After series of delay, the Imo State House of Assembly has passed the Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) bill, which now awaits the assent of Governor Hope Uzodimma.
The VAPP law addresses elimination of violence in private and public life, prohibits all forms of violence including physical, sexual, psychological, domestic, harmful traditional practices, discrimination against persons and provide maximum protection and effective remedies for survivors and punishment of offenders.
The sponsor of the bill, Hon Uju Onwudiwe, described it as a huge boost to the fight against all forms of gender-based violence, noting that such offences are now punishable by law in the state.
She said the bill would serve as a monitoring gadget to check mate and punish perpetrators of violence, adding that the choice to prosecute offenders would no longer be in the hands of the survivor’s family but in the hands of the government.
Onwudiwe said the law would protect both male and female, even as she thanked Governor Hope Uzodimma and his wife, Barrister Chioma for their support to see the bill passed.
With the passage of the bill, it becomes easier to prove rape allegations and other forms of harassments like harmful widowhood practices and caste systems.
During the public hearing last December, the Catholic Church and the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria had picked holes with the bill and argued that it sought to usurp the power of the church, which was denied by the civil society organisations.
Imo State commissioner for women affairs, Hon Nkechi Ugwu who represented the first lady, Barrister Chioma Uzodimma expressed appreciation at the passage of the law.
According to her, the law would put an end to the rising cases of rape that surged during the outbreak of Covid-19 but stated that it does not mention abortion and same sex marriage as alleged by the church leaders.
The programme manager of Alliances for Africa, Ms Blessing Duru, expressed the hope that soon there would be a sexual assault referral centre (SAC) which will serve as a transit cum healing home for survivors of violence.