Mitigating impact of violent crimes on women, children

As the country continues to battle rising crime rate ENE OSHABA examines the impact of violent crimes on women and girls amidst proliferation of small arms and light weapons.

Amnesty International (AI) studies indicate that intimate partner violence and gun violence are inextricably linked, just as it impacts negatively millions of women, families, and communities across the US and other countries of the world.

The AI have also noted that abusers with firearms are five times more likely to kill their victims, even as possession of guns further exacerbate the power and control dynamic used by abusers to inflict emotional abuse and exert coercive control over their victims.

In February and March 2021, Amnesty International interviewed 22 people in a cluster of villages in northern Borno state that Boko Haram has repeatedly attacked since late 2019. It findings indicated that during violent raids Boko Haram fighters killed people trying to flee and looted livestock, money, and other valuables.

“As Boko Haram continue their relentless cycle of killings, abductions and looting, they are also subjecting women and girls to rape and other sexual violence during their attacks. These atrocities are war crimes,” the report further stated.

Arms proliferation

The effects of the proliferation of small arms, other light weapons and ammunitions is expanding daily as it’s being encouraged by political party thuggery which experts have said is the gateway through which arms enter the country.

According to the Coordinator Civil Society Organisations (CSO) Benue state, who is also the Executive Director, Community Links Human Empowerment Initiative, Dr. Helen Teghtegh, every election year arms enter into the country and after the elections it is difficult to collect the arms from unemployed youths deployed as thugs by politicians hence who they turn to blooming ‘crime industry’ in harassing and kidnapping innocent citizens.

Teghtegh also noted that proliferation of arms has been possible due to the porous nature of the Nigerian borders.

“In Nigeria, there are particular states where local arms are fabricated yet arms are being imported through Borno – Niger, Kwande – Cameron, borders among others.

“The issue of unemployment is a major challenge. Data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) data shows that 600 million youths are uneducated and unemployed and with the displacement of Boko Haram and bandits the numbers may increase and these youths are ready to carry arms to earn a living,” she noted.

Political, communal crises fuel proliferation

Similarly, the Executive Director, Gender and Community Empowerment Initiative (GECOME) Dorcas Iorkusa, blamed the proliferation of arms on political and communal crises.

Iorkusa noted the unending Farmer/Herder crises in the North Central part of the country, adding that arms are being acquired to “perpetrate castle rustling.

“To silence this will be difficult but government has to be alert. The lack of accountability for crimes committed is an issue and must be looked into if guns can be silenced in the country,” she maintained.

Also speaking to Blueprint Weekend, Princess Hamman Obel, said that economic downturn was a major driver of gun violence, noting that the closure of the Seme Borders disrupted many businesses thereby aggravating crises in the country.

She added that weak accountability mechanism such the inability of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to successfully prosecute and hold people accountable for crimes committed gave room for others to commit crimes with any means.

“The EFCC since 10 years have not had headway in prosecuting and holding people accountable. Elections are violent and the exclusion of persons from decision making can be blamed for gun violence in the country,” she said.

Impact on women

Survivors and witnesses of violent attacks have shared different stories of abuses such as well as other forms of sexual and gender based violence including rape, forced and early marriage as a result of being displaced from their homes and original communities.

One major abuse for the women and girls is that of their sexuality, women are at the mercy of the men who share food; determine who stays inside the camp; while the girls and younger women who lost their husbands due to gun violence are harassed sexually and their bodies turned into pleasure items for the men.

In Borno state, where there are so many of Internally Displaced Peoples (IDP) camps, it was observed that some security officials meant to protect the people, especially women and girls, end up abusing them sexually, through intimidation because they bear guns and other arms.

Recounting her experience, Falmata Ibrahim, who was physically assaulted by Boko Haram fighters in Borno, noted that she and other women hid her husband from being abducted; however, following threats by guns wielding insurgents to reveal where her husband was she has continued to be traumatised.

She said: “I was with my baby and two other children, my sister and her kids were with us too including our neighbour’s children, who we couldn’t find because there was shooting and everybody running and some missed their parents.

“The Boko Haram terrorists said they would kill my baby and shoot all of us if I didn’t reveal where my husband was hiding. We had disguised him and hid him in-between sacks of grains. We were all scared but when my husband saw they weren’t leaving us alone he came out of hiding so they won’t shoot us,” she narrated.

Sharing similar experiences during the interview with Falmata, two other women narrated how scared they were seeing men being killed in their presence.

They said these men were their husbands, relatives and friends and the experience has continued to traumatise them.

These women were forced to move from their troubled communities to the state capital, Maiduguri, where they reside in different camps; this is as a good number of them fled to other states and IDPs camp in the FCT.

Amplifying women’s voices

It’s been observed that women suffer more the after effects of violent crimes such as the Boko Haram activities, communal clashes, herders/farmers clashes among others.

This is because when the men in their lives are killed, they are left with catering to the needs of children alone which often times exposes them to different manner of abuses and perpetrators take advantage of their vulnerability.

It is as a result of this that various stakeholders are stressing the need for women voices and inclusion at all decision making tables of peace and security deliberations, especially since Nigeria is signatory to the United Nations Security Council Resolution UNSCR 1325.

In year 2000, the UN security council formally acknowledged through the creation of Resolution 1325 the changing nature of warfare, in which civilians are increasingly targeted, and women continue to be excluded from participation in peace processes.

The resolution specifically addresses how women and girls are disproportionally impacted by violent conflict and war and recognizes the critical role that women can and already do play in peace building efforts.

UNSCR 1325 affirmed that peace and security efforts are more sustainable when women are equal partners in the prevention of violent conflict, the delivery of relief and recovery efforts and in the forging of lasting peace.

Nigeria developed a first and second National Action Plan (NAP) and is in the process of developing a third plan to enable the full implementation of the UNSCR Women, Peace and Security as new challenges continue to emerge.

According to the Head, Gender Peace and Security at the Institute of Peace and Conflict Resolution Grace Awodu, the gaps in the first action plan was closed by the second plan and this third plan is supposed to be inclusive of all the security challenges affecting women.

3rd NAP to the rescue?

Minister of Women Affairs, Dame Pauline Tallen, during the Second Annual Security Sector Reform on Women Peace and Security, held at the National Defence College (NDC), Abuja, stressed the importance of a 3rd National Action Plan, just as she sought the support of development partners to achieve this.

The forum was organised with the theme: “Mainstreaming Gender in National Early Warning Systems and Security Challenge.”

According to Tallen, the UNSCR with its four pillars of prevention, participation, protection and peace building and recovery, has become the focal point for stimulating worldwide efforts to deal with the many challenges that women face in situations of conflict.

Explaining further, the minister said that the action plan acts as a key platform for countries to set priorities, coordinate action and track progress.

She added that this third plan would prompt meaningful changes in behaviour, policies and funding as well as provide civil society with a mechanism to hold governments accountable and create space for governments, multilateral institutions, and civil society to work together for greater impact.

“It is crucial for women in the security sector to share their live experiences and contribute to a participatory process to advance gender balance and also to spotlight men who have supported them to climb to the peak of their career.

“Contributions of the Nigeria Army, the Nigeria Navy and the Nigeria Air-Force through the concerted efforts of all the security chiefs in ending insurgency and emerging crimes across the country cannot be over emphasized,” she added.

International collaborations

The UN Women Nigeria over the years has shown commitment and support to ensuring gender parity in all spheres especially in amplifying voices of women in the peace and security deliberations.

UN Women Country Representative in Nigeria and ECOWAs, Ms. Comfort Lamptey, said that as Nigeria moves towards the development of the 3rd National Action Plan on UN Security Council Resolution 1325, under the coordination of the Federal Ministry of women affairs, the role of the security sector would be critical.

“In these efforts, UN women will remain committed to supporting and charting priority areas for implementation,” she added.

Similarly, the Country Representative, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Ms. Ulla Mueller, said it has been more than 20 years since the adoption of the UNSCR of women participation in security and conflicts but there is still a lot left to be done globally and in Nigeria.

“As we are aware many areas across Nigeria are challenged by insecurity both for women and girls, it may be difficult for them to participate fully in the development of Nigeria.

“It has been documented that when women actively participate in peace and conflict resolutions, it is more likely to be long lasting and it is more sustainable,” Mueller stated.

Meanwhile, the Deputy Head of Mission at Embassy of Sweden to Nigeria, Ms. Anna Raas, has harped on the need for full implementation of the UNSCR on WPS, tasking stakeholders to use the global 16 days activism make a difference by creating more awareness and visibility on the negative impact of gun violence on women and girls.

“It is important to discuss the impact of violence against women and girls especially violence involving arms and ammunitions as the world campaign against GBV.

“I urge you to focus on what you want to achieve, where you want go and make a difference because it is important to see that illicit transfer, destabilising and misuse of small arms, light weapons and ammunition which are key drivers of conflict that affect an increasing number of civilians including women and children is addressed.

“The consequences of the illicit transfer and proliferation of small arms and ammunitions is that it slows growth and in the long run hampers development.

“To address the gender impact of arms and weapons we should aim to streamline arms control and double efforts to ensuring disarmament.

“The Women Peace and Security agenda should be improved upon by ensuring the full and equal participation of women in dialogues,” she stressed.

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