Violence against women and girls (VAWG) is widespread and affects women and girls of any age, class, race, religion, sexuality, or ability. The scope of the violence ranged from sexual violence by state and non-state actors to harmful cultural and traditional practices on young girls, sexual violence in religious instructions, incest, including father’s rape of their daughters, work place discrimination and sexual harassment, gang rape, sextortion in educational institutions and election violence. The increase in the level of violence is distributing more worrying is the ineffectiveness of legislation, government policies, and national action plans and accountability systems to address the menace, in a systematic way.
Women may become more vulnerable to violence because of displacement, social process/learning, sex power and motives, attitudes and gender schemas. In addition, other factors may be age , literacy, disability, cultural and traditional, practices and beliefs, perceived stereotypes, rigid patriarchal system and structured, ineffective enforcement of laws adequate polices and poverty make women more vulnerable to violence than men.
The facts indicate a significant number of women experience more than one type of violence in their lifetime. Violence against women has a significant impact on the health and socio-economic status of women and girls; it affects the health and wellbeing of children and young people who witness violence against their mothers and other children. Ending VAWG requires effective and promising policies and law in place. There is need for evidence-based legal and policy framework that effectively address violence against women and girls; also, there is need for strategic engagement with policy-makers, parliamentarians, civil society and other partners whose capacity we need to build in order to raise awareness of its causes and consequences, as well as prevent and respond to violence. As Nigerians, we must address the overall economic impact of VAWG significantly.
In Nigeria, the violence against Persons Prohibition Act (VAPP) was signed into law in 2015 as a deliberate national action plan towards ending violence against women and girls. One would have expected to see more coordinated collaborated effort across all states towards addressing VAWG with VAPP as a legal document; however, four years after the enactment of the VAPP law, most states are yet to domesticate the law. This development has frustrated the effort of committed civil social society organisations and partners who advocated for ending VAWG. While states like Lagos have progressive domestic violence laws, and Ekiti have domesticated VAPP, while making a number of services available to women and girls, we still have a large percentage of states who have not demonstrated the political will to domesticate VAPP and unwilling to tackle VAWG through VAPP.
Effort towards addressing VAWG should not only be in the ambit of responsibilities of the government or the civil society organizations alone and it would not be out of proportion to state here and going by the records that alliances for Africa AFA, an international African led Non-Governmental, human right, peace organization has voluntarily led in addressing all forms of VAWG for over a decade. The strong belief that there is a need to implement programmes which support the collection and collation of data in relation to all forms of violence against women and girls is globally accepted.
This is crucial in order to assess the effectiveness of any work done by critical stakeholders to improve the situation of a particular group in the population. Some of the issues that seem specific to violence against women and girls are in fact cross cutting. Data collection would ensure gender disaggregation, which, would help to provide the baseline statistics as work in progress is evaluated. Data will further expose and challenge violence against women whilst providing a vivid picture of its impact and significant of intervention. Sharing the best practice in data collection across sectors responsible for VAWG might have significant benefits, given the links between violence against women and girls.
It is therefore pertinent to recommend a broadening of the strategic framework on violence against women. This should include consideration of the types of services available for responding to victims/survivors of VAWG. Efforts must be made to ensure that such services translate to women’s needs at a time they have experienced a form of violence. Attention should be given to the development and information support for the general public. Providing information and support through workplace campaigns, awareness raising programmes in schools and general public education campaigns would greatly enhance the level and quality of information support available to women.
Finally but most importantly, the views of women themselves should be sought. There is an absence of consultative mechanisms which enable women to input directly to the development of services which might meet their needs for example a woman who is a victim of rape should be asked how she wants the issue resolved based on legal provision in a bid to bring the perpetrator to justices. This is a gap which should be addressed as a matter of fact before very much more work is developed.
All hands must be on deck around and beyond the continent of Africa to advocate for protection of human rights, promote women’s participation in leadership and governance, build institutional capacity, advocate for gender justices, equality and non-discrimination, as well as promoting peace, security and conflict resolution interventions.
• Blessing, wrote from Owerri.