- The call has been made for urgent and decisive action to end the escalating plague of violence against women in Delta State.
Wife of the governor of Delta State, Dame Edith Okowa, who is also founder of 05 Initiative, Dr. (Mrs) Joyce Ogwezi, Director, Centre for Gender and Development Studies, Delta State University, Abraka, and panelists and speakers made the call in Asaba, Monday as part of activities marking the 16th Days of activism against Gender based violence, with the global theme: “Orange the world: End Violence Against Women Now.”
The event hosted by Dame Okowa and 05 Initiative in collaboration with Government of Delta State to mark the 2021 year of the programme, has as its theme: “Deltans Together Against Gender-Based Violence.”
While the Governor’s wife observed that there is a disconnect between the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Women Affairs in terms of letting the people that instruments of government exist for victims of Gender-Based Violence to seek redress against perpetrators of acts of violence against women, she urged the two ministries to do more by publicizing Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAAP) Act so that the people can know that the law exists in the state for them.
Dr. (Mrs) Ogwezi said the Delta theme of the programme was as an urgent call to duty for all Deltans to end violence against women because the evil has become a pandemic now escalating every day.
She commended Governor Ifeanyi Okowa heeding the gender affirmative action that has seen him ensuring that women have visible presence in government and governance in the state, even with notable empowerment programmes aimed at uplifting the worth and person of the woman in the state, Dr. Ogwezi said that gender based violence is now a pandemic and it is escalating every day.
According to her, the situation is made worse because of the culture of “keep quiet, and that this has even escalated with the Covid-19 that forced families to stay at home for about four months.
She told the story of happenings during the period in which some immoral fathers had to turn their own female children into sex tools, while the mother had to be forced to keep quiet in the face of the evil so as not to bring the husband into public scrutiny and odium.
Dr. Ogwezi defined Gender-Based Violence as Any violation against women; any attack against the fundamental human rights of the woman. She said: “Violence against women is also conceptualised as any violation of human rights, or form of discrimination or acts of violence targeted at women and girls to the extent that they result in:
- Physical harm
- Sexual harm
- Psychological harm/trauma
- Economic harm, or
- Suffering to women.”
Pointing out that verbal violence and hate speech against women belittles the psyche of victims, she pointed out that rape is not sex; rape is a crime, because sex has to be consensual and not forced. “Verbal violence is as terrible as hate speech,” Dr Ogwezi said, adding: “This is tied to psychological violence, which is subtle and more destructive. Sexual violence like other forms of violence is abuse of power.”
On what should be done to end Gender-Based Violence, she said: “This calls for an acknowledgement and acceptance of the fact that:
- SGBV is a “pandemic within a pandemic”—Almost a “New Normal” now! It occurs in all societies, social classes and cultural groups, and it affects one in three women in their lifetime pre-COVID. It is prevalent throughout the life-cycle stages for women – infancy, girlhood, adolescence, adulthood, and old age. Its impact goes beyond the suffering of the survivors and their families, and affects nation’s GDP.
- Violence is not a private matter – it must be uncovered in order for it to be challenged.
- Ending gender-based violence will involve actions at all levels: challenging social norms that condone violence or impose gender roles; strengthening legislation to criminalise violence, and prosecuting the perpetrators.
- What is urgently needed?
Set up a Special Delta State Committee on GBV Control (Ref. Regional Council on Conflict Mitigation and Resolution in Delta State (RCCMR) and Special Committee on Environment Public Awareness) Members were drawn from various sectors, including the media, religious organisations, etc
Operational strategy: Multi-Sectoral Approach in support of the prevention, mitigation and re-integration process.
- Engagement Strategy: Multi-Stakeholder and Multi-disciplinary Development of a Delta State GBV control strategy document;
Government has a critical role to play!
- Federal Government declared a state of emergency on gender-based-violence in the country, by enacting the Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Act in 2015. Yet only 16 of the 36 states have adopted legislation needed to implement the VAPP Act at the State level.
Some Provisions in the 2015 VAPP
This key piece of legislation that prohibits certain practices and abuses that infringe on the rights of women, girls and the vulnerable in our society; the VAPP provides that any person found guilty of rape is liable to life imprisonment without the option of fine, while offenders below the age of 14 are liable to 14 years imprisonment without option of fine. Some experts argue that putting minors in jail may not be the best practice and recommend that a more progressive approach would be juvenile justice system for perpetrators who are minors. The VAPP is also the first legislation that recognizes that men can be victims of rape.
TRADITIONAL INSTITUTIONS & COMMUNITY LEADERSHIP
- Identify and address social norms and practices such as taboos, beliefs that perpetuate SGBV risks and inequality in access and control over resources and humanitarian services as well as political inclusion for women and girls, men and boys.
- Establish and strengthen community -based mechanisms to prevent and respond to SGBV—- SGBV Community vigilantes/Vanguards.
- Through community empowerment approach, partner other humanitarian actors to support the development of strategies for engaging both families and girls to envisage alternative roles for girls. This should include community-based awareness creation on implications of child and forced marriage.
- Establish various community-led Gender Based Violence structures—Zero- Tolerance Community Alliance- , and empower members of GBV these community Volunteers to monitor situations on a regular basis.
- Established Community- based Complaints and Feedback mechanism (CBCM) led by the community as well as communication structures led by partners to receive complaints and give feedback.
- Collaborate with relevant organisations to conduct continuous awareness raising at community levels in order to pass critical information on sexual violence and SGBV.
- There is needed to develop a robust Information, Education and Communication strategy on Sexual Violence and SEA along with strengthening existing materials.
- Participate in training on media framing of GBV issues
Concluding her lecture, Dr. Ogwezi reiterated that the incidence of Gender Based Violence (GBV) is growing astronomical with the activities of the insurgency in the North East and insecurity across the nation.
From forced and early marriages to the physical, mental or sexual assault on a woman, nearly 3 in 10 Nigerian women have experienced physical violence by age 15 (NDHS 2013).
She proposed that Delta State Government needs to be committed to areas of interventions that can improve the gender-based violence policy environment at state, local and community levels. “To achieve this, the State needs to work with a variety of partners to provide survivors with medical, reproductive health services and/or psychosocial care as part of her commitment to rehabilitating women and girls, who have been abused and to help them overcome their ordeals. Various recommendations have been made on how to achieve this.
Given the unwavering commitment of His Excellency, Senator (Dr.) Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa and his amiable wife, our own First Lady, Evangelist (Mrs.) Edith Okowa, there is no doubt whatsoever that our beloved Delta State is all set to address all issues associated with GBV.