Gender Based Violence (GBV) is a global problem which assumes various dimensions among countries in response to prevalent socio-cultural environment.
In Nigeria, wide spread poverty, ethnic and religious conflicts, violent cult activities in secondary and tertiary institutions and militarization of national life have generally increased the incidence of violence and insecurity of life and property for all citizens.
Women are however confronted with GBV in their daily lives in so many ways that do not apply to men.
Gender specific violence has adverse effects on the health and welfare of women. It results in psychological trauma, loss of self-esteem, hatred of men and sexuality, continued cycles of violence, self-blame, stigmatization and loss of dignity. Rape tortures women mentally, physically and psychologically. It can result in various manifestations of sexually transmitted diseases, including the dreaded HIV /AIDS, or in pregnancy and children born out of rape, a curse to both the women and the children.
Unfortunately gender violence against women, especially sexual violence in times of armed conflict is shrouded in silence. This is because of the stigma it carries, the powerlessness of the women and their loss of faith in the law, and society’s lack of prioritization of women’s issues, especially in situations of armed conflicts, when society believes that the issues of war have to do with men. At such times, as in peace time, society tends to trivialize the violence as wearing women’s face. Sadly, too, when it comes to war, the use of rape as a weapon continues.
As development workers and stakeholders, we need to join force to help peel the silence surrounding the brutality of gender-based violence that crosses all boarders. According to Annie Lennox, the British singer, “Violence against women threatens the lives of more young women than cancer, malaria or war. It affects one in three women world-wide. It leaves women mentally scarred for life, and it is usually inflicted by a family member’’
Issues to ponder
What shall we tell our children? What kind of world are we leaving for them? Will GBV and its exacerbation in situation of armed conflict ever stop? When will Nigeria start implementing existing laws against GBV especially those that take place in domestic situations? When will there ever be timelines and benchmarks for implementations, as well as the sanctions for those that fail to comply with these legally bounded conventions and resolutions? How do we deal with the leaders of this country who have lost their sense of shame? These are some of the questions that this forum needs to consider seriously.
Demanding the elimination of GBV is about protecting human rights and ensuring that women live in safety and dignity, ensuring that existing laws are implemented. Just like Joanne Sandler, one time acting ED of UNIFEM said, ‘’the gaps in addressing GBV are in terms of political will, resources and the strong involvement of men and boys in insisting on zero tolerance. If we can’t put an end to the pandemic of violence against women, we can’t achieve any of the other agreed goals, development, equality or peace.”
There is evidence of gaps and deficiencies in linkages, skills and capacity for response to GBV among the operatives of relevant institutions. The thrust of the Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Act which responds to the systemic forms and high prevalence of GBV is justified.
The call for action through enactment of legal framework to both address the menace and save the family unit and the society is an imperative. We need to see the implementation of the VAPP Act.
Work done in this area affirms the global dictum of GBV lacking boarders, directions or social classification.
Typical forms of violations occurs both in urban and rural settings with no significant variation on prevalence, forms, age or content.
Meanwhile, the scope of content of responses to GBV remains an evolving issue with current initiatives laudable but grossly inadequate or inappropriate in some cases. At other levels, the weak professionalism as displayed by key institutions or their operative starting with the quality of documentation affect the quantum of justice that could be obtained or awarded.
This has encouraged a culture of impunity among perpetrators and despondency in victims/survivors. Therefore there is need to operationalize the law to make access to justice and the quest for protection from further abuse or violation easier and more victim supportive.