As the 16 days Activism Against Gender-Based Violence,GBV, comes to an end, the Vice-president of Nigeria, Prof. Yemi Osinbanjo, GCON has said that a consistent effort to utilize and translate data into policy and program through enhanced capacity building was critical to addressing the cultural norms and systemic phenomena that result in GBV.
Osinbanjo said this at the 6th Network Conference of Sexual Assault Referral Centers organised by the European Union Funded Rule Of Law and Anti-Corruption programme, held at the International Conference Centre, Abuja on Wednesday.
According to him, to further tackle gender-based violence, there was a need to look beyond legislation and focus on the deep, systemic dysfunction of cultures and social norms that not only enable gender-based violence but also allow it to fester.
Calling on all and sundry to take part in creating safe spaces where all can thrive, the Vice-president stressed the need for support services to be available for victims of Gender-Based Violence, not only during times of crisis but also in the days, weeks, months and years that follow an assault.
He commended the British Council and its collaborating institutions for the incremental establishment of 29 Sexual Assault Referral Centres for survivors of sexual assault in 17 States, including the Federal Capital Territory.
“I am told that the Sexual Assault Referral Centres are equipped to provide survivors of sexual abuse with emergency medical treatment; forensic medical examination; counselling; and support in contacting the Police and social welfare, for free.
“It is our expectation that these referral centres will help increase the conviction rates of rape and other sexual assault conviction cases in Nigeria through the provision of forensic evidence to support prosecution in court or help preserve evidence, even where survivors are not ready to report.
According to him, President Muhammadu Buhari had consistently reiterated government’s determination to fight Gender Based Violence through the instrumentality of the law and awareness creation.
Reviewing the progress made so far in Nigeria on SGBV cases, the VP disclosed that as at June 2020, the Nigeria Police had recorded about 717 rape incidents across the country between January and May 2020; and that 799 suspects had so far been arrested, 631 cases conclusively investigated and charged to court while 52 cases were still under investigation.
He further disclosed that between March 23, 2020–May 29, 2020, the FCT Sexual and Gender Based Violence Response Team received an overwhelming 105 reports; an average of 13 reports per week, up from the usual 5 to 6 reports per week, pre-COVID-19.
“As worrisome as these figures are, it is a comforting fact that as long as people have access to justice, they can report. Increase in reporting does not necessarily mean an increase in crime, it could also mean an increase in trust in response agencies and an increase in the belief that the appropriate investigative actions will be taken.
“It is for this reason that on June 11, governors, under the auspices of the Nigeria Governors Forum, agreed to declare a state of emergency on rape and gender-based violence against women and children. They also renewed their commitment to ensuring that offenders faced the full weight of the law”, he said.
The VP stressed the need for all stakeholders to intensify efforts at preventing the abuse from happening in the first place, as we also ensure that perpetrators are identified and punished.
He said: “This we can do by identifying risk factors and intervening decisively to deal with them before abuse happens. And where abuse does happen, we must ensure an effective and coordinated response.
“We must commend the incredible strength and courage shown by women who have experienced gender-based violence and called out the perpetrator; and also, those who, for many understandable reasons, have not shared their experiences. They have our empathy and understanding”, says the Vice-President.
Other speakers at the event included the Wife of Ondo State Governor Arabinrin Betty-Anyanwu Akeredolu, the European Union Ambassador in Nigeria, Mr. Ketil Kalson, Dr. Ortive Igbuzor, Chief of Staff to the Deputy Senate President, Fakrriyyah Hashim, Co-founder Arewa Me too, Irene Ogbogu and Tony Ojukwu esq.
Mrs Akeredolu spoke at a panel discussion on “Community Level Response to SGBV- challenges and opportunities”, which was moderated by the wife of Ekiti state governor and Chair of Nigerian Governors Wives Against Gender-Based Violence, NGWA-GBV, Erelu Bisi Fayemi.