(Ikenna Osuoha, NAN)
Mrs Bunmi Okesola, a volunteer with Sexual Assaults and Awareness Response Initiative (SOAR) on Monday said a conspiracy of silence was the greatest barrier to ending Sexual and Gender-based Violence (SGBV) in Nigeria.
A conspiracy of silence or culture of silence describes the behaviour of a group of people by unspoken consensus will not mention, discuss or acknowledge a given subject.
Okesola, a child advocate told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja that empowerment of parents and caregivers to give sex education to their children was paramount in reducing conspiracy of silence.
“We need to educate parents on the importance of giving their children sex education for them to know the boundaries.
“And this has to start early as soon as the child starts to talk; you let her or him know that not all people are his or her uncles, how not to sit on uncles legs etc,” she said.
She said that many children had been permanently traumatised due to the silence of their caregivers or parents.
“Some parents think that keeping silence is a way of protecting their children from stigma.
“I know of a mother in a community who reported to us the rape of her daughter by a barber, and we wanted to take it to another level.
“When we reported to the police, the woman withdrew by not picking our calls and finally asking us to leave the case for God to judge.”
Okesola, who urged parents to expose the crime, said that bringing the crime and perpetrators to public glare was key to ending the crime.
The child advocate, who urged parents not to discard the evidence of assaults in a bid to protect their children, called for Sexual Assault Referral Centres.
“Caregivers or parents should stop discarding evidence like washing the blood-stained pants because such evidence are required for prosecution.”
Okesola said that such centres were necessary for the victims to make complaints and to rehabilitate victims and prosecution of offenders.
She assured that the referral centres would give succour and care to the victims of sexual assault and protection to their parents.
She also blamed the police and the slow judicial process as factors responsible for increasing the crime.
“On many occasions, the police will dismiss the case in a hurry without further investigation or prosecution.”
“The police are not doing well in that regard when you report the matter to them either they demand transport fee or testing fees before investigation and prosecution,’’ she said.
The child advocate decried the delay in the country’s judicial process as another reason to fight against gender-based violence.
“I remember taking a case to court but up till now, the matter is still not decided and this is a problem.”
Okesola, however, urged all respondents to concertedly break the barrier of silence, saying it was instrumental to the lingering sexual and gender-based violence.
“A woman I remember reported her husband to us for abusing his stepdaughter in the first place and his own daughter secondly.
“As soon as we wanted to take up the matter, the woman withdrew with a flimsy excuse that if we jail the husband, who will take care of her.”
She reiterated the call for sexual assault referral centres, saying it was imperative for care and protection of victims.