Jude Chinedu, Enugu
Gender-based civil society groups in Enugu State on Thursday marched to the state Government House in a bid to raise awareness and garner support against rising cases of sexual violence in Nigeria and in the state.
The women groups which were led by the Executive Director of Women Aid Collective (WACOL), Prof. Joy Ezeilo marched from the state House of Assembly Complex to the Government House where they were received by the state Attorney General, Chief Mellitus Eze, state Chief of Staff, Dr Festus Uzor and Deputy Chief of Staff, Prof Malachy Ukwueze.
Addressing journalists during the protest, Prof Ezeilo said the spike in sexual-based violence especially during the current COVID-19 pandemic was worrisome as it has taken a new unacceptable dimension with women no longer feeling safe.
She said: ‘We are here to register our protest in against the way our young women and girls are raped across Nigeria. The spike is taking a new dimension especially in this COVID-19 time. Ladies are being raped and abused in all sorts of manners and we say that these gender violence must stop. The impunity must stop.
‘WACOL and partners which is made up of Civil Society Organizations in Enugu State decided to organize this protest in solidarity with women across Nigeria in a move to stamp out gender based violence. We say that the spike in rape that we’ve seen this time is high and we need to raise accountability stake.
‘We must promote zero tolerance to all forms of sexual exploitation and abuse including gender based violence. We are worried that at a time when the pandemic is ravaging the world that we are having another epidemic or call it a pandemic upon pandemic. This has left our women and girls feeling very unsafe.
‘This is a very disruptive time when people are no longer feeling safe in their homes neither are they feeling safe on the streets. Women are abused at domestic level and in public places. Incest and defilement of young girls is on the increase and the practice of blaming the very victim prevents even adult women from talking about this. Rape is a serious felony and a crime under Nigerian Law.’
Ezeilo revealed that WACOL handled 25 cases of rape in April and May this year while a total of 156 cases of sexual and gender based violence were handled by the rights group all within the period of the pandemic in Enugu State alone.
She called for the implementation of a commission on gender based violence in Enugu State, which according to her will fast track the fight against gender based violence in the state.
Responding, the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice in Enugu State, Chief Mellitus Eze, said that the recent wave of violence was condemnable noting that the state government was in the forefront of stamping out the ugly trend through proper legislation.
‘Enugu State has always been in the forefront in the fight against sexual violence. The government of Enugu State is totally against it as it is condemnable in every sense,’ he said.