Fresh push for passage of Violence Against Persons Bill
A 2008 Amnesty International Report on Nigeria paints a demoralizing picture of how violence strives in all spectrum of the Nigerian society.
According to the report, “On a daily basis women are beaten and ill treated for supposed transgressions, whipped and even murdered by members of their family. In some cases, vicious acid attack leaves them with horrific disfigurement. Such violence is too frequently excused and tolerated in communities, and not denounced. More worrisome is the fact that husbands, partners, and fathers are responsible for most of the violence against women.
Indeed, the incidence of gender based violence has become endemic in the country. Also, over the years, Gender Based Violence (GBV) has not been treated with the urgency and severity it deserves. Weak or inadequate legislation as well as poor enforcement structures and mechanisms have contributed to this state of affairs. There is also a subtle level of tolerance of GBV that is hinged on social, religious, cultural and traditional beliefs and practices and the attendant discrimination suffered by women in these circles. The resultant effect of this combination of factors is impunity on the part of the offenders as well as some measure of laxity on the part of law enforcement agencies.
New forms of violence such as acid baths have also emerged while existing forms of violence are not abating.
But the laws to punish GBV are old and inadequate to address the problem. It was in response to this situation that efforts were made to change the law through the enactment of new laws, which will take all the aforementioned circumstances into consideration.
In 2010, the Legislative Advocacy Coalition on Violence against Women (LACVAW) conducted a research to determine the level of occurrences and prevalent forms of GBV in some selected states. The overview presents data of reported GBV cases generated from 18 states and the media within the time frame of January-June 2010. The data is representative of the six geo-political zones in Nigeria. Specifically states covered were Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Kaduna, Kano, Zamfara, Sokoto, Adamawa, Borno, Abia, Imo, Edo, Delta, Cross River, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Lagos, Ekiti, Osun, Ogun states. Four hundred and seventy nine cases (479) were collated from all the states. The disaggregated analysis of the sample size highlighted that sexual violations accounted for 21.08%; physical violation recorded 44.25%; domestic violation accounted for 18.37%; harmful traditional practices accounted for 11.48%; economic violations recorded 2.92% and other violations accounted for 1.87% of the total sample of violations collected. The analysis and conclusions drawn from the research affirmed the realities of the scourge of GBV, which is largely hidden given the culture of silence, which is compounded by the tacit endorsement of some forms of GBV.
But the non-passage of the law has become a source of concern to stakeholders.
Recently, the Federation of Muslim Women Association of Nigeria (FOMWAN) and an international non-governmental organization, Ipas, accused the National Assembly of negligence and insensitivity over the non-passage of the Violence against Persons Prohibition Bill (VAPP).
The stakeholders spoke at a one-day sensitization workshop on Violence Against Persons Prohibition Bill in Abuja.
Speaking at the programme, Senior Policy Advisor at Ipas, Barrister Hauwa Shekarau, stressed how the bill could eliminate violence in private and public life and prohibit all forms of violence, if passed into law.
Such violence acts, she said, include physical, sexual, psychological, domestic, as well as harmful traditional practices.
She said: “Violence against Persons Prohibition bill is the brain child of a coalition of over 50 NGOs working here in Nigeria and FOMWAN is one of them. They came together and gave themselves the name Legislative Advocacy Coalition on Violence against Women (LACVAW). Most of the representatives working noticed that right from 1999, there was a rise in demand for the protection of citizens from all forms of violence. It is well known that violence is on the increase like rape, acid bath, among others. Working together, we want to ensure that something is done about it.
“It was observed that various drafts bills in the form of executive and private member bills were in existence in both the national and states Houses of Assembly. A collation of these bills was undertaken to ensure that one legislation which was comprehensive in content and therefore able to address, as much as possible, all the issues relating to gender based violence would be produced. Efforts have been on by the Legislative Advocacy Coalition on Violence against Women (LACVAW) since 2002 to push for the passage of this law. One of the outcomes of its effort was the change in the name of the draft bill from the violence Against Women Bill to the Violence against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Bill. This was to ensure the protection of a greater number of people and gain wider acceptance for the passage of the bill into law.”
She stated further: “Feedbacks received from series of engagements and advocacies underscored the need to provide information in a way that promotes better understanding of the intent of the Bill by documenting areas of potential controversy with a view to justifying its relevance and the impact of those areas on the people it seeks to protect. This has informed the production of this advocacy tool.”
“The Bill seeks to eliminate or reduce to a minimum the occurrence of gender based violence in the Nigerian society, especially in homes, public spaces or even in conflicts situation and also seeks to address violence by state actors. It is therefore protective of the rights of Nigerians, both male and female against violence. It seeks to address some of the shortcomings in the current laws on violence, responds to both old and emerging forms of violence and provides effective remedies for survivors and punishments of offenders.
“Some of you are wives to Senators, Reps or sisters to them. Please talk to them to pass this bill. Everybody is busy with campaign; nobody talks about women and their place in the polity. If anybody comes to you to seek for your vote, ask him or her, what they are going to do with the VAPP-Bill.”
She stressed that poor judicial response to perpetrators had made gender-based violence worse, as the perpetrators glorify themselves.
“ The VAPP bill has been drafted as a coordinated and comprehensive response to address various forms of violence against persons and to protect against the identified and evolving forms of violence. The provisions of the Bill and indeed its approach in addressing new and evolving forms of violence are commendable.
“ It is acknowledged that the existence of the law itself would not on its own put an end to Gender Based Violence some of which is borne out of deep cultural and traditional practices. It is, however, certain that increased advocacy to draw attention to the existence of the law and the punishment on conviction would serve as a deterrent and thereby reduce the incidence of violence.
“ Further engagement with the law enforcement agencies and the judicial arm of government would also aid the institutionalization of procedures which would help achieve quick conviction.”
Also speaking, Country Director at Ipas, Dr. Lola Mabogunje, encouraged muslim women to support the prohibition bill that is still on hold at the National Assembly.
She said her organization was supportive of the VAPP bill and that people living in rural and urban areas would benefit from the bill.
The Amirah of the Federation of Muslim Women Association of Nigeria (FOMWAN), Hajiah Raliat Akinbobola, said “The Federation of Muslim Women Association of Nigeria in collaboration with Ipas brings this program to educate us on the eradication of violence against persons for national development. Violence is better imagined than experienced. Society that has high level of violence usually in Nigeria experience slows down economic growth, causes high level of insecurity and impedes social development.
“Therefore the aparthy towards the Violence against Persons Prohibition Bill (VAPP) by the National Assembly is a serious concern and should be collectively addressed. According to British CouncilNigeria 2012 Gender Report, ‘the available statistics shows that three of ten women have been a victim of violence.’
“The Federation of Muslim Women Association of Nigeria (FOMWAN) and all non-governmental organization have envisioned a world where women are globally empowered and make positive contribution in the society. The reason for the Violence against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Bill is to reduce the danger of violence in Nigeria, since situation the has become aggravated over the years. The VAPP bill is the instrument that can be used to end violence against persons, particularly women and children.”
She listed ways in which the sensitization program will enable women, especially Muslim women could learn more fact on violence in our society and informs them to speak out against violence accordingly.
She also sympathized with their brothers and sisters that has been affected by the insurgence and prayed that Allah will give them the grace to survive it.