Nigeria: 16 Days of Activism – Addressing the pandemic of sexual and gender-based violence against women and girls

A report by the World Health Organization (WHO) focused on the largest study of the prevalence of violence against women. The report was written on behalf of a United Nations ad hoc working group and found that over the course of her lifetime, one in three women is subjected to physical or sexual violence from an intimate partner or from an intimate partner. sexual violence from a non-partner. Given the high levels of stigma and underreporting of sexual abuse, the actual figure may be considerably higher.

If you are a parent of three daughters, have you ever considered the possibility that one of your beautiful daughters experienced some form of sexual violence before their mid-twenties? It is a heartbreaking thought but one that must be considered as violence against women has become a major public health crisis.

In 2020, a social media post posed the hypothetical question,

“What would you do if the world had no men for 24 hours” has gone viral. Some of the responses were:

“Wear what I want and feel safe doing it.”

“Walk alone at night.”

“Be confident on social media.”

“To feel safe.”

According to Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of WHO, violence against women is endemic in all cultures and has been made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic. “But unlike COVID-19, violence against women cannot be stopped with a vaccine. We can only combat it with deep and sustained efforts – by governments, communities and individuals – to change harmful attitudes, improve access to opportunities and services for women and girls, and promote healthy and mutually respectful relationships, ”he said.

Sexual and gender-based violence in Nigeria.

Nigeria is suffering from a crisis of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV). The Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS) 2018 found that 30% of girls and women aged 15-49 have experienced sexual abuse. Instability in the Northeast and the COVID-19 pandemic have exacerbated the situation and served to highlight the depth of the problem. In June 2020, following the increase in reports of sexual violence against women, President Buhari and the Nigerian Governors Forum declared a state of emergency against sexual and gender-based violence in the country.

Twenty states, including the Federal Capital Territory, have passed the Prohibition of Violence Against Persons Act (VAPP) 2015 to provide more protection for women under the law. So far, 6 states are awaiting executive approval. Although the federal and state ministries of women’s affairs, the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) and civil society and humanitarian organizations have made efforts to address the crisis, this this remains a deeply rooted challenge.

Nigeria has 31 Sexual Assault Referral Centers (SARC) responsible for providing free medical assistance, forensic examination advice and legal aid services to survivors of sexual violence in 17 states. However, they cannot function optimally due to a lack of funding from federal and state governments.

16 days of activism against GBV

The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence (GBV) is an annual 30-year international campaign that begins on November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and continues until December 10. , Human Rights Day. It was started by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership, at the first Women’s Global Leadership Institute in 1991, and is arguably the most widely recognized and longest running campaign for women’s rights in the world. Campaign dates were chosen to link violence against women and human rights to highlight that gender-based violence against women is a violation of human rights.

Responding to sexual and gender-based violence in Nigeria

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has been in Nigeria for several years, working closely with the Nigerian government through the Ministry of Women’s Affairs to ensure that women and adolescent girls across the country receive quality health care. To renew UNFPA’s support and commitment to the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women, girls and youth in Nigeria, the United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UNFPA, the Dr Natalia Kanem, was on an official visit to Nigeria from November 24-28, 2021. Her visit coincided with the start of this year’s 16 Days of Activism campaign.

At a press conference on Sunday, November 28, 2021, Dr Kanem discussed the work of UNFPA in Nigeria which focuses on the “three zeros”: having no unmet need for contraception; zero preventable maternal deaths; and zero gender-based violence and harmful practices. She added that “UNFPA intends to help Nigeria achieve the goal of zero gender-based violence. Gender-based violence is a tragic circumstance and a crime that will unfortunately affect one in three Nigerian women and girls throughout her life ”.

Dr Kanem urged men to pledge to stop any situation that puts women or girls at risk. She said: “I call on fathers to make sure that girls know their rights, that their dignity is respected, and I call on women themselves across this country to join hands in solidarity and from the cradle. , teach our children that everyone is equal and that girls are to be respected and loved as the precious human beings that they are ”.

The Spotlight Initiative is another notable global effort to end violence against women and girls. It is a multi-year partnership between the European Union and the United Nations and the largest targeted effort to end all forms of violence against women and girls by 2030. The Initiative represents an unprecedented global effort to invest in gender equality as a prerequisite and driver for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. The Spotlight Initiative also responds to all forms of violence against women and girls, with a focus on domestic and family violence, sexual and gender-based violence and harmful practices, early marriage, trafficking human beings and sexual and economic exploitation (at work). . In Nigeria, the Spotlight Initiative is implemented in six states: Adamawa, Cross River, Ebonyi, Lagos, Sokoto and the FCT.

Sexual and gender-based violence has significant social and economic repercussions, not only for the victim, but also for communities and the country as a whole. Nigeria must join other countries in honoring their commitments for increased and strong political will and leadership to address violence against women and girls in all its forms. This can be achieved by creating transformative gender policies that build a society free from all forms of discrimination, encourage victims of SGBV to report cases because they are sure to be heard fairly and promise a country where women are. assured of their safety inside and outside their homes. .

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