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It’s not enough to #OrangeTheWorld, We need to Denormalise Violence against Women

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“Not until the half of our population represented by women and girls can live free from fear, violence and everyday insecurity, can we truly say we live in a fair and equal world.” — UN Secretary-General“ António Guterres

The International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, 2018, was commemorated with the theme – Orange the World: #HearMeToo which launched the 16 days of activism campaign ‘UNiTE to End Violence against Women. A touch of orange was worn by people globally in solidarity with the cause, which symbolises a brighter future and a world free from violence against women and girls.

Violence against women and girls (VAWG) is one of the most prevalent and overwhelming human rights violations in our world today that is largely unreported due to the silence, stigma and shame revolving around it. In 1993, the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women issued by the UN General Assembly defined 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, whether occurring in public or in private life.”

In Nigeria today, studies reveal that 23% of women have been victims of physical or sexual violence committed by a spousal partner. A report by UNICEF in 2015 shows that one in four girls and one in ten boys had experienced sexual violence before the age of 18.

Gender-based violation manifests itself through physical, sexual and psychological forms, in different such as scenarios – Intimate partner violence (marital rape, femicide), Child sexual violence (child marriage, child sexual abuse), Female genital mutilation and Sexual trafficking (sexual exploitation).

Intimate partner violence (IPV) is one of the most prevalent forms of violence against women and it involves physical, sexual, and emotional abuse by an intimate partner. It is a daunting burden borne by women globally and it transpires in all settings irrespective of the cultural, religious and socioeconomic status.  Examples of IPV include beatings, sexual coercion, insults, intimidations, threats and restriction of access to financial resources.

Violence against children includes physical, sexual, psychological abuse. The pervasiveness of child sexual abuse globally has been estimated at 19.7% for females and 7.9% for males and most child sexual abuse is perpetrated by men. Child marriage is one of the major forms of child sexual abuse; the UNICEF has noted that child marriage “represents perhaps the most prevalent form of sexual abuse and exploitation of girls”

“It is a moral affront to all women and girls and to us all, a mark of shame on societies and a major obstacle to inclusive, equitable and sustainable development. At its core, violence against women and girls in all its forms is the manifestation of profound lack of respect – a failure by men to recognise the inherent equality and dignity of women,” said António Guterres.

Professor Joy Ngozi Ezeilo, Dean of the Faculty of Law, founder and CEO of Women’s Aid Collective (WACOL) and the West African Women Rights Coalition (WAWORC), which are dedicated to promoting and protecting the human rights of women and young people, said not much has changed for Nigerian women who suffer all forms of violence almost daily.

“It should be about laws and improved accountability at all levels. How many corporations have strong sexual protection laws, how many educational institutions have sexual harassment policies? There is zero accountability and clearly, the government isn’t doing enough and must realize that women’s rights are part of the universal human rights and we can no longer use our cultural and social norms as excuses for our inability to comply with laws.”

Gender based violence continues to thrive in our society and even globally because people believe it is ‘okay’ to hit a woman, but it is not. The cultural beliefs that supports gender based violence hurts everybody involved. And, it is one of the easiest things to stop, by simply changing our perception towards it in our own little way.

Sadly, despite the plethora of laws promulgated to protect women in the country, the technicality of proving rape is still an arduous task especially for a female victim. The challenge of cultural stigma and victim blaming further promotes the culture of silence and when women try to speak out, it’s often in hushed tones.

#HearMeToo and #OrangeTheWorld are impressive ways of creating awareness and sensitizing the public about (SGBV) sexual and gender based violence but in a patriarchal society like Nigeria, more concerted efforts have to channelled towards combating  this scourge which have been often overlooked, justified, normalized, and made invisible.

This report is undertaken with support from Code For Africa to amplify the Gender Gap conversation


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