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WIMBIZ advocates prompt action against sexual and gender-based violence

A study recently commissioned by the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development; and the United Nations Population Fund (UNPFA) found that 28% of Nigerian women aged 25-29 (surveyed) have experienced some form of physical or sexual violence since the age of 15.

In response to the call for positive action against the rising number of cases of sexual and gender-based violence in Nigeria, the Nigerian Senate passed a bill against sexual harassment in tertiary institutions on 8th of July 2020. In addition, an Inter-Ministerial Gender-Based Violence Management Committee was appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari on 23rd July 2020.

To build on the momentum created by the actions of the Government, Women in Management, Business and Public Service (WIMBIZ), held a special program themed ‘’Take A Stand: Say NO to Sexual & Gender-Based Violence’’ on Saturday, August 1, 2020.

The event which held virtually with over 250 participants in attendance, brought to the fore, key observations about the scourge of Sexual & Gender-Based Violence and strategic actions to curtail its unprecedented increasing prevalence in Nigeria.

Read also: COVID-19: Sexual harassment on the rise

CRITICAL OBSERVATIONS

1. Patriarchal thinking which promotes gender inequality is at the root of Gender-Based Violence.
2. Patriarchy which is entrenched in cultural and social structures in Nigeria make women vulnerable to sexual assault.
3. A 2016 research investigating the reasons for sexual assault and rape was conducted by the Domestic & Sexual Violence Response Team (DSVRT), in partnership with the Nigerian Correctional Service. This research, in which 140 convicts of sex related offences participated, revealed the following:

80.5% had their first sexual encounter at 6 through rape
65% became sexually active at the age of 14
60% were gainfully employed
40% were addicted to pornography
10% were under the influence of hard drugs

The result from the survey further debunked the myth that sexual offenders do not have a means of livelihood.
Convicted paedophiles (serving time for child defilement) stated that low self-esteem, impotency and lack of self-worth were triggers for committing the crime.
Those convicted of domestic violence related crimes stated that low self-esteem and an exposure to spousal and partner violence at a young age normalized domestic violence to them and led to their actions.
None of those convicted for sexual offences and related crimes stated the victim’s mode of dressing at the time of attack, as a reason for perpetuating the crime.
4. The Coronavirus pandemic and ensuing lockdown significantly increased Sexual and Gender-Based Domestic Violence. Globally, reported cases of sexual assault which stood at 20 million before the lockdown increased by 20%. In Nigeria, the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs recorded 3600 new cases; Women at Risk International Foundation (WARIF) recorded:
64% increase in calls – 72% of the calls were from women locked in with their abusers. 80% increase in online requests from women.
5. Social bias, survivor shaming and stigmatization foster the culture of rape and sexual assault in Nigeria.
6. Sexual abuse amongst children (child on child) and marital rape are rife in Nigeria, but generally unreported.
7. Victimhood appears incompatible with masculinity. However, violence against men is a reality in the Nigerian society. According to the Domestic & Sexual Violence Response Team (DSVRT):
In 2016, out of 450 reported case of domestic violence, 40 were from men
In 2017, out of 1044 reported case of domestic violence, 144 were from men

AFFIRMATIVE ACTIONS TO CURB SEXUAL AND GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE IN NIGERIA
Sexual and Gender-Based Violence has damaging and lasting effects on the health and wellbeing of individuals and by extension their communities. Accelerating change and reorientation remains an urgent priority.

Outlined below are some suggested affirmative actions to curb Sexual and Gender-Based Violence:
1. Public education and socialisation aimed at preventing the deterioration in the mental and psychological health conditions of sexual assault victims.
2. To protect minors, a strategic sensitization exercise on setting boundaries, identifying potential predators, speaking up and saying NO to unsolicited physical contact.
3. An increase in Government support for survivors through a strengthening of the social organizations who provide help to victims and ensure that they are not further traumatised when they seek help.
4. Studies exploring the intersection of financial dependency and violence against women have revealed that victims of sexual assault and domestic abuse are financially dependent on their abusers. An introduction of Government-led robust empowerment schemes such as, access to soft loans, grants, skill acquisition programs to minimize the return of victims and survivors to their abusers out of necessity.

AGENCIES THAT PROVIDE SUPPORT FOR SEXUAL & GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE SURVIVORS
• National Agency for Prohibiting Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP)
• Mirabel Centre
• Stand to end rape
• Hands Off Initiative
• Wine and Whine NG
• Women at Risk International Foundation (WARIF)
• Project alert

WIMBIZ is a non-profit organization which over the last 18 years, has implemented programs that inspire, empower, and advocate for more excellent representation of women in leadership positions in the public and private sector. WIMBIZ has a contributory associate pool of over 750 accomplished women in management, business, and public service and over 9,700 women in its database. Since inception, we have collaborated with credible domestic and international organizations to deliver programs that have influenced more than 116,262 women.

The WIMBIZ Special Event was Chaired by
• Ijeoma Taylaur, Executive Director at Alpha African Advisory Limited; Executive Council Member, Women in Management, Business and Public Service (WIMBIZ)

Moderated by
• Ifeoma I. Idigbe, Financial and Business Analyst; Founding Trustee, Women in
Management, Business and Public Service (WIMBIZ); Founder, boys to MEN Foundation; Panelists were
• Josephine Effah Chukwuma, Founder & Executive Director, Project Alert on Violence Against Women;
• Professor Ayodele Olurotimi Coker, MD (Rom), Msc. (Psychology), FWACP (Psychiatry), Professor, Lagos State University College of Medicine (LASUTH);
• Titilola Vivour Adeniyi, Public Administrator & Coordinator, Lagos State Domestic & Sexual Violence Response Team;
• Dr. Kemi DaSilva Ibru, MD, MPH Consultant Specialist, Obstetrics & Gynecology; Founder, Women at Risk International Foundation (WARIF).

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