Stakeholders decry SGBV, child, early and forced marriages

With Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) child, early and forced marriages still prevalent in Nigeria, journalists, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and community-based organisations have been trained to champion the campaign against these societal ills.
A cross section of participants at the training on Sexual and Gender Based Violence, Early Child and Forced Marriages, organised by Palladium, USAID, SCALE project in Abuja.

A cross section of participants at the training on Sexual and Gender Based Violence, Early Child and Forced Marriages, organised by Palladium, USAID, SCALE project in Abuja.

With Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) child, early and forced marriages still prevalent in Nigeria, journalists, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and community-based organisations have been trained to champion the campaign against these societal ills. The three-day intensive training was organised recently in Abuja by Palladium Nigeria, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) under its Strengthening Civic Advocacy and Local Engagement (SCALE) project on sensitive reporting of SGBV, child, early and forced marriages (CEFM).
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Addressing the participants, the Country Director of Equal Access International, Dr. Maji Peterx, stressed that these ills were becoming endemic in the country, adding that the development calls for the renewal of the minds of Nigerians.
 
“We know the negative impact it has on victims, their psyche and on our societal structure is very intense. The whole idea is to raise awareness, to renew the minds and conscience of people; to increase people’s knowledge of the ills of SGBV and to forget about the norming of it – because it becomes like a part of our system that when people, especially women, are being abused, molested and violated, it is not part of our news and daily contributions,” she said.
 
With at least three of every 10 children either being sexually abused or survivors of GBV, Peterx stated that to curb this, parents should create a platform for conversation and fruitful communication with their children. She added: “There are children who are being molested, intimidated and abused, and the first window of communication is with their parents. Like in school, a child comes home and says, ‘I am not going back to that school’; the parents do not care to find out why they do not want to go back, or what is going on with the child.
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“A child comes back from school and isolates himself and nobody bothers to start a conversation about what the child is going through. We just say the child should not be lazy and compare them to their colleagues. By doing this, we are just exposing the child, and he or she realises that they cannot speak to us freely regarding their personal issues.
 
“There are times when a child is being victimised, raped, abused or molested, and the questions we ask attempt to insinuate that that child is the cause of the problem. Most of these shut down the victims from making conversations about the things affecting them.
 
“Parents can do more. We should build our children’s self esteem. We should win the confidence of our kids; create a platform for sincere communication with our children so that they can tell us what their problems are. We should stop judging them, and not create our own standard for our children to live up to. We live in different worlds, and most importantly we should be able to teach our children important survival skills.”
 
On the law enacted by the Kaduna State government, which stipulates castration as the punishment for rape, Peterx said: “I think there are many things we can do to reduce it. Firstly, shaming is very important. When we are able to shame people, when we make people do the ‘walk of shame’ around their communities and people could point at them, we know that it stigmatises not just the person, but also his entire family.
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“My fear is that when we create a punishment that looks very vindictive, and at the end of it all we let go the perpetrator of the crime, we are exposing the vulnerability of the victim.
 
“For instance, if you talk about castration, and we castrate the man and thereafter the man is walking about on the street, can we guarantee the safety of the person that was victimised initially? Are we making the person become a target of attacks because of this individual who now walks around impotent? Are we creating societal rivalries and family wars between the two families?
 
“I want us to look at it from that perspective, so that when we are thinking of punitive judgment, we should think also of restorative justice, not just punitive justice – restorative, transitional and transformational justice. I am happier in a community where everybody is feeling a shame and feeling that it is not really a classy thing to rape and violate women and to have SGBV because some men are being violated as well. So, we are creating a system where we are thinking about morality, ethics and upholding tenets that promote our integrity.”
 
On her part, Deputy Chief, SCALE Palladium Project, Bose Etokpa, said that SGBV must be nipped in the bud effectively, urging the media to become advocates that would aid its reduction in the society.
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