Banishing the cancer called gender-based violence

Violence of various sorts has permeated in various aspects of our national life. From homes to the academic environment to places of work to the neighbourhood and even the social media, it’s still the same tale of woes. Sadly, this trend, instead of abating has assumed a more disturbing dimension in most recent times, probably occasioned by the harsh economic realities of the moment, increasing demand for protection of rights of the vulnerable and poor awareness of anger management.

Expectedly, like many other unwittingly endorsed crude and demeaning practices in our society, child marriage, domestic, sexual, verbal, and other genres of physical and emotional violence have continued to attract little or no condemnation by those who ought to speak up. Interestingly, the womenfolk have remained the worse hit in this antithetical culture.

According to a 2018 report by United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) in Nigeria, from January to December 2017, a total number of 1,639 survivors and those at risk of SGBV were referred to access specialized services including psychosocial counseling, medical care, legal and safety and security services. This number without any iota of doubt does not represent the total number of such cases across the country.

To buttress this assertion, there is hardly any day we do not hear of physical or sexual violence against persons and minors alike in our environments or somewhere else. With the advent of social media, many of such cases which hitherto were swept under the carpet are now beginning to come to the public glare. From randy neighbours to callous school managers, to incestuous fathers, uncles and other blood relatives, including some individuals masquerading as religious leaders, the stories have remained the same. Sadly, in a society where reports of such nature is seen as a dent on the moral of the victim and a burden to her already troubled soul, a lot of gender-based violence have been sealed in the belly of long lasting secret while the predators walk with their shoulders high, scavenging for more victims in their kitty. Few of the reported cases emanated from the urban centres where there is an appreciable level of awareness, access to the social media platforms and indeed the mainstream media. What then becomes of the fate of the Aishas, Ugonmas and Yemisis residing in the remotest parts of our dear country who also face similar challenges?

Ochanya Eliabeth Ogbaje again is a sad reminder of how we have failed as a society to be on the side of the victim and publicly shame the perpetrators of such evils acts among us. In a 2018 intervention titled “Ochanya: When We’re All Violated” this writer attributed the demise of Ochanya, a teenage schoolgirl who was raped to death by her uncle and son she lived within Benue state to uncertain reaction of the society to her plight. She was unsure of what treatment awaits her if she eventually speaks up on the perennial sexual exploitation and father and son festival of gang rape she endured. Not even the wife of Mr. Ogbuja, the rape knight could give the helpless Ochanya a shoulder, a lady under whose roof the little education seeking teenager passed on in a gruesome manner, bearing with her a heart full of grief, pain and unexpressed frustrations.  

The disturbing viral picture of a 10-year-old rape victim, Masenengen Targba who recently put to birth through cesarean section (CS) in Benue speaks volume on how much sexual violence reigns supreme in our midst. There is never a short supply of this saddening and sickening story in any blog site one can click on.

Men are not immune from domestic or sexual abuse. Men who suffer random abuse in their various homes have on their own maintained an unholy silence in the name of protecting the ego of their masculine while their spouses continue to have a field day mindlessly torturing them physically, verbally and denying them their conjugal rights. They are afraid that they may be mocked when they speak up. This is more prevalent in households where the wife is the breadwinner. The story of the abused husband if ever told is grossly undertold. 

The legion of legal system in our country has not done enough in deterring violence against persons or provided succour through speedy dispensation of justice to both the victim, accused and the society. They should be strengthened to function optimally without fear or favour. A lot of people still wonder why a certain Adamawa senator who allegedly assaulted a lady in an Abuja adult shop still walks the street a free man.

There should be concerted efforts by two adults who have decided to live under one roof as husband and wife to make their union work, without hoping and working toward a showdown. They should hold tenaciously the first love that attracted them to each other.

Lastly, our children deserve a peaceful society where respect, love and care for everyone is a virtue irrespective of their gender, religion, social status or colour of skin. We cannot co-habit with gender-based violence. It is cancerous and should be banished now.

Enemanna is an Abuja-based journalist.

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