Writing this is frustrating. We should not have to explain why women and girls should be treated with dignity. Yet, in Nigeria, it seems as though having rights over your body is demanding for too much since you are expected to lose autonomy over your body, by virtue of being female in a misogynistic society. Therein lies the crux of this discussion. One group ( the men ) believes and is enabled with institutionalised power to subjugate and oppress another group ( the women ) to protect the reign of patriarchy. This is very apparent in Nigeria and it is very damaging to both genders. For this reason, we need to discuss Sexual Violence and Gender-Based Violence; how to protect women and girls and how to aid survivors.
Gender-Based Violence is defined as “Violence directed against a person because of their gender.” In addition, the United Nations (1993), corroborates this definition as ”Violence against women as any act of gender-based violence, that results in, or is likely to result in physical, sexual or psychological harm, or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, occurring in public or private life.’
Gender-based violence is a global problem that is entrenched in gender inequality. To elaborate, this societal evil is a manifestation of unequal power relations between genders (male and female). Consequently, this leads to the domination, discrimination, and abuse against women. Thus, violence against women and girls ensues as a result of the power imbalances, cultural beliefs, and social structures rooted in the system of patriarchy.
It is not a Nigerian issue, but a worldwide issue.
Please note, Gender-Based violence (GBV) is not just a Nigeria issue, but a worldwide issue. However, for the past few months, there has been an uprising in the movement against the GBV both offline and online.
As a result of several cases of sexual violence and gender based violence against women and girls becoming reported continuously in the Nigerian media, brave women and men have been campaigning on the streets for the Government to apprehend the offenders of the crime; declare a ‘State of Emergency’ for GBV in Nigeria and pass legislative Bills for a ‘sex offenders list’. Just log in to Twitter and you can count many hashtags such as; Justice For Uwa, Justice For Tina, Justice For Barakat, Justice For Toyin, and unfortunately, so many other women whose names have been cited online but still no justice has prevailed on their behalf.
All in all, everyone; educators, legislators, students, must be committed to addressing the factors that promotes gender violence and this can only be achieved through awareness, accountability, and education.
The Numbers do not lie.
The data which illustrates the exponential frequency of gender-based violence in Nigeria warns us that if we do not act fast,it will become an inevitable irreparable norm.
Recently, a study conducted in Nigeria by the ‘Ministry of Women’s Affairs and Social Development’ discovered that 28% of Nigerian women aged 25-29 have experienced an act of physical violence since the age of 15. Additionally, “44% of divorced, separated or widowed women reported experiencing violence since age 15, while 25% of married women or those living with their spouses have experienced violence.” Unequivocally, the most common acts of violence against women in Nigeria include; sexual harassment and physical violence.
Additionally, according to UNICEF, One in four girls in Nigeria has experienced some form of sexual violence. Furthermore, the Nigerian Police has stated that from January to May 2020, 717 Rape cases were reported in the country. Whilst the Nigerian “Punch” Newspaper states that there has been 3,600 Rape cases during the pandemic lockdown.
Glaring at these figures, violence against girls and women in Nigeria almost feels like it is the norm as it occurs as though it is. So where are the safe spaces for the Nigerian female? Gender based violence is exacerbated everyday; in Nollywood scenes where a husband beats his wife for not cooking, it is conveyed in conversations between friends describing a non-consensual sexual act against a girl and even in our households where a domestic staff is physically abused by the employer. Immorality should never be the norm in our culture, it should be ostracised and shamed- not the victim!
How do we overcome?
Re-orientation of the mind ;
Without learning the root of the problem we cannot find solutions to address the problem. Some of us need to unlearn the way we relate with the women and girls in our lives. We must treat them as “ ends in themselves, not a means to an end”. This means treating them equal to you; attributing the same rights you possess to them too, not because they are the “ weaker gender” but because they are human like you. Then teach others around you to unlearn the toxic misogynistic mentality that enables the subjugation of girls and women.
To overcome GBV we must educate people on what it is, factors that enable it, and its effects. However, if the perpetrators of this crime are not apprehended by the Law, our education is rendered ineffective. The law has to be on the side of the victims, not only does it display accountability between the law and the People, it deters offenders from the crime if they know there will be severe consequences.
Albeit in Nigeria, there have been some successful cases of legislation against GBV. For example, the federal and state governments adopted several legislative and policy instruments, including ‘The Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act of 2015’. This Act prohibits female genital mutilation and all forms of violence against persons in both private and public life.
Furthermore, Ekiti and Lagos State recently passed a Law on gender-based violence. The law recognizes that gender-based violence includes economic abuse, which it defines as the denial of funds, refusal to contribute financially to family upkeep, denial of food and basic needs, among others. Ekiti state has even gone a step ahead in providing a fund for victims of gender-based violence for their physical and mental support, whilst Lagos state offers free legal advice for women suffering from GBV.
Nevertheless, states such as Kano, Katsina, and Kwara have not adopted the “ Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act” (2015). Do they not care that women and girls are not safe? If the Law will not empower victims, who will support them when they speak out? The State is responsible for ensuring all citizens are safe and protected and implementing measures that give survivors access to Justice, especially during a pandemic.
So I guess what I am asking you today, as my reader today is to Act. Take time and unlearn the misogyny that perpetuates gender-based violence and sexual violence; speak up against gender-based violence today, share reading materials to educate people, donate to organizations helping survivors,sign a petition, join a campaign and support a survivor.
•Stand Against Rape and Rape Culture.
•Stand Against Sexual Violence.
•Stand Against Gender-Based Violence.
This blog post is dedicated to all survivors of Gender Based Violence and Sexual Violence. It is never your fault, your story matters and you are valued.
*To report any gender based violence cases or rape/ sexual assault Cases in Nigeria please click on this form: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScwqTjr2X8WoeDkiRK3laqKsQnKoxPNB2xv1H9UevLih401TA/viewform
*To take action today visit this website to donate, sign a petition and join a protest: https://www.vop.ng/standtoendrape
LinkedIn: Ife Sarumi
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