Sexual and Gender Based Violence: The Imperative of an Effective Response Mechanism in Nigeria
Sexual and Gender based violence (SGBV) is one of the most extreme expression of unequal gender relations in society. First and foremost, it is a violation of fundamental human rights and a global health and developmental issue that cuts across economic wealth, culture, religion, age, and sexual orientation. While SGBV is disproportionally affecting women and girls, it also affects men and boys. Wherever SGBV occurs, it is a major obstacle for the achievement of justice and a critical barrier to sustainable development, economic growth and lasting peace. If women, girls, men and boys are not safe, they cannot fully participate in the development of their own society.
In Nigeria, the incidence of SGBV is alarmingly at an all time high; owing to the added atrocities brought on by the ongoing insurgency in the North East, the Herders/Farmers conflict in parts of the country and other insecurities in the country. These conflicts have led to mammoth displacements of women and girls, forced and early marriages, kidnapping, physical, mental or sexual assault and sexual slavery. Beyond conflicts as well is the emerging trend of an increased scale of reports of acid baths, murder of spouses, sodomy of boys and the common and painful occurrences as witnessed in the last 2-3 years in Nigeria. Abuja is also recording in very high numbers incidences and reports of gender based violence. Statistics also from the National Demographic and Health Survey (2013) indicates that nearly 3 in every 10 Nigerian women have experienced physical violence by age 15. Equally disturbing is the NSRP’s report which also shows that approximately 80 million Nigerian women and girls are victims of sexual and gender based violence in Nigeria.
Notwithstanding this troubling information, there has been renewed efforts and vigor in the fight against SGBV internationally and nationally as reflected in various international agreements and concerted efforts by in-country stakeholders to address the scourge. Such efforts include the Violence against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Act, the National Action Plan on UNSCR 1325, bills in the National Assembly which includes the Gender Equality and Opportunities Bill amongst others. One of such laudable efforts is the establishment and institutionalization of sexual assault referral centres and SDVRT Response Teams across the country including the FCT SDVRT response Team which brings together a team of agencies and civil society organisations that are in the forefront of providing holistic support to survivors of SGBV in the Federal Capital Territory-Abuja. This training therefore is apt and coming at an auspicious time to build capacities to address and respond better to incidences of SGBV.
In addressing SGBV, interventions should focus on:
- providing access to appropriate medical and psychosocial support for survivors;
- sharing key messages on safety for women and girls in the community;
- supplying information on how to access available medical, legal, psychosocial services (referral pathways);
- Sustained and deliberate public awareness programs on SGBV
- prevention activities that promote gender equality;
- addressing social stigma, which is a key barrier to survivors accessing services;
- Creating safe spaces for women and girls to gather and discuss issues affecting them and
- The development of standard operating procedures and or protocols for each of the targeted institutions for addressing SGBV and the institutionalization of such policy documents.
Finally, we at CLEEN Foundation are proud to provide this technical support to the FCT SDVRT Response Team with the gracious support from Ford Foundation and we hope that it resonates within Nigeria, Africa and the world at large. At this critical point in the fight against SGBV worldwide, learning, development, skills and experience sharing should be at the forefront if women, men, girls, and boys are to reach their full potentials and harness their aspirations in order to live a life of wellbeing devoid of violence. The entrenchment of gender parity and equality, holistic inclusivity of women and girls in security and peace building (UNSCR 1325), increased advocacy and partnerships between the international community, governments, multilateral organizations, the private sector and civil society are some of the sure ways to address SGBV in a coordinated and effective manner for positive results.
Signed: CLEEN Foundation