The Minister of Women Affairs, Dame Pauline Tallen, has cried out over the increasing cases of kidnap of school girls and killings of innocent citizens, calling on pepetrators of Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) to leave children alone to grow in a peaceful and safe environment.
Dame Tallen made the postulation, Tuesday, in Abuja during the presentation of a report on the impact of Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Acts and related Laws in Nigeria, a research conducted by the Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD).
She blamed the continuous VAWG on the inadequate and weak enforcement of laws against the menace, adding that the incidences of Gender Based Violence (GBV) in Nigeria, particularly in rural areas has become a developmental concern because of the grave consequences for the health and security of rural women and girls.
According to her, GBV had also contributed to minimal participation of rural and urban women in all spheres of life such as increased poverty and other related diseases, calling on all relevant authorities and citizens to intensify efforts towards zero tolerance on GBV in the country.
“VAWG incidences is exacerbated amongst others by inadequate and weak enforcement mechanism of relevant laws; lack of domestication of relevant laws at all levels, the inefficient handling of GBV issues by security personnel and others,” she said.
The minister, while commending WFD and other stakeholders, called on states yet to domesticate and implement the VAPP Act to do so I other to eliminate GBV and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“All hands must be on deck to ensure the total elimination of GBV. The inability to get justice for victims indicates a gap that needs to be filled and this calls for urgent attention of all stakeholders as we continue to appeal to all states to give credence to our demands for gender justice in the country,” she said.
“I wish to reiterate that the domestication of the VAPP Act will ensure the elimination of discriminatory practices in Nigeria as we together work toward the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” she added.
In his welcome address, WFD County Representative Adebowale Olorunmola, said the VAPP Act will promote citizen participation in both formal and informal process, encourage women, youths, Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) to be part of decision making that affects their everyday lives.
He noted that a high percentage of women and girls have experienced one form of violence or abuse, saying this has also deterred women from fully participating in politics.
“The health of any nation’s democracy is determined by the citizens that participate in their elections. Last elections had only 34% of citizens’ participation which is the lowest Nigeria has ever recorded and so we all need to work towards totally eradicating all forms of violence,” he stressed.
Olorunmola further stressed the need for an inclusive politics free from violence, which would encourage women to participate in electoral process.
“We need to work with stakeholders, political parties and their chieftains to ensure that the process is free of violence to enable citizens including women to participate as candidates to be elected and electorates to vote people of their choice,”he said.
In his remarks, the Director General, National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons, (NAPTIP), Imaan Sulaiman – Ibrahim, represented by the Director, Legal and Prosecution Hassan Tahir, disclosed that the agency has secured over 600 convictions since the signing of the law in 2015.
He lauded WFD for the research, saying the report findings will serve as guide on best practices, success and challenges that could be encountered in the implementation of the VAPP Act.
Presenting the report, the Lead Researcher, Mrs Bunmi Dipo-Salami, said the aim of the study was to assess the adoption, successes and challenges to the implementation of the VAPP Act which was enacted in 2015, as well as other anti-violence against women legislations.
Dipo-Salami said the research was undertaken in the FCT and selected states across the six geopolitical zones; Abia, Akwa Ibom, Anambra, Bauchi, Cross River, Edo, Enugu, Kaduna, Lagos, Osun, and Plateau.
She explained that the findings revealed significant improvement in the implementation of the VAPP Act and related laws because of greater awareness due to enlightenment activities carried out by different stakeholders.
The Lead Researcher, therefore called for collaboration among critical stakeholders and deliberate steps to ensure that Prosecutors and Counsels apply the VAPP law in charging cases of VAWG and not just the Penal Code.
“There must be a multi-prong approach to alleviate women’s poverty which was identified as one of the factors that heighten the vulnerability of women and girls to all forms of sexual and gender-based violence,”she said.
Other highlights of the day was the unveiling of the report on the “Impact of the VAPP Act and related laws in Nigeria” by the minister of women affairs, Mrs Pauline Tallen.