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The fight against SGBV, how far? – Part 2

By Adenike Ojo
21 December 2021   |   4:20 am
According to her, the SARCs Network has in just eight years, grown from a single centre in Lagos to 32 SARCs across 19 states in Nigeria; assisting 23,207 survivors of sexual assault combined, between July 2013 and September 2021...

[files] Gender Based Violence

According to her, the SARCs Network has in just eight years, grown from a single centre in Lagos to 32 SARCs across 19 states in Nigeria; assisting 23,207 survivors of sexual assault combined, between July 2013 and September 2021, over 70 per cent of whom have been children under the age of 18 years. However, despite the remarkable expansion and spread of the SARC initiative in Nigeria and stronger focus nationwide on the provision of comprehensive medical and counseling services for survivors, the number of SGBV cases reported to SARCs is still a poor representation of the scale of sexual assault in the country.
 
The number of SGBV cases that are prosecuted are very few compared to the number of reports. As a result of this, over the years there has been a growing call for the establishment of specialised courts for SGBV in Nigeria to address delays in the justice process.
 
This is why the National Programme Manager, RoLAC, Mr. Danladi Plang, has called for the establishment of separate courts to prosecute the cases of SGBV.

 
Most recently, this call was echoed by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister for Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), who stressed the inadequacies in the adjudication of these cases in the present system. Malami’s call followed the inauguration in 2020 by President Muhammadu Buhari, of an inter-ministerial management committee on eradication of sexual and gender-based violence, a demonstration of the government’s renewed commitment to comprehensively address SGBV and protect victims.
 
Malami, while speaking at the mock trial, also called for the training of investigators and prosecutors as specialists in the handling of SGBV cases in Nigeria. He noted that it is imperative to train these first responders in the access to justice spectrum on evidence collection and storage, intelligence gathering and reporting, evidence analysis and chain of custody preservation stressing the need for the establishment of more SARCs across the country.
 
On her part, the Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Dame Pauline Tallen, called for stiffer punishment to SGBV offenders in the country to deter others. Tallen who described the rising cases of SGBV in Nigeria, called for action while supporting the laws enacted by Kaduna State Government, which prescribed castration as a punishment to sexual assault offenders.
 
According to her, “two or more of those sexual offenders should be castrated publicly” to serve as deterrence to others.
Quoting statistics, Tallen disclosed that, the National Situation Room and Dashboard set up in the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs under the UN/EU Spotlight initiative targeting six states supported by UNDP as of November 24, 2021, totaled number of cases reported to be 5,204 of which 3,125 survivors are demanding justice and only 33 perpetrators have so far been convicted, representing 0.51 per cent. The fatal cases are 160, closed cases 231, while open cases (cases pending in court) are 972.
 
The minister noted that the trend is unacceptable, and efforts will be intensified with the Federal Ministry of Justice to ensure justice for victims and survivors. She employed all relevant ministries to engage, amplify advocacy to the States and rural communities for further enlightenment in this regard.
 
Chairperson of the SARC in Nigeria, Prof. Joy Ezeilo, explained that some of these things keep going on because of low accountability and low prosecution of this case. She noted that the evidence and sometimes little technicalities can make a very viable case pathetic not to lead to a conviction.
 
“That is the problem we are trying to convey best practice about prosecution and what changes the law have brought, like the VAPP Law, the NAPTIP ACT. They brought in innovations, which connoted gender offence is not just committed against a woman, with this you see the good, the bad and the ugly.”
 
On his part, the Executive Secretary of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Mr. Tony Ojukwu, while lamenting the growing cases of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) in the country, said that between 2020 and March 2021 alone the Commission received over 139,780 complaints on SBGV, enjoined stakeholders to focus more attention on public education/awareness on SGBV and implementation of extant laws and policies that will entrench the culture of accountability around gender issues.
 
Ojukwu appealed to Civil Society Organisations (CSO), traditional authorities, and religious leaders to be at the forefront in tackling the scourge of SGBV saying that more sensitisation is needed at the grassroots level so that people will become more conscious of protecting and enforcing their rights and the consequences and punishments that await any culprits.
Concluded.
Ojo wrote from Lagos.