Project alert, others decry increased child sexual abuse, violence against women
Concerned civil service groups and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) have come together to lament not only the child sexual abuse epidemic currently being experienced in the country, but also government’s lackadaisical attitude to the magnitude of the problem and the systemic failure that continues to aid its escalation.
Speaking at a one-day conference held recently in Project Alert’s head-office in Lagos, the Executive Directors for Project Alert, Cece Yara Foundation and Jashabel Touch-A-Heart Foundation, Josephine Effah-Chukwuma, Grace Ketefe and Favour Benson respectively revealed that while child sexual abuses were becoming more frequent, they were receiving even less help and cooperation from the government and government agencies.
“We can all testify that hardly a day goes by without one case of child sexual abuse being reported in the media and the victims range from babies to 17 years with perpetrators being well known persons to these children- fathers, step-fathers, uncles, cousins, drivers, neighbours, teachers and religious leaders etc. It is usually known and trusted people hurting these children, not strangers. Years of advocacy work by NGOs have led to the silence, which used to surround sexual and domestic violence, being broken.”
Effah-Chukwuma went on to add that though more families and survivors are now seeking justice, “it usually gets truncated in most cases because of systemic failure on the part of government and law enforcement agencies caused by poor funding, corruption, corrupt practices and impunity. We use our money, assets and time to pursue justice for victims most times and we are being frustrated by the system.”
She highlighted four major cases they were working on presently including that of Ochanya Ogbanje who unfortunately died last year after years of abuse by her guardian; a student of FGGC, Calabar who was raped and impregnated by her mother’s boyfriend, a former commissioner in Cross-River and was taken for an abortion by her mother which resulted in major health problems for her. The third case was of a five-year-old child that was sexually assaulted and raped anally by her Islamic Cleric, but the saddest was that of Gift Alonge who was raped and impregnated by her father, Jacob Alonge.
Twenty-five weeks pregnant Gift along with two staff of BraveHeart Initiative for Youths and Women, her maternal uncle and the driver died in a car accident on their way to court for judgment just two weeks ago. The father is still alive and is unremorseful.
She added that most times, the burden of first responding usually falls on them and while they are happy to do so, they are confronted by institutional challenges that cost them scarce human and financial resources whilst frustrating the victims and their families. “Most times, the police are not only unprofessional and insensitive but they collect money from both victim and perpetrator, from the former to ‘pursue’ justice and from the latter to ‘help settle the case.’
“When it comes to the court, filing fees, un-receipted service fees charged by bailiffs and long court adjournments and delays along with legal fees frustrate everyone involved. The ministries lack good fostering system for abused children, shelters for abused women and resources plus skills to follow up cases. Lives are being lost daily to child sexual abuse and domestic violence despite that there exist laws protecting victims such as the Domestic Violence Law of Lagos State and the Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Law.
Saying they can no longer continue to do the government’s work while the lives of girls and women matter, they asked for better funding for law enforcers with specific funds for domestic and sexual violence response; creation of family support units in every police division to tackle the issue of domestic and sexual violence; waiving of legal fees for domestic and sexual violence victims to enable more women and girls access justice.
They also said the ministries of women affairs and social welfare in all states of the federation should set up domestic and sexual violence shelters for abused women and girls, manned by trained staff and develop a good fostering system for abused children. “Any child that is being abused by a family member must be removed from that environment and the abuser must have no further access to said child. We also call for free medical treatment for victims of domestic and sexual violence in all government hospitals across the country.”
Benson also called on people to stop enabling perpetrators in any way and begin to report and ostracize them. She also called on the government to establish a one-stop shop where NGOs can go and access all services at once without having to move from place to place endlessly. Government is not showing much care so we have to force them to do their jobs. This is election season and now is the only time they will pretend to care so let us ask them what they are doing about this issue and hold them to their words,” she said.