Monday, November 23, 2015 5:47 pm
By Kazeem Ugbodaga.
The acting United States Consul General, Dehab Ghebreab, Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka; Speaker, Lagos State House of Assembly, Mudashiru Obasa; fiery preacher, Pastor Tunde Bakare and others have called for collection action against gender based violence against women in Nigeria.
They spoke at the Documentary Premiere on Gender Based Violence, GBV, organized by Women Arise for Change Initiative and the US Consulate General in Ikeja, Lagos, Southwest Nigeria on Sunday evening.
Ghebreab decried rising wave of violence against women in Nigeria and the world over, saying that pragmatic action must be taken by governments and all to halt this ugly trend. According to her, women and children suffered greatly from domestic violence on daily basis while the suffering is heightened during conflict period, such as Boko Haram and Islamic States, ISIS violent surge.
“GBV is a global issue and impacts all people regardless of ethnicity, race and so on. It occurs in every region with majority of women suffering as a result of men’s brutality. Violence against women is severe in Nigeria as there are lots of cases about such violence. It is important for the media to expose rape cases. There is need for strong legislation against GBV,” he said.
At the event, Soyinka said the nation is guilty of violence against women as prominent citizens were often shielded from the law when they committed such heinous crime of debasing the women folk.
“We have probably forgotten that an identical blood ritual was also nearly foisted on this part of the world, not even once but at least three times. However, let us remain in the present – for now. So, where exactly are we? First, let me warn that a reluctance to call things by their proper names is what took us to where we are – Chibok and Sambisa.
“If it is any consolation however, we are by no means alone. It is that coyness that has scattered the spores of denial from Maiduguri and Yola, to Place de la Republique in Paris, and led us back through the Kenyan University to the Radisson Hotel in Bamako, Republic of Mali. It is what is guaranteed to explode – literally – in Lagos any time soon – unless of course that singularly toxic mind-set is changed within our own nation space and soon,” said Soyinka, whose speech was read by Mr. Yinka Odumakin, Afenifere’s scribe.
According to Soyinka, “the passage towards this final phase of societal evolution is of course, primarily, education and enlightenment. It is however, also deterrence. Where the laws of society are quite clear on the treatment of women, and these are flouted, then the rod of deterrence must apply – without prejudice, and without privilege. This nation cannot claim to be committed to this basic approach, and here is proof, within recent memory.
“In a notorious episode, the nation was confronted with a situation where a lawmaker – and an ex-governor to boot! -brazenly indulged in sex trafficking – in minors! He got away with it with open defiance, despite the hue and cry of the nation – across age, professions and faith. Obviously, such a nation is not to be taken seriously about terminating the phenomenon of gender abuse. Having rendered itself guilty of a collective betrayal of the vulnerable in favour of the powerfully positioned, she loses all moral clout. All that is left are the fitful twitches of an entity in thrall to impunity.”
“Let us make this clear: it is the most specious notion to believe that one can embrace the ideology of Boko Haram in any crucial aspect of human existence and yet attempt to claim that one is against the methods towards the actualization of such an ideology. That lesson has not yet been fully learnt. We sometimes use language to distance the gravity of certain kinds of criminality, thus accommodating their enormity. Child rape, for instance is exactly that – child rape – the sexual abuse of minors, their psychological enslavement and the degradation of their physiology, with lasting deleterious consequences.
“It is, in my estimation, the vilest and most devastating form of gender abuse one can think of. It challenges our most basic parental, societal, and legislative responsibilities – in a special category of its own. Such responsibilities are not discharged by legislations that attempt to re-define marriage in order to accommodate and legitimize the minority tendencies of paedophiles. That last is especially directed at the revisionist exercises recently undertaken by some reformist lawmakers, some of whose propositions remain permissive for the continuing abuse of the girl-child. Hopefully some of those legislators will be part of this meeting,” he added.
Speaker, Lagos State House of Assembly, Obasa said the documentary on GBV brought to the fore the danger and negative effect of gender-based violence on the society as the documentary had shown that a society which allowed gender-based violence to thrive without control is heading for destruction.
“Globally, child abuse, sexual and domestic violence are among the most destructive experiences afflicting women and children. The wide prevalence of such violence takes an enormous toll on the lives of individual victims as well as the larger society, through innumerable behavioural, health, psychological, and economic consequences as vividly exposed in the documentary we have just watched.
“The documentary clearly informed us that gender based violence unarguably affects women in many forms. Women and girls experience sexual violence in their homes, communities, schools, workplaces, streets, markets, police stations and hospitals. The national survey on torture in Nigeria carried out by a non-governmental organization, Women’s Aid Collective, indicated that rape and sexual abuse are forms of torture mostly experienced by women. Of recent, cases of paedophiles are also now commonplace,” he said.
The speaker said while many groups, organizations, and government agencies had been established to identify, prevent, and treat such violence, government’s response to these problems had been piecemeal and not optimally successful.
“A coordinated, cross-disciplinary synthesis of what we know, how we know it, and the necessary next steps is sorely needed to enable us to effectively address these issues. In Lagos, in an attempt to battle the issue of police discretion and inactivity, Lagos held a two-day sensitization workshop on Domestic Violence law as it applied in the state. The Lagos State House of Assembly in this respect passed a law on domestic violence in 2007.
“This is a signal that government and all stakeholders can no longer accept the adornment of domestic violence in the garb of “family affair” but an offence punishable under the law. This law is projected at providing information about support services and encouraging citizens to break the culture of silence by reporting cases of violations and pursuing criminal litigation to punish offenders. The Lagos State domestic violence law made adequate provisions for the granting of protection orders to prevent and protect victims from violence,” he stated.
Obasa said prevention and elimination of violence against women and children required a holistic approach just as pointed out in the objectives of this conference and that it would require increased advocacy and partnerships between the international community, governments, multilateral organizations, private sector companies, and grassroots advocates as well as require empowering women and girls to speak up for themselves and educating men and boys to speak up and speak out for their mothers, wives, partners, sisters, and daughters.
“It will also require adequate legal and judicial frameworks. Above all, it requires the support and cooperation of us all to achieve success in fighting this social menace, hence all hands must be on deck for us to reach our goal,” he stated.
Also, Bakare described violence against women as terrorism at the family and community level, adding that “any man who beats his wife is simply a lunatic because it takes a mad man to beat himself. All perpetrators of violence against women must be swiftly brought to book.”
Founder, Women Arise for Change Initiative, Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin lamented the rising cases of violence against women in the country, saying that such impunity must not be allowed to continue. Okei-Odumakin called on the judiciary to speed up cases of violence against women before it so that the culprits could be punished to serve as deterrent to others.
Lagos Commissioner of Police, appealed to parents not to put their daughters at risk by allowing them to stay with friends or relatives that might brutalise them.