Nigeria Minister of Women Affairs, Dame Pauline Tallen
Women Aid Collective (WACOL) an NGO, has trained Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) involved in the promotion and protection of human rights of women and girls on how to engage the legislature in order to ensure that bills that concerns women development are passed into law as well as follow-up on its implementation.
The Founding Director of WACOL/Tamar SARC who is also the former UN special repporteur on trafficking in persons, a Professor of Public Law Joy Ngozi Ezeilo, noted the spike in spousal beating, rape, children abandonment, female genital mutilation, early marriage due to poverty level, harmful widowhood practices in recent times, especially since the outbreak of Coronavirus in the country.
Ezeilo while emphasising the importance of strengthening and support for CSO’s on legislative engagements, treaty monitoring and shadow reporting for women’s rights, including ending VAWG blamed the lack of implementation of extant laws as well as adequate laws and support services for victims and survivors of gender based violence for the increase in violence against women and girls.
She maintained that the major reason VAWG has persisted is because existing laws which prohibits such acts are not implemented.
“The impunity at which the human rights of women and girls are violated calls for the zero tolerance signal through accountability, and the best way to do accountability is through prosecution and sanction else people will continue to commit the crime and think it’s okay to batter their wives, or to rape a woman.
“Women and girls based CSO’s must understand the critical processes in legislative advocacy for women’s human rights and also International treaty obligations and their roles as civil society and gender focused organizations in holding the government accountable through shadow reporting and monitoring of treaty implementation by all arms of government,” she stressed.
“Government should know that they are accountable to women and girls as females and they are entitled to their rights in a democratic state and government must live up to expectations by enacting appropriate laws that will enhance gender equality that will send a signal of zero tolerance of violence against women and girls and also encourage their empowerment so they can actualize and realize their full potential.
“Any violence that threatens the lives of women and girls is inhuman, degrading and it is the role of government to protect, respect extant laws including the international laws and to remedy if there is a violation.
“We want an end to impunity and government should ensure that people who perpetrate violence are appropriately sanctioned in accordance with the law in order to eliminate the scourge,” she added.
In her remarks, the Director Abuja Metropolitan Office of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Aisha Kaltungu, noted that under the international declaration of human rights all human beings are equal but society has made a demarcation whereby some rights are ascribed to men and others to women .
Kaltungu explained that there are provisions in Nigeria laws that condemns any forms of gender based violence, regretting however that implementation has remained the problem and therefore why women and girls especially are vulnerable.
“VAW has been going on in the society and it is entrenched in the culture of silence, but right now the government, CSO’s and human rights advocates are pursuing for the elimination of the menace from the society.
“When there is a law against the act it will go a long way to reducing the prevalence because there is this culture of impunity in the society where people feel they can do anything and get away with it,” she said.
One of the participants, who is the the Executive Director of Life Helpers Initiative a human rights based CSO Tayo Fatinikun, stated that there is the need for government to provide enabling framework to bring needed change, calling also the need for the implementation of existing laws that protects the rights of women and girls.
Fatinikun described VAWG as “a big and terrible problem” stressing that If there are no enabling laws and policies no meaningful societal change can be achieved.