This Day (Lagos)

11 November 2009

Nigeria: Enact Law On Violence Against Women, National Assembly Told

Calabar — A Non-Governmental Organisation, Girls Power Initiative (GPI), has called on the National Assembly to enact a law on violence against women.

The NGO also said the national assembly should stop debate on the Indecent Dressing Bill sponsored by Senator Eme Ekaette, saying the passage of the bill will increase violence against women.

The Co-ordinator of Calabar Centre of GPI, Professor Bene Madunagu, addressing the press in Calabar in reaction to the murder of Miss Grace Ushang in Maiduguri, Borno State while participating in the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme said all Nigerians should condemn the death of the corps member.

Madunagu also expressed regret that the Director-General of the NYSC rather than condemn the rape and violence that led to the death of Ushang was blaming the late Corps member for not taking security precautions.

"Rather than denounce this for the crime that it is and reassure our young graduates on national service that well-being preoccupies the highest levels of decision making, the Director-General mere advised Youth Corpers to 'take their personal security seriously because whatever we provided is not enough. They must learn to be security-conscious'. Pray, how?" she queried.

She recalled that the Chairperson of the Senate Committee on women, Senator Eme Ekaette had in 2008 introduced a bill in the Senate to prohibit indecent dressing.

She said that at the public hearing on the Bill, it became obvious that the Bill proposes to "grant intolerably dangerous powers of arrest and invasion of the most intimate privacies of the woman's body imaginable to both police officers and ordinary citizens to undertake vigilante action against women they mere perceive to be indecently dressed".

According to Madunagu, "The compounded crimes that killed Grace Ushang painfully return our attention to the pervasiveness of violence against women in Nigeria and the growing resort to vigilante action to police vague notions of feminine propriety and decency".

She said Ushang's story demonstrated the fallacy of the justifications for laws like Senator Ekaette's Indecent Dressing Bill, stressing that those who wish to commit crimes of sexual violence need no excuse.

"They must be treated like the predators they are. If a woman, like Grace Ushang, dressed in regulation clothing prescribed by the Federal Republic of Nigeria is considered to be so indecently dressed as to be put to death by the most vile acts of violence imaginable;

"How do we guarantee the safety and security of Nigerian women in the uniformed services, such as the armed Forces, Police, Prisons Service and immigration?" she asked.

She said to immortalise the memory of the slain Grace Ushang, the National Assembly should pass a law on violence against women.

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