A non-governmental organization, Women Initiative for Leadership Strategy and Innovation in Africa (Women Africa) has released a report on the state of gender-based violence response in Nigeria.
The report which is developed with support from the European Union and United Nations Spotlight Initiative Programme through UNESCO is a mapping of critical response mechanisms across the 36 states and FCT in Nigeria.
It provides comprehensive information on the current state of gender-based violence response in Nigeria with regards to available laws and policies, support system and structures, law enforcement, justice institutions, reporting channels and available coordination mechanisms.
The Executive Director, Chinwe Onyeukwu who made this known in Abuja, said “following the rise in fatal cases of sexual and domestic violence against women and girls recorded in Nigeria across the country during the four-month Covid-19 lockdown.
“The Federal Government of Nigeria, and the State Governors, under the aegis of the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF), declared a State of Emergency on Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (GBV) in June 2020.
“It also made commitments towards putting in place gender-based protection laws – including adopting the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act (VAPP Act) and the Child Rights Act into state laws by states that have not done so to increase protection for women and children, ensuring speedy investigation and prosecution of perpetrators, and creating sex offenders register in each state to name and shame violators.
Since then, few studies have been carried out to map and assess the level of implementation of these commitments and the milestones achieved by various states in the country on gender-based violence protections and child rights interventions.
Although the number of states that have adopted the VAPP Laws, Child Rights Laws, and Disability Rights Laws across the states have increased, however, there is still limited information available regarding the existence and level of implementation of these laws”.
She stated that it was this premise that informed the need for the research; to identify the available mechanisms and provide comprehensive information on GBV and Child Rights Protection in the country.
Over 50 stakeholders from relevant government agencies, civil society organizations and development partners under the EU-UN Spotlight Initiative Programme were in attendance at the one-day meeting.
Participants at the meeting contributed to the validation of findings from the report.
In her remarks, a representative of the European Union and Programme Manager, Gender and Human Rights, Esmé Stuart stated that; “the context for the report came from the pandemic, within the pandemic that we saw in 2020 where we had huge numbers of people being victims of GBV because of COVID-19, restriction and because of being locked up at home in their house. Which saw commitments from the Nigerian government and the Nigerian governor’s forum as GBV was high on the national agenda.
“This report is part of efforts to track the commitments from states governments in terms of gender based violence whether it translates into actual action for victims and survivors”.
She added that in order “to consolidate the different efforts of various stakeholders, the EU-UN Spotlight Initiative Programme, developed a National Gender-Based Violence (GBV) Barometer.
She said that the GBV barometer was a key accountability tool that would assist in keeping the government accountable to its commitments and as well as to help them to further their GBV response”.
In her remarks, the representative from the Federal Ministry of Justice, Yewande Gbola-Awopetu, Head SGBV Response Unit, said: “We are all experts working in the field with hands on deck to ensure justice and proper services are delivered to victims of GBV and as mentioned also, the work will be in vain of we do not know the state of response we cannot access the congress of our effort.”
Acting Director, Women Development, Ministry of Women Affairs, Ilyasu Zubair, said: “the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs is and has always been working with partners especially on issues of Gender Based Violence particularly United Nation Agencies, Civil societies and other spirited individuals in the NGO.
“It’s our hope that the document will go a long way to eradicate the issue of GBV in our society and the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs like I said before is ever willing and ready to support the programme and put in place policy geared towards the eradication of GBV in Nigeria.”
Ms. Hadiza Dorayi, National Coordinator, Spotlight Initiative and Gender Advisor to the United Nations Humanitarian and Resident Coordinator, lauded the commitment and dedication of the stakeholders for contributing to the success of the report.
“The Joint European Union and the United Nations Spotlight Initiatives are committed to the elimination of all forms of violence and harmful practices against women and girls, and persons with disabilities facing intersecting forms of violence in Nigeria, so that women and girls can reach their full potential and contribute to nation-building.”
Some of the key findings from the report include: 32 states including the FCT have passed the Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Act 2015 into law and gazetted in 15 states (including the FCT).
States that are yet to pass the VAPP Act include Borno, Gombe, Kano, Katsina and Zamfara.
The VAPP Act is an innovative piece of legislation that provides for a robust response, care, and support services to survivors of sexual and gender-based violence.
There are now 32 Sexual Assault Referral Centres (SARCs) across 19 states including the FCT in Nigeria, where victims and survivors of sexual assault can receive medical assistance, counseling, and justice support services in a confidential space.
The Child Rights Act 2003 has been signed into law in 29 states (including the FCT) out of 36.(NAN)