For wife of Lagos State governor, Dr. (Mrs.) Ibijoke Sanwo-Olu, government at all tiers must accord rape and other forms of sexual violence against women and girls the same level of seriousness with which the COVID-19 pandemic is being addressed: “One of the ways to achieve this is through legislation, which will further criminalise and give stiffer punishments for rape and other forms of violence against women generally.”
She said this was the only way the violence could be seen as a national issue, and save Nigerian girls and women from the inhuman acts by some men. Even as she lamented that there had been a spike in the incidence of rape, particularly during the lockdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. She disclosed that available data from credible institutions confirmed the information about the menace.
Mrs. Sanwo-Olu spoke while receiving participants at a special All-Male Awareness Walk organised by the Lagos State Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Team (DSVRT), in collaboration with Partnership for Justice and the Mirabel Centre against rape in Lagos.
“It is laudable to see men come out to send a strong message against rape and ending sexual and gender-based violence in Lagos State. I am very happy that we are able to do this and I hope this will not be the last time we are going to see men coming out like this.
“I pray, by the grace of God, when we are going to repeat this event, we will have over 20 million men standing behind us. You know how they caused a movement in America, where everybody came out; that is the type of movement we want to see here in Nigeria against rape.
“It is sad that, while we fight coronavirus pandemic, an unseen enemy, we are still having to deal with issues of a seen enemy and that is the perpetrators of rape and other forms of violence against women and children.
“According to the 2014 National Survey on Violence Against Children in Nigeria, one in every four women has experienced sexual violence in childhood, with over 70 per cent of them reporting more than one incident. Of the 24.8 per cent of women aged 18 to 24 who have experienced sexual abuse before the age of 18, a dismal 5 per cent sought help, and just 3.5 per cent received any assistance.
“Statistics also show that cases of sexual and gender-based violence against children cut across abuses within the home or the community by parents, male and female relatives, guardians, teachers, religious leaders, employers, employees, strangers, landlords and sons of landlords, among others.
“These occurrences cannot be ignored and, as a matter of fact and emergency requiring an all-hands on deck approach, especially as it can be fatal in some situations and as mentioned by the men that it is an emergency. We should not take the issue of rape for granted. As we treated COVID-19, where we opened emergency isolation centres, I think this needs to draw that kind of emergency centre too.”
Mrs. Sanwo-Olu commended those she described as men of good conscience who rose up to be counted for a good cause. She urged Nigerian men to replicate the ongoing massive anti-racism protest in United States in Nigeria against sexual and gender-based violence, so as to send a strong message against rape and its perpetrators in the country: “This they demonstrated by participating in the awareness campaign aimed at highlighting the importance of men to join the fight against sexual and gender-based violence.”
On the recent incidents of rape of a two-year-old girl and an 18-year-old lady in the state, she described them as unfortunate. She added that government had moved to take custody of the minor and given the victims medical treatment and necessary care: “Every effort must be made by relevant agencies of government to ensure that justice is served to perpetrators of such a heinous crime not only in Lagos but across the country.”