Poor commitment to the implementation of policies on women rights has been said to remain the bane in actualising the campaign against Gender Based Violence (GBV) in the country. ENE OSHABA writes.
The world for women is tilting to a dangerous part with the increase in gender based violence and no repercussions for offenders, women and girls are losing confidence and recoiling into shells thereby not contributing adequately to national development.
Human rights advocates at different fora have stressed the need for the rights of women to be protected and respected.
It is to this end that the need for legislative advocacy for women’s rights, which is the campaign for certain laws to be made to protect women’s human rights, is being emphasised and encouraged if there would be meaningful headway in ensuring the total eradication of every form of Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG).
Human rights are the rights that accrue to a person as a result of being a human being. These are different and broader than fundamental human rights.
Why fight for rights?
As explained in the training manual on capacity and support for CSO’s on legislative engagements, treaty monitoring and shadow reporting for women’s rights to end VAWG during a Two-day legislative advocacy training for women’s rights organisations by the Women Aid Collective (WACOL) in collaboration with the United Nations Women under the spotlight Initiative project, the campaign has become necessary because of gross violation of human rights taking place in various parts of the world.
The United Nations Declaration of Human Rights (UNDHR) 1948, insights that the world needs to be reminded of atrocities committed during the World War II and the events that led to adoption of the events that led to adoption of the UNDHR proclamation on the Rights and freedom of all human beings.
Also, as proclaimed by the UN General Assembly, the universal declaration of human rights is a common standard of achievement for all peoples and nations , to the end that every individual, every organ of society, keeping this declaration constantly in mind , shall strive by teaching and education, to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance both among the peoples of member states themselves and among the people of territories under their jurisdiction.
Therefore, the UN hopes to attain a world where everyone enjoys human rights without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion, and Nigeria is not an exemption.
According to the Director, Abuja Metropolitan Office of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Aisha Kaltungu, under the international declaration of human rights all human beings are equal but society has made a demarcation whereby some rights are ascribed to men and others to women.
Kaltungu explained that there are provisions in Nigeria laws that condemns any forms of gender based violence, regretting however that implementation has remained the problem and therefore why women and girls especially are vulnerable.
“VAW has been going on in the society and it is entrenched in the culture of silence, but right now the government, CSO’s and human rights advocates are pursuing for the elimination of the menace from the society.
“When there is a law against the act it will go a long way to reducing the prevalence because there is this culture of impunity in the society where people feel they can do anything and get away with it,” she said.
Need to respect women and girls right
According to the manual, women and girls rights are also human rights as guaranteed by the United Nations, hence the establishment of the United Nations Commission, the Status of Women, and adoption of the first specific convention in 1953 which stressed the need to focus on women who have suffered particular discrimination on grounds of sex and gender.
Speaking to Blueprint weekend, the Founding Director, WACOL/Tamar SARC and former UN Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons Especially Women and Children, Professor of Public Law Joy Ngozi Ezeilo (OON), noted the spike in spousal beating, rape, children abandonment, female genital mutilation, early marriage due to poverty level, harmful widowhood practices are all on the increase since the outbreak of Coronavirus which lead to a lockdown in the country.
Ezeilo, while emphasising the importance of strengthening and support for CSO’s on legislative engagements, treaty monitoring and shadow reporting for women’s rights, including ending VAWG blamed the lack of implementation of extant laws as well as adequate laws and support services for victims and survivors of gender based violence for the increase in violence against women and girls.
She said, “Laws are not implemented and that’s why people continue violence against women. The impunity at which the human rights of women and girls are violated calls for the zero tolerance signal through accountability, and the best way to do accountability is through prosecution and sanction else people will continue to commit the crime and think it’s okay to batter their wives, or to rape a woman.
“There is violence all over the country, and this is worsened by insecurity, we have to create the awareness having the law at hand.
“Nigeria has ratified lots of international and regional human rights treaties such as CEDAW, African Protocols on the Rights of Women signed since 1985 and three decades after nothing much has been achieved but we want NGO’s to have the capacity to also submit a shadow report to the UN to hold government accountable and also have dialogue to partner with government on women issues.”
VAW also known as Gender Based Violence GBV and Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) are violent acts exclusively on women or girls committed specifically because they are female , these acts is basically directed at women and girls which causes physical, sexual, psychological, verbal, emotional or economic harm in private or public life.
Facilitating a session at the training, Dr. Uche Nwoke enumerated the effects of VAW in any society, saying the act demeans, dehumanises and leads to loss of productivity from women.
“The time women should use in being productive, violence on them makes them use same time to take care of themselves and their injuries which on the other hand leads to loss of income to the family. If a woman who goes out to make money is injured, she cannot go out to make money, she will also need treatment which the family must pay for and this is loss of income, loss of money to the family.
He further described violence as an act which may lead to scars on a woman which she may carry over to her own family; this also puts some women off from marriage.
“This is why some women will say if this is what my mother witnessed I don’t want to marry, or some will say if this is what my mother suffered I will retaliate and the cycle continues.
“VAW is adverse to the woman, the community, and to the nation. Therefore government as law and policy makers must be prepared to do the right thing to reduce if not eradicate the occurrence of violence against women in our society.
“They need to promulgate laws, formulate policies, and harness resources available to ensure that women’s rights are protected.
Need for legislation, policies
It’s been said that both legislation and policies are necessary and vital in the administration of justice and human rights campaign.
Legislative process in Nigerian as provided for in the constitution is the process where a bill originates in the Senate or House of Representatives and thereafter passed and Presidential assent expected in 30 days.
Though many bills which have been passed into law exists, others are yet to be passed. The implementation of those passed into law is a major challenge to women attaining their full human rights in the country.
Many cases of VAWG has had perpetrators working Scot free and this has attracted lots of concerns from stakeholders, hence the need to engage in legislative advocacy, to eliminate all forms of VAWG and advance gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls in Nigeria.
Kaltungu advocated the need for more sensitization and awareness creation on the human rights of all and especially why women should know their rights and to know when they are being violated to seek solution.
“A lot of people especially women and girls are vulnerable because they do not know their rights if women and girls are aware that no law or culture supports violation and that there are legislations against it then they can speak out for their rights and they will get justice.
Meanwhile, Professor Ezeilo has stressed that women and girls based CSO’s must understand the critical processes in legislative advocacy for women’s human rights and also International treaty obligations and their roles as civil society and gender focused organizations in holding the government accountable through shadow reporting and monitoring of treaty implementation by all arms of government.
She added that CSO’s must follow-up recommendations on Nigeria by treaty bodies relevant to advancing women’s rights, gender equality and elimination of all forms of violence against women and girls.
“This training is important because we are talking about how responsive are the laws, are they responsive enough to deal with the gravity perpetrated against women, are these laws adequate to be able to deal with the consequences of this violence?
“What about the support system because people don’t often see the connection between the law and budget: budgeting for gender work, services for victims and survivors, and these are very important because we need laws that will support the rehabilitation, recovery, supporting processes for seeking redress for victims and survivors to access justice so if people understand the legislative processes.
“In Nigeria some states have laws while some don’t have laws so part of the advocacy is for people to know the peculiarities in their states , note the kind of law they will like to see implemented in their states and then ensure that as private member bills, those laws are initiated in their states ot initiate such at national assembly and this work naturally falls on the civil society organisations, human and civil rights defenders that calls for justice for women and girls, and victims and survivors of violence.”
Call to govt
The Director NHRC has called for the strengthening of the institutions in charge of implementation and enforcement of the rights of citizens, stating it was the only way the menace can reduce.
“CSO’s are active in the fight against human rights abuses, we need to know what we are supposed to do as actors, as stakeholders, such as sensitizing the masses because a lot of people are vulnerable because they do not know their rights,” she said.
Similarly, the Executive Director, Life Helpers Initiative, a human rights based CSO Tayo Fatinikun, has said that: “Government should know that they are accountable to women and girls as females and they are entitled to their rights in a democratic state and government must live up to expectations by enacting appropriate laws that will enhance gender equality that will send a signal of zero tolerance of violence against women and girls and also encourage their empowerment so they can actualize and realize their full potential.
“Any violence that threatens the lives of women and girls is inhuman, degrading and it is the role of government to protect, respect extant laws including the international laws and to remedy if there is a violation.
“Government declared a state of emergency but they are not implementing this so government should invest more in women and increase the budget to ensure that the right services are provided to victims and survivors of GBV.
“We want an end to impunity and government should ensure that people who perpetrate violence are appropriately sanctioned in accordance with the law in order to eliminate the scourge.”
Similarly, Fatinikun, who was a participant at the training, stated that there is the need for government to provide enabling framework to bring needed change, calling also the need for the implementation of existing laws that protects the rights of women and girls.
“VAWG is a big and terrible problem; we haven’t seen a top of it in terms of its impact on women and girls. Can you imagine situation where eight-month-old baby is raped? They keep blaming all manner of things for the act but that is total madness.
“We have received strange cases like recently an 8year old girl was raped by seven men in Sokoto state, we have situation where boys are sodomized, again an indigent girl was raped, impregnated, and the family of the rapist offered them 20,000 for them to keep quiet just because they are poor. If there are no enabling laws and policies you cannot drive a societal change.”