Stakeholders call for review of LASG DV law, proffer solutions
Various stakeholders in the human rights sector in Lagos State recently held a one-day stakeholders round table meeting calling for the review and improved, effective implementation of the 2007 Domestic Violence Law of Lagos State, which they say has several loopholes presently.
The stakeholders included Josephine Effah-Chukwuma of Project Alert, Zonal Coordinator of NAPTIP, D.E Atokolo, Yinka Adeyemi from the Office of the Public Defender (OPD), Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi of The Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), Grace Ketefe of the Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC) and Susan Kelechi Ihuoma representing women with special needs. Others included Titilola Vivour-Adeniyi of the Lagos State Domestic Violence Response Team (DSVRT), members representing the Ikeja Branch of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), lawyers, judges as well as representatives from sister agencies and NGOs that support and offer succour to abused women and children.
Adeyemi disclosed that even though women from all walks of life and economic standing may experience violence in different forms, women with disabilities experience it 10 times worse as they are more likely to be abused. Pointing out that the present domestic violence law has been in use for 12 years, she urged that times have changed and the law needs to be amended to accommodate present realities that were not captured before.
Atokolo on his part revealed that most returnees from Libya and Italy were women who have suffered unspeakable violence but have been either forced to keep quiet or have been bribed to do so. “These days, traffickers are usually known family members or friends and you cannot separate domestic violence from trafficking and vice versa. Everyday, we get more and more people returning from foreign countries voluntarily, most of which are young women that have been so abused that most of them cannot even tell you what they have gone through. Some, their husband/partners connived and tricked them into slavery, making money off them.”
Effah-Chukwuma said that even though some men are being abused, the number is nothing compared to women. “We want women to be happy so they can raise happy children. Violence isn’t just physical beating alone and we need to expand the scope of domestic abuse because there are so many other forms of abuse presently not captured in the law.
“We need to streamline who can prosecute and train and re-train them continually. Presently, there is a dearth of facilities where we can refer victims to, survivors and even judges as well. I was recently presented a case of a heavily pregnant 12-year-old-girl and after running around for several days, we still couldn’t get a good facility willing to take her in.
“The DV law strives for peace at home because if there’s peace at home, there would be peace in the country. The law was made to protect women and give them courage as most times, the women just want the violence to stop, not for the marriage to come to an end.”
Revealing that South Africa and Sierra Leone are the only other African countries that have strong DV laws in place, the DSVRT listed the major challenges confronting effective implementation of the DV law as structural and institutional. Under structural, they listed religion, culture and tradition, inadequate professionals and enforcement. Others include unnecessary premium placed on marriage, culture of silence and socio-cultural misconceptions. Institutional challenges include lack of awareness by relevant authorities about the law and their different responsibilities in ensuring full implementation.
Jointly, the stakeholders agreed that the challenges they face in trying to seek justice include absence of prescribed forms, restrictions on publicity, wide discretion of judges and absence of committees monitoring effective implementation. Others include penalties for perpetrators and long duration of DV cases, which wears out survivors in the search for justice giving room for manipulation.
Proffering solutions, all the parties agreed to draft a uniform form headed by CeceYara, the NBA and DSVRT, which will review the law that will be presented to the Lagos State Chief Justice. They also called for stiffer punishment for perpetrators to serve as deterrent, need for practice protocol and waiving of filing fees on DV cases with perpetrators taking up the cost of litigation in addition to being fined and jailed.
Narrating her touching experience, Kelechi Ihuoma moved the room to tears when she recounted the abuse women with disabilities endure from family members and the general public alike. She revealed that most women with disabilities endure a lot of sexual and other abuses daily while trying to navigate the world. A polio survivor that affected her legs and spine, she urged the state government to include disabled women in the law to protect them from abuse.
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