BY JA’IDA KATO
Gender based violence is one of the most (if not the most) prominent human rights violation which cuts across all gender, society, social status, race, tribe, religion, culture, work of life etc. Howbeit as described above, the majority of the victims are females (women and girls). This, however, does not negate the male (men and boys) victims.
On the 10th of December, 2020 marked the end of this year’s 15 days Gender Based Violence awareness and hopefully we hope it does not end as this pandemic keeps spreading. A few days ago we woke up to the viral video of a woman (Dr. Mrs Ifeyinwa Angbo) who called out her husband (Mr Angbo) for assaulting her in front of her kids with a bloody face as evidence, this is shortly after a retired lecturer of the Kaduna State Polytechnic shot his wife in the eye before pulling the trigger on himself. Some years back we read about a banker (Ronke Shonde) and mother of two, who was beaten to death by her husband (Lekan Shonde), we also have the case of Maryam Sanda who allegedly killed her husband and sentenced to death. In recent times, we have read and seen an up-rise of women killing their spouses in the northwest part of Nigeria too (not excluding other parts of the country). These and many more like it are stories that flood our social media timelines, various news channels and our daily newspapers. Unfortunately, close to little is being done about this as the cases keep rising, these are the few out of many that make it to the news.
For a pandemic (Gender Based Violence) of this magnitude, we need not wait for designated days in a year to talk about it or do something about it. Again, it is not okay that we raise our banner and cry out in one voice when a case becomes prominent and it dies down as fast as it started and life goes on till another case breaks the internet. What happens to those silent cases that happens silently, most times with no witness or silenced by our ‘quiet/mind your business’ code of conducts. Most surprising and appalling are excuses/reasons given for this grievous act.
It is apposite to note that domestic violence (like other types of Gender Based Violence) goes beyond just the act, especially if there are children involved like the aforesaid cases. It has been proven by researchers like D. Bacchini that children who grow up in abusive homes go through same trauma as children who grow up in war torn zones like Syria and some part of the north right now. The tendency of them repeating same act or being abused is high. It is pertinent to also note that most criminals today were victims directly or indirectly (i.e. grew up in abusive homes) were abused as kids. If nothing is being done, this is a ticking bomb waiting to happen as it is we are literally working in a field of mines.
Gender Based Violence though most prevalent domestically, has gained grounds outside the walls of the home. This can be seen in the rise of rape cases of both girls, women and of most recent children too (including boys). Nowhere seems to be safe anymore as in the case of the young girl who was raped and murdered in church in Edo State some months back, a young girl of five was also found dead in a mosque after being raped and the plight of the almajiri boys on our northern streets. We see these cases in schools, place of worship, at home, on our streets etc. we can’t continue like this.
Interviewing some ladies from an IDP camp in the northeast, they told the sad stories of what they had to face when they were captured and now that they are in the camps. It is literally a case of 6 and half a dozen as they are still faced with Gender Based Violence, ranging from rape, physical abuse and exploitation. Here in the camps, some of them have been victims of ‘baby factories’ as they fell/fall into the hands of women who came and promised them a better life in the east as domestic staffs. On getting to the east, they realized it was a baby factory with nothing they could do. This and a lot like it is what women and girls face in these camps daily.
Salisu (not real name), is a young man with a family who worked with the government. His boss who is over 10 years his seniour made advances at him and asked that he married her, Salisu turned down her request and she made life hell for him till he resigned. This, I believe is one of many cases that goes unreported and it still goes on. We are more conversant with sexual harassment on women in the work place. How many lives are ruined and still being ruined in this stance?
These few real life examples buttresses the fact that Gender Based Violence cuts across religion, tribe, race, qualification, gender etc. It is closer than we think. Gender Based Violence is most times targeted at the most vulnerable amongst us and that is why most victims are women and children, unfortunately the perpetrators are most times people we know and trust. How do we begin to report our spouse, the father of our children, Or a religious leader, an uncle, aunt, teacher etc. Then comes the societal stigmatization, you leave an abusive marriage and be termed ‘divorced’, then comes the issue of the kids coming from ‘broken homes’. A man will be laughed at if he dares comes out to say he is being abused as we saw in the case of an On Air Personality (Daddy Freeze) some years back. Rape victims are most times being blamed, “what was she wearing, What was she doing there, why was she out at that time” these and many more like it are questions asked as if “Do Not Rape” is not enough. What do we say about a baby/toddler that is being raped, do we ask the aforementioned too?
What can I do?
Awareness can never be enough and yes, it should not have an expiry date. In the spirit of ‘HeForShe’ this is not just a ‘woman’ course but a human course, men need be very vocal about calling this out too not because she is your wife, daughter, sister, friend, mother, colleague (they all count) but because she is a human being just like you. The fight against Gender Based Violence should be of high National interest and concern with women (being most of the victims) not just being human but constituting half of the population thereby contributing in National development as well. With that percentage of the population being abused how do we have and maintain a sustainable development? How does she have the mental stability to pull her weight in raising responsible adults in the society tomorrow? The religious leaders also have a part to play by creating more awareness in their congregation, village heads, schools, etc. A lot needs to be done in the Gender department of our security institutions especially the Police in this regard, we are tired of hearing the police tell victims “this is a family affair” when they report. The judiciary also comes into play as there are cases where because it is the woman that seeks for annulment is being frustrated because “it is a man’s world” comes to play.
Mrs Itoro, is the founder of Mirabel Center, the first Sexual Assault Referral Center (SARC) In Nigeria. She has opened other SARCs across the country (just launched the Sokoto) and has provided support to over 5525+ victims and still counting. Hopefully Mirabel Center and its kind gets more support and we have more people rising to task of aiding in the curbing and elimination of this menace. Just like Protection of Civilians is of necessity in conflict situations, this should be treated and handled in like manner. Gender Based Violence is a conflict situation and the government has that responsibility to protect its citizen. The Violence against Person Prohibition (VAPP) needs to be domesticated in all the States of the Federation. The GBV response teams across the country needs to be accessible and more need be created, this includes the directory of service providers to reach in times of emergency. More sensitization of the citizens in knowing their rights need be made through all available medium continually.
I have purposely left the technicalities involved in discussing Gender Based Violence so the layman on the street can relate and understand what we are talking and hopefully a conversation begins and continues.
GENDER CONSULTANT/SECURITY SPECIALIST