They came from every part of the country to Abuja, the seat of power, angry, disturbed and determined to make a bold statement that enough is enough and that as specially created human beings Nigerian women should be treated with respect and decorum.
Infuriated, they are resolute to fight one scourge of the menace and high rate of rape and other forms of gender based violence against women in collaboration with the United Nations Assembly.
To underscore its seriousness, importance and magnitude, President, UN Assembly, Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, physically joined Nigerian women at the National Centre for Women Development (NCWD) in Abuja, to scale up the war against the menace of rape, gradually engulfing the women population.
In every consideration, in a society where sex is so cheap, it is difficult to understand why rape, which was once an abominable act and hardly heard off, suddenly became the order of the day now. Statistics have it that not less than two million women are raped annually in Nigeria, especially the aged and children.
Blame the trend on any reason, what is incontrovertible is that most Nigerian women now live in fear as most of this abominable acts carried out by persons that can hardly been suspected. The attackers range from close relatives, domestic workers, most alarming fathers defiling their blood daughters to herdsmen at the farms.
Although some people blame it on westernization, arguing that the mode of dressing by most Nigerian women is responsible for the increase, however the fact that poor aged women and few months little children of months, that do not belong to the category of seductive dressers yet are victims of rape water down argument.
Brainstorming on how to tackle the menace to save the next victim, the embittered women registered their displeasure over the rising cases of rape and other gender based violence against women and girls in Nigeria, warning that something drastic must be urgently done.
Wife of the President, Aisha Buhari, represented by her Special Adviser on Women Affairs, Hajo Sani, led the flag-off of the candle light procession in remembrance of women who have lost their lives on gender based violence, especially rape.
Drawing the first blood, Muhammad-Bande reassured Nigerian women of the commitment of UN to the eradication of gender based violence in Nigeria, insisting that reinstating principles of gender equality is not the solution but implementation of laws that would reflect on the public life of the Nigerian women.
While registering his discontent over the rising cases rape and other gender based violence against women and girls in Nigeria, he commended the Federal Government for launching the sex offenders register with optimism of its ability to shame culprits to minimise cases of gender based violence in Nigeria:
“We would ensure that sexual violence is no longer a part of social life of Nigerian women. We have to work with relevant stakeholders to mainstream ideas that would herald significant drop in cases of sexual violence against women and girls in Nigeria.”
NCWD Director General, Mary Ekpere-Eta, appreciated Muhammad-Bande for the visit and assured him that Nigeria is committed to any cause that would change the indices of gender base violence:
“We want to encourage UN General Assembly to initiate global discussions that would push women agenda and gender equality in Nigeria forward, for sustainable national development. We want to also encourage parents, especially mothers to be close to their children so that they would not be afraid of disclosing any form of molestation to them.”
Some of the women who spoke with Daily Sun said there is increasingly rate of rape cases in the country and suggested some ways through which they feel it could be curbed. Calling for more moral training since most people seem to have forgotten the African ethics and values, a Nigerian woman, Maimuna Usman emphasised:
“It is very unfortunate that most of the people today have forgotten the African ethics, they behave anyhow, one can no longer keep a child with her own father and be rest assured that the baby is safe. It calls for urgency because more children and helpless aged women are being molested on daily basis.”
Another respondent, Susan Agada, called for action plan stressing that it is high time mothers stopped hiding from the truth in the name of protecting their marriages: “We need to stop covering evil because we want our marriages to be intact while our children suffer. When we expose evil, it will stop.”
Sandra Friday insisted that the male folks need more sensitisation on love, arguing that if they really have the spirit of love at their early stages, there would be nothing like rape or any form of child molestation because they will see the other person as a sister or true friend.
Condemning the rising cases of sexual related offences in schools, corporate organisations and faith-based organisations, the Minister Women Affairs, Pauline Tallen, insisted that there is no justification for rape or any form of sexual abuse:
“Eliminating sexual violence is the responsibility of all citizens, and we must identify our true allies in this journey so we could collectively fight it. We have to intensify efforts, strengthen existing partnership, forge new strategic alliance and also build sustainable pathway for socio-economic empowerment and growth.”
She explained that sexual or physical assault comes in many form and challenged women to be aware of these forms: “Sexually abuse is extremely disabling to the victims. It inhibits their contributions to national development. It is of crucial importance to improve and increase their freedom of action and influence.”
She equally disclosed that her ministry and that of education have partnered to increase enrolment, retention and completion rates of the girl children in basic and secondary schools.