BusinessDay

FG opens 33 assault referral centres for victims of gender-based violence

...as OXFAM advocates gender-responsive budgeting to curb violence

The Federal Government, in a bid to reinstate victims of gender-based violence, has established 33 sexual assault referral centres (SARCs) across the country.

This was disclosed by the minister of women affairs, Pauline Tallen, who stressed the need for increased interest in protecting and preventing violence against women and vulnerable individuals during a symposium/public lecture in commemoration of the 16 days of activism.

SARCs are specialist medical and forensic services for anyone who has been raped or sexually assaulted. They are designed to provide private space for interviews and forensic examinations, and some may also offer sexual health and counselling services.

According to the minister, leaders must ensure that their communities are safe havens for survivors and must hand over perpetrators of gender-based crimes to law enforcement agents.

“They must ensure that prospective settlers in their communities are properly profiled before they are allowed to properly settle in.

“To all families and members of society, we must stop shaming survivors, we must believe them, we must protect them and be proactive in assisting them to access service centres.

“Efforts are ongoing to create a link to all sexual assault referral centres in Nigeria, as 33 of such centres were currently operating across the country.

She noted that despite progress made, funding for federal and state ministries of women affairs is at 0.083 percent for federal, while some states have funded budget lines for the ministry of women affairs in one or two years.

“We are happy that the budget call circular 2023 affirms gender responsive budgeting. We advocate for better funding of social sectors generally to ensure that no one is left out of the dividends of democracy,” she said.

Read also: NGO unveils trust fund to end gender violence

Vincent Ahonsi, country director, Oxfam in Nigeria, advocated the adoption of gender-responsive budgeting that allows for social protection for women and other vulnerable groups in society, as a tool to curb austerity in the country.

According to Ahonsi, Oxfam has recognised austerity measures and their gendered harm as a form of gender-based violence this year, adding that the creation of vast opportunities for women to economically advance themselves is a critical step in tackling poverty.

“Findings from the “Assault of Austerity” study launched on November 25, 2022 in Addis-Ababa, Ethiopia, showed that four out of every five governments are now locked into tight and stringent socio-economic measures.

“That is, reducing public services like health, education, and social protection rather than strengthening the social structures and pursuing wealth taxes and windfall taxes for economic recovery.

The country director, who was represented by Ifufun Akinduro, stated that more than half of these government-existing policies widened the inequality gaps rather than bridging the already existing gaps.

“We call for decent work, particularly for women in informal and unpaid care work through the full implementation of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) standards, the adoption of the revised National Gender Policy, the implementation of the MALABO protocol, and MAPUTO protocol, Abuja Declaration, the implementation of VAPP Act, and other related policies.

“We can no longer afford to neglect women. We invite other stakeholders to go beyond these 16 days to influence, strive and see that we end gender-based violence in Nigeria,” he said.