The Coalition of Civil Society Groups, in continuation of ongoing condemnation and protests against rising cases of rape and violence against the girl-child, yesterday at the Nigerian Police Force (NPF) headquarters in Abuja demanded that the federal government, as a matter of urgency, should declare a state of emergency on gender and sexual-based violence.
This is just as the House of Representatives expressed readiness to ensure the domestication of the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act and the Child Rights Act.
ActionAid, in conjunction with other civil groups, including TeacherNG, Girl-Child Africa, Connected Development, Enough is Enough Nigeria, Stand to End Rape, Silver Chip Fox, Yiaga Africa, Dorothy Njemanze Foundation and Education on Vaccine Foundation, Women Advocacy Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC), Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption Programme, Malala Fund, Heir Women Development and Disability Rights Advocacy Centre, as well Centre for Communication and Social Impact (CCSI), during a nationwide protest, called on the NPF to promptly investigate, prosecute and conclude all rape, sexual and gender-based violence cases in the country.
Of concern to the groups is that between January and June this year, over 80 women and girls between two and 80 years old have been reported raped, saying the recent rape and brutal murder of 23-year-old University of Benin undergraduate, Uwaila Omozuwa, in Benin City, the Edo State capital, as well as the rape of a 12-year-old girl by 11 men in Jigawa State, is a deadly reminder that Nigerian girls are endangered.
ActionAid Country Director, Ene Obi, expressed concern over the safety of Nigerian girls, women and grandmothers, lamenting that security operatives meant to protect are also threatening to rape and kill them in the face of conflict, noting: “Women and girls need more than promises; we need an urgent declaration of state of emergency in every state in Nigeria to accelerate investigation, arrest and prosecution of offenders.”
Manager, Women Rights Program Action-Aid, Nkechi Ilochi-Omekedo, while addressing journalists, also bemoaned the unabated rape cases, saying one in 10 women are being sexually violated, adding: “We are saying enough is enough. We are not at war, but with what is happening everyday, it appears as thought we are at war.”
She urged the three arms of government to rise up and protect women and girls and ensure perpetrators are brought to justice. Dorothy Njemanze of Njemanze Foundation regretted that domestic and gender-based violence is killing many and there are no provisions to pay victims’ hospital bills. She said: “Sexual and gender-based violence is an emergency, so a state of emergency should be declared as a matter of urgency before the end of next week by the government, so that timelines can be given to ensure all the states are doing the right thing.” CCSI has called on government and the judiciary to ensure strict enforcement of legal provisions and penalties against rape and other acts of violence against women and the girl-child in the country.
In a statement in Abuja, Executive Director of CCSI, Mrs. Babafunke Fagbemi, lamented that the country was losing her precious daughters to rape, while those who survive the violence are left to live with the painful memories for a long time, adding that the authorities must be more deliberate in protecting Nigerian women and girls.
She said: “It is unacceptable what has happened to the young girls who met their untimely deaths in the most gruesome manner. The question we should be asking is why should this dastardly act continue, despite the myriad of laws that we have in this country.
“Is it that those who commit rape are let off easily or the laws themselves are grossly insufficient to act as a deterrent? We need to look at the issues of our laws, if they are insufficient with a view to strengthen them, while the security agencies must ensure the enforcement of such laws.”
Fagbemi added that the world of women and girls keep shrinking, as sexual and domestic violence continue to affect their ability to enjoy rights and freedoms on a basis of equality with men. This in turn, he added, have debilitating effects on their mental and physical health, which also limits how they compete fairly and contribute to a better society.