An aid worker with a non-governmental organisation, Plan International Nigeria has decried the prevalence of sexual harassment in the country.
Anne-Marie McCarthy, Regional Lake Chad Programme Manager at Plan International said sexual harassment and violence against women are rampant problems in the country.
She spoke on Tuesday at a round-table on the protection of girls and women to mark the end of 16 days of activism against gender-based violence in Abuja.
The 16 days of activism against Gender-Based Violence (GBV) was an international campaign used to galvanise action to end violence against women and girls (VAWG) around the world.
Since its initiation by the first Women’s Global Leadership Institute in 1991, the Campaign which is active between 25 November – 10 December, has over 6000+ organisations in about 187 countries participating to reach over 300 million people globally.
According to McCarthy, impunity remained the major militating factor fueling sexual violence against women.
“The failure to bring perpetrators of sexual violence to justice remains the major factor against finding safe spaces for girls and women in Nigeria.
Legislations without enforcement amount to nothing in the battle to protect women from sexual exploitation. “Earlier in his welcome remarks, the Ambassador of Sweden to Nigeria, His Excellency, Carl Michael Gräns said the world is faced with extraordinary challenges in relation to the systematic and widespread use of sexual and gender-based violence.
He identified gender-based violence to include: domestic violence, sexual violence, female genital mutilation, child marriage and human trafficking, which he described as the most extreme form of gender inequality.
Gräns said, “preventing based violence and promoting gender equality is also closely linked to peaceful societies and political participation of women, as well as women’s full enjoyment of other human rights, such as economic rights and the right to education.”
The Swedish ambassador further noted that to confront the problem, “political commitment and national ownership are imperative to address both the violence itself and the root causes.
He revealed that Sweden pursues a feminist foreign and development policy which was predicated on rights, representation, resources and reality.
Speaking in the same manner, participants at the event were unanimous in calling on the government to take ownership of the battle against sexual violence, adding that there a need to provide psychosocial supports for survivors.
They called for synergy among critical criminal justice sector stakeholders and security agencies that would lead to the swift prosecution of perpetrators of gender-based violence in Nigeria, calling for a review of existing legislation that have hindered the smooth trial of culprits.