•ROLAC, stakeholders demand separate prosecution Court for SGBV
The dignitaries at the 7th SARCs Conference to mark this years 16 Days of Activism against Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV)
The Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Dame Pauline Tallen, has called for stiff punishment to Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) offenders in the country to deter others.
Tallen made this call at the 7th Conference on Sexual Assault Referral Centres (SARCs) in Nigeria as part of the events marking the '16 Days of Activism against SGBV 2021', organised by the Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption (ROLAC) Programme of the British Council and funded by European Union.
The minister who described the rising cases of SGBV in Nigeria, called for action while supporting the laws enacted by Kaduna State Government, which prescribed castration as a punishment to sexual assault offenders.
According to her, "two or more of those sexual offenders should be castrated publicly" to serve as a deterrence to others.
Quoting statistics, Tallen disclosed that, the National Situation Room and Dashboard set up in the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs under the UN/EU Spotlight initiative targeting 6 States supported by UNDP as of November 24, 2021, totalled number of cases reported to be 5,204 of which 3,125 survivors are demanding justice and only 33 perpetrators have so far been convicted, representing 0.51 per cent. The fatal cases are 160, closed cases 231, while open cases (cases pending in court) are 972.
The minister notes that the trend is unacceptable, and efforts will be intensified with the Federal Ministry of Justice to ensure justice for victims and survivors.
"The present administration under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari has demonstrated high commitment not only to eliminate harmful practices against women and girls; but also, to curb the rampaging impact of COVID-19 pandemic and other SGBV.
" In the light of this, a significant amount in our 2022 budget has been dedicated to fighting Gender Based-Violence nationwide. Mr President in his 2022 Budget Statement to the National Assembly has gone a step further to direct that Ministries, Departments and Agencies must devote some amount in their budgets to address gender-related issues"
She employed all relevant Ministries to engage, amplify advocacy to the States and rural communities for further enlightenment in this regard.
In the same vein, Mr Danladi Plang, National Programme Manager, RoLAC Programme, amongst other stakeholders, have called for the establishment of separate courts to prosecute the cases of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence(SGBV).
Planning also emphasised the need for critical actors to collaborate, in the fight as well as provide a platform for experts to identify policy options, legal innovations, best practices, processes for the establishment, and modalities for operation.
He said that "for many years, there have been calls for the prosecution of cases of SGBV, in separate courts, it is for this reason RoLAC is campaigning this year for the separate judicial process.
"The main objective of this conference is to identify policy options, recommendations and action for the efficient disposal of rights of victims and mobilise relevant actors."
Speaking further he stated that, from last year a lot has happened as most states have domesticated the VAPP law, and now have more SARC, adding, about 32 have been created with the latest being Kebbi state.
"Of course more victims and survivors are being supported by the Centers, as at June this year we have about 21,000 survivors that are supported, in the last eight years out of this 21,000 about 6900, are being cared for by the SARC, which represents about 30% of survivors.
"There is a serious consensus that the prosecution of offenders is key even as the cases reported are very few, there is a disproportionately higher number of victims to the perpetrators, and of course they deserve Justice, as different as they may be.
UN- Women Country Representative, Ms Comfort Lamptey, emphasised the need to join forces to create awareness and education in eliminating and ending the scourge of Gender-Based Violence from the community and our nations.
Lamptey noted that this year marks 30years since the start of the 16days activism campaign, reiterating, globally one in three women have been abused sexually and in Nigeria, 28% of women have been abused before the age of 15and 49 in one form of violence.
Stating Further, she noted that 16% of women and girls have experienced this from spouses and home as in times of crisis the number rises.
"During the first month of the lockdown directive a fivefold increase was recorded of GBV. One in four women feel unsafe at home, since the onset of COVID 19, outside the home women also feel increasingly unsafe.
"This is a wake-up call for solving the problem at its root, while this problem remains pervasive, it is not preventable.
Preventive methods are critical to ending GBV. It requires a commitment from all of us to work against the harmful practice that sustains gender inequality.
"More men need to step up to form forces with some right advocates, through the UNWomen joint spotlight initiative to engage stakeholders in the community, traditional rulers to address some of the patriarchal norms that encourage gender inequality.
"Provide a comprehensive support system that will help survivor centred services which include police, Justice, and social sectors, As well as sufficient financing for women, are essential ingredients to the fight against GBV.
"The past two years in Nigeria have experienced progress on the domestication of the VAPP act to the law since it was passed in 2015, with a total of 30 states out of 36in Nigeria, this commendable feat was achieved by the declaration of a state of emergency on GBV by the Nigerian Governor forum in 2020.
"We need to ensure that the federal and state governments ensure that GBV survivors have full access to justice, with reliable prosecution of perpetrators.
"Put women at the centre of responses Including the policy situation solutions,
Strengthen services including Justice for women who experience violence and
Invest in prevention efforts to end Violence Against Women and Girls," she stressed.
In the same vein, Ambassador, Delegation of the European Union to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Samuela Isopi identified impunity as fuel for GBV.
According to her, "this type of violence remains largely unreported due to the stigma and shame surrounding it, and the lack of confidence in authorities. As a result, many perpetrators remain free and unpunished. Impunity contributes to fuel GBV.
"Impunity contributes to fuel SGBV, if we do not stop impunity, we may not be able to stop GBV, the government has a critical role in maintaining and sustaining of the separate court for it to succeed, the government needs to take ownership of this court by allocating resources to address the need of the people," she said.
Honourable Justice Ibrahim Muhammad, Chief Justice of the Federation said, in creating a special court we need to have trained judges and this is a lot of work. This is an issue that takes more than talking, things must be in place, when we have everything set then we can start talking of special courts.
Represented by Justice Amina Audi, Muhammad, is of the view that," before we go advocating for special courts we need to put in place all other structures that will make this succeed.
"Rural areas need to have a gender desk of institutions with specialised personnel to attend to vulnerable victims, the first contact for victims needs to be able to bring them out of despair," he said.
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