Following worrisome trend of violence against women and girls in the country, the Deputy President of the Senate, DSP, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, Governor of Plateau State and also Chairman Northern Governors Forum, Rt Hon Solomon Lalong, and Governor of Kwara State, AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, on Friday, called for protection of women and girls across the country rather than being abused.
Senator Omo-Agege in his remarks at the 5th Voice of Women Conference 2020, with theme ‘Men’s Voices Against Gender-Based Violence’ oganised by Women FM 91.7, and held on webinar
called on men to protect women against GBV.
He also pointed that Nigerians should resolve to have zero tolerance for these abhorrent acts of violence against our mothers, wives, sisters, daughters, grandmothers, aunties and friends. “We must move quickly to address the legal and cultural challenges facing our womenfolk.”
He made it known that since 2015 only 13 States and the FCT have adopted the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act VAPP Act out of Nigeria’s 36 States, which are Oyo, Ogun, Lagos, Osun, Ekiti, Edo, Anambra, Enugu, Ebonyi, Benue, Cross River, Kaduna, FCT, and Plateau. “I want to call on all the States in Nigeria to domesticate that law without any further delay.”
He said: “As a Nation, we must resolve to have zero tolerance for these abhorrent acts of violence against our mothers, wives, sisters, daughters, grandmothers, aunties and friends.
“We must move quickly to address the legal and cultural challenges facing our womenfolk. But more importantly, addressing gender-based violence against women would require collective effort of every individual, especially men who are the most perpetrators, to stand up for the protection of women.
“Men should take more responsibility, intervene and do what is right to keep women safe. No man has a right to assault a woman for whatever reason, except of course in self-defense. It is a matter of inalienable right of persons to liberty. `
“The time to hold perpetrators accountable has come. Religious leaders, community leaders, and traditional leaders should challenge men to stand up as protectors and not abusers of women.
“We can no longer look the other way while women are being abused next door or turn deaf ears to the cry of many women across our country for freedom from violence and sexual abuse.
“Every Nigerian has a duty to speak out against these crimes and to make every effort to report these crimes to relevant authorities and prevent them from occurring. We should also provide care and support to those who have suffered in the hands of abusers.
Meanwhile, he ( Omo-Agege) assured that the National Assembly there will be total wiping out of gender-based violence from Nigeria through legislation.
“For us in the National Assembly, there is no place for gender-based violence of any nature. We will continue to strengthen the laws to reduce gender-based violence of all forms to the barest minimum, if not totally eliminate it.
“That was why on 4th May, 2016 I introduced the Sexual Harassment in Tertiary Educational Institutions Prohibition Bill, 2016 on the floor of the Senate and six months later it was passed by the Senate.
“However, the bill could not make it through the House of Representatives before the end of tenure of the 8th National Assembly. But because of my unwavering commitment to fighting this social ill, I reintroduced the bill to the 9th Senate, 3rd October, 2019.
He also explained that, “And at its plenary session of Tuesday, 7 July 2020, the Senate passed the Sexual Harassment Bill, 2020 (SB 77). The bill, now at the advanced stage at the House of Representatives, seeks to prevent, prohibit and redress the sexual harassment of students in tertiary educational institutions.
“This bill was necessitated because the internal mechanisms of tertiary institutions for addressing cases of sexual harassment were either non-existent or inadequate. It is expected that when the bill becomes an Act, it will eventually eliminate sexual-harassment-related obstacles that inhibit the capacity of persons in tertiary institutions to fully develop themselves, based on their gender.”
He also called for doggedness in the fightagainst gender-based violence, although might take some time before its trend could be reversed.
“It is not going to be easy either. But we must continue to fight it by shining a light on the horrendous atrocities visited on women around the country. We must rise up against all forms gender-based violence including subtle violence which is found in all forms of discrimination and non-violent abuses on persons, in this case, based on their gender”, he said.
He also charged Voice of Women and other CSOs to draw attention to rites and rituals women and girls are being abused under the guise of culture.
“As we make progress on this, I want to at this point, suggest that Voice of Women and other civil organizations draw more attention to those aspects of gender-based violence that are protected by African customs such as some demeaning rituals that accompany burials in some places, female genital mutilation, forced marriages, among others.
“Although some of them like FGM, unsavory customary burial and other rites, may have been captured by extant laws such as the VAPP Act, we need adequate advocacy from organizations as yours. This is lacking so far and I implore us all to pick up the gauntlet and create the requisite awareness”, he advised.
The Governor of Plateau State, Rt Hon Solomon Lalong in his remarks recalled that five years ago precisely on 17th December 2015, the first Voice of Women Conference was organised in Lagos to launch Women Radio 91.7 FM, which the dream has steadily grown the mark of the 2020 edition.
Lalong said: “I also congratulate WFM 91.7, Nigeria’s only radio station for Women and their families for the great work they have continued to do as a female-centric radio broadcaster.
“I understand that in the past four years, Women Radio 91.7 has organised its annual Voice of Women Conference usually dominated by female participants. However, the organisers have this year opened the discourse by hosting men and boys on how best to evolve a safe and secured Nigeria for our Women and Girls.
“Therefore, the theme for today’s 5th Voice of Women Conference which is “Men’s Voices Against Gender Based Violence” is not only appropriate, but timely considering the prevailing challenge we face on this subject. I commend the Board of Directors, Management, and Staff of Women Radio FM for amplifying the voices of Men and Boys through today’s conference.
“We are all aware that Covid-19 impacted our nation significantly where it disrupted daily activities. This led to lock down where people had to stay at home for months as Government tried to fight the pandemic. On the other hand, it was a different experience for many of our women and girls in Nigeria who went through horrific forms of violence including rape, defilement, physical and psychological abuse even in their homes where they were expected to be safe.
“It is sad to note that some of our women and girls were violated and molested by people who were sometimes friends and family members. On other occasions, the violation was perpetrated by leaders who are supposed to protect them. This is a sad development that we must end without further delay.
“As we advocate for a safe Nigeria for our women and girls, we must change the mind-set of our men and boys to not only appreciate that women and girls deserve protection, but have rights and freedoms enshrined in the constitution as any of us. We must also make them understand that any violation of the rights of women and girls is a serious crime that carries weighty punishment under the law.
“I am happy to note that many men, women, groups and leaders of different persuasions have spoken out loudly against the issue of violence against women and girls. Such campaign is also being bolstered by the voices of traditional and religious leaders who are also helping to break down traditional and culturally motivated stereotypes that promote violence against women and girls.
“Under my leadership, the Northern Governors’ Forum has declared a state of emergency on the increasing rate of sexual and gender based violence in the country. We have all resolved and condemned all forms of violence against women, girls and children.
“The Forum also resolved to ensure that member States promulgate laws with stiffer penalties against perpetrators of sexual based violence. As part of our resolve, Governors are to ensure the domestication of the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act, 2015 in their various States without further delay.
“Working with our State Houses of Assembly, the domestication of the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act 2015 in the various States will soon be attained. The Speakers of the 19 Northern States Houses of Assembly have already assured us of their support.
“To all the men and boys joining this conference for the first time, I urge us to use our positions as political leaders, cultural leaders, religious leaders, corporate experts, fathers, and brothers to fight, protect and advocate for a safe and secure Nigeria for our women and girls. We should remember that girls and women are our mothers, sisters, wives, and above all the heartbeat of our homes and society.”
Also speaking was the Governor of Kwara State, AbdulRahman Abdulrazak, who commended the Women Radio for its pro-women efforts/campaign which is paying off.
“Women Radio is indeed a great partner for us in Kwara State and we do not take that for granted. Now, there is so much we can do for women by giving them political power/influence.
“One, they can influence policies and programmes to favour the disadvantaged groups in the society, which is why Kwara is passionate about that and there is no going back.
“We hope that giving political support to women through gender inclusion would help to inspire our little girls to aspire to the highest level they can. We believe that giving political powers to women is a form of empowerment and it helps a long way to deter anyone from suppressing their voices especially when we consider that gender based violence is somewhat linked to helplessness and vulnerability”, AbdulRazaq stated.
Vanguard News Nigeria