Ali Garba It was like a day of mourning when disable women, adolescent child, both girls and boys, mothers of various categories, working class men and women including Civil Society Organization (CSO) put on blacks clothes to register their grievances to government, relevant stakeholders, securities agencies, judiciary and individual on the daily abuse of women sexually before the age of 18 years.
The rally which took place at the Abubakar Umar Secretariat Bauchi, with more than two hundred women in attendance, demanded that, world leaders should rise to their feet and end all forms of violence against women and stop rape of minors, disable and adult women in schools or at homes.
Interacting with a physically challenge woman at the rally ground, Hauwa’u Shehu Fada said, Nigerian authorities should rise and save girls and women from rape
She added that, government at various levels should stop rape in Nigeria, saying, “one in four girls is sexually assaulted before the age of 18 which is contrary to our religion, customs and tradition.
The organizer of the rally, Comfort Attah Executive Director of ASH Foundation said, ” I am devastated at the escalating reports of violence against women and girls in Bauchi State and Nigeria at large
She pointed out that since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic alone, the number of calls has increase to hotlines and service providers.
It has been as high as a 50% increase in Bauchi State while in some States service providers couldn’t assist victims because they were trapped at home with their abusers, mostly due to lack of access to phones and transportation.
The Executive Director said she is urging members of the State and National Assembly to speak on this issues in the floor of the House to push a motion to declare a state of emergency on sexual and gender based violence in Bauchi State.
Attah lamented that, “in the past one week alone, a 16-year-old girl was abducted and ganged raped in Bauchi State. Uwa was raped and killed in a Church in Benin.
Tina was shot dead in Lagos, a 12-year-old girl was raped by 11 men in Jigawa. Barakat was raped and stabbed to death and those are only a few reported in the news. We need Justice, we need a state of emergency declared today.”
“According to law and news reports, there have been only 65 rape conviction between 1973 and 2019 and in many cases, Police officers try to settle cases as a family or households matters.
” Attah stated that more than half of women in Nigeria (55%) who have experienced physical or sexual violence have never sought help to stop the violence. Nigerian women and girls deserved Justice through punishment of offenders.
“Before Covid-19 crisis, the national data from 2018 showed an increase in the percentage of women who have experienced physically violence since age 18 from 11% in 2013 to 14% in 2028.
The increased numbers of cases are due to victim blaming, lack of access to adequate medical services and the lack of access to injustices.
Therefore we need change now”. Section 36 (1) of Nigerian constitution 1999 as amended says “every individual is entitled to respect for dignity of his/her person (a) says no personal shall be subject to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment.”
She said rape is both an inhuman and degrading treatment against women and girls, it is disrespect to dignity and has a lasting negative effect to victims.
While responding, the Commissioner for Justice and Attorney General, Bauchi State, Barr Yakubu Bello Kirfi assured the groups that the perpetrators would not go unpunished. He charged the NGOs to always copy the ministry of any reported case of rape in the society.
Bello stated that Conference of Attorneys General had a virtual meeting where issue of rape and violence against women was discussed on how to address the menace. Also, in a relative development, the Women Advocates Research and Documentation Center, WARDC has revealed that that it records 1,500 interventions in sexual and gender based violence cases annually in Nigeria.
The Executive Director, WARDC, Mrs. Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi told New Telegraph in an interview shortly after a one day training for women groups, students and lecturers of tertiary institutions on reportage of violence against women and girls that WARDC was supported by the African Women Development Fund based in Ghana to supports issues related to women and girls across Africa, including internally displaced persons.
She said that the essence of the training for the participants is to support a system in the higher institutions that can prevent sexual harassment and gender based violence as well as strengthen the university system to know what to do in addressing the menace.
According to her, establishing a sexual harassment response team in tertiary institutions across the state was very crucial so that students who are victims can access justice.
“There is an assumption that sexual harassment and other forms of gender based violence in the tertiary institutions do not exist, but we have seen from recent happening in the country, that they do occur within the university system.
We have observed that most university system and tertiary institutions do not have a strong structure in responding to these issues”
“So what we want to do is to support a system that can serve temporarily, especially for tertiary institutions that do not have a sexual harassment and gender based violence policy.
The whole idea is to empower a group that can lobby and create awareness as well as advocate for such policy development within the institution, so that young girls in the schools can be free from randy lecturers sexual harassment,” she said Mrs. Abiola said that in the twenty years existence of the organisation, WARDC has provided legal aid for women who suffered domestic violence, sexual harassment and other forms of violation of their fundamental human rights, adding that it also work on political participation for women, maternal health and supported passage of Violence against Persons Prohibition law VAPP in several states of the federation.