The Federal Government is unrelenting and has initiated far-reaching policy, institutional and legislative measures to curb the growing menace of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) offences.
Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami made this known at a capacity building workshop on SGBV for justices and judges of Nigerian courts on Tuesday in Abuja, Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
Malami said: “SGBV is a problem occurring in every culture, community and across social groups, often manifesting in different forms.
”The Federal Government on May 25, 2015, through active collaboration with women groups and gender rights activists, enacted a landmark legislation, the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act of 2015 (VAPP).
“The objectives of this law are to eliminate violence in private and public life, prohibit all forms of violence, including physical, sexual, psychological, domestic, harmful traditional practices, discrimination against persons and to provide maximum protection and effective remedies for victims and punishment of offenders.
“This legislation has now been passed and adopted as State Laws in 34 out of the 36 States of the Federation.”
President Muhammadu in 2020, according to him, directed a targeted government response to the SGBV problem, predominantly in the area of access to justice which I Lead.
“It is this presidential directive that resulted in other collaborative initiatives which led to the establishment of the Inter-Ministerial Management Committee (IMC) on the Eradication of SGBV.
“The SGBV Response Unit of the Federal Ministry of Justice is to facilitate access to justice to victims of SGBV related offences.
“The Federal Government also set up the Prosecution Hub consisting of selected investigators and prosecutors from relevant MDAs (ministerial departments and agencies) to ensure a coordinated and effective investigation and prosecution of SGBV cases at the Federal level,” Malami said.
He further explained that the Inspector-General of Police has also created Gender Desks in all police commands and stations, to attend to cases of gender-based violence etc.
Malami said that the capacity building programme was, therefore, organised in recognition of the central role that the judiciary plays as driver of the machinery of criminal justice administration in Nigeria.
“It is uniquely placed to ensure that relevant criminal laws on SGBV are interpreted and applied with gender sensitivity and in appropriate language having regard to the victim’s age, educational level, cultural background, physical or mental disabilities,” he said.
He posited that judiciary is expected to tackle gender violence by improving access to justice for victims of SGBV, and in the process, reduce the risk of their secondary victimisation.
The judiciary, according to him, is also expected to aid effective prosecution, ensure access to justice for victims and ultimately reduce the prevalence of SGBV offences in Nigeria.
Also speaking, the Director, Public Prosecution of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Babandoko who represented the Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Justice, commended the participants for working with the Federal Government in ensuring justice for the victims of SGBV.
In th words of this top official: “Judges are critical to the achievement of expedited prosecution of offender, hence the need to strengthen their capacity in the application of best standards and practices in the trial of such cases.
“They need to have the knowledge use of the Practice Direction for prosecution SGBV cases and implementation of Protection Orders under the VAPP Act and apply them appropriately in the determination of SGBV cases.
“Know the emerging SGBV trends such as Conflict Related Sexual Violence and School Related Gender-Based Violence which has further aggravated the situation and drastically contributed to the increasing data of SGBV cases in the country.
“Challenge and address gender stereotypes within the judiciary and law enforcement which hinder access to justice for victims.”
Also speaking, the Minister of Women Affairs, Dame Pauline Tallen, disclosed that about 30 per cent of girls and women aged between 15 and 49 are reported to have experienced sexual abuse.
“Insurgency, protracted conflicts, new trends in kidnapping and the recent flood which swept across the country have only served to worsen the occurrence of SGBV,” Tallen said.
She equally noted that harmful practices such as child marriage are prevalent in Nigeria, with 43 per cent of girls married before the age of 18 while 20 per cent of women aged 15 to 49 have undergone female genital mutilation (FGM).
“The total number of cases reported was 11,918, the fatal cases are 419, closed cases 609, while open cases are 3,754, while convicted perpetrators are 33.
“This is unacceptable, and efforts must be made to strengthen coordination of multi-sectoral response to address this trend” she lamented.
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