who abuse boys at all levels.