By Sunday Ani
Following the rising rate of rape in Nigeria, particularly in Lagos, the Lagos State House of Assembly is working on a bill for a law to set up the Lagos State Domestic and Sexual Violence Agency as well as open up a register for sex offenders and other connected purposes.
The bill, when passed into law will bring about speedy dispensation of cases on gender-based violence as the agency will be actively involved in investigation and prosecution of offenders.
In his keynote address, the Speaker, Mudashiru Obasa, who was represented by his deputy, Wasiu Sanni-Eshinlokun described as unfortunate the rise in domestic violence, stressing that it was antithetical to the sanctity of life. He stressed that a popular movie titled October 1st, which was released in 2014 captured thdangers associated with domestic violence crimes.
Stakeholders, women groups and organizations, dignitaries including the Governor’s wife, Dr. Ibijoke Sanwo-Olu, the Commissioner for Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation (WAPA), Mrs Cecilia Dada, the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Moyosore Onigbanjo, the Chief Judge of the state, Justice Sherifat Sholabo and the Commissioner of Police among others.
The House Committee Chairman on WAPA, Mojisoluwa Alli-Macaulay, in her address said the essence of the Bill was to protect victims of sexual and gender based violence crimes from discrimination and stigmatization; as well as to ensure that they have access to medical, legal and counseling assistance.
Also speaking to Assembly Correspondents, she commended the Lagos State government for setting the pace for other states to follow with the law. She said the law would offer a platform where women who have been badly treated or raped or sexually abused, would have a chance to express themselves and get justice.
“Women from all strata and creed are here to give their contributions to the establishment of the agency. I commend Lagos State for setting the pace with this kind of law; this is indeed the best time to consolidate on our gains and create institutions to appropriately prevent and respond,” she said.
She stressed that the difference between what the agency will be doing and what already exists with regard to domestic violence and sexual abuse is that victims will now have a platform where they can express themselves. “They will get counseling, get justice and get empowered as their voices will be given energy so it doesn’t degenerate into depression. More people will now be sent to jail because people on the board are professionals. The cases will no longer be going back and forth in the court. It will no longer be business as usual. Justice will be served almost immediately,” she added.
Reviewing the Bill, the Majority Leader, Sanai Agunbiade, said it would restore peace at homes because many homes no longer have peace due to domestic and sexual violence crimes.
He stated that the Sex Offenders’ Register which would bear the record of all sex offenders in the state and maintained by the Agency would be taken care of by Section 17 of the Bill.
The Chairperson of FIDA, Lagos State chapter, Mrs Phil Nneji applauded the State for the initiative but suggested that ‘victim’ in the Bill should be replaced with ‘survivor.’
She also advised that the Register should be displayed publicly, saying that is one of the ways to meet up with international standards.
Titi Akosa from the Center for 21st Century Issues referred to section 5 (2b), saying that philanthropic gestures from public and private sectors should be separated. She also cautioned against interests and tendencies that would come into the public.
Alhaja Onitiri Kuye from Alimosho insisted that sex offenders, especially men should not only be castrated but also have their manhood cut off to avoid recurrence of such crime.
Mrs. Onasanya Adeyosola called for protection of victims who are willing to voice out, saying that threat to their lives should be adequately looked into.
In the proposed law, there shall be a response team with a legal backing and having the teeth to bite as stated by the Majority Leader of the Assembly, Hon. Sanai Agunbiade.
Titilola Akinsola from the Women Arise suggested that sex offenders’ property should also be confiscated even as she added that a provision to punish those who bring up false accusation against others should be made in the Bill.
Speakers after speakers among the stakeholders all agree that the law would address the rising cases of domestic and sexual violence crimes and urged the lawmakers to expedite action to ensure its quick passage into law.
Reacting to stakeholders’ concerns, contributions and suggestions, the Deputy Speaker Sanni-Eshinlokun promised that all contributions and suggestions would be duly considered by the Committee before the final report is submitted to the House for final deliberation.
In his vote of thanks, the Clerk of the House, Olalekan Onafeko thanked everybody for gracing the occasion and promised that the House would continue to strive to make Lagos a better place for all