opinionBy Hajiya Bilkisu (mni)
Mni — Every Year, from November 25 all over the world, attention is directed at the campaign to end violence against women as the world marks i6 days of activism.
On December 17 1999, the United Nations passed Resolution 54/134 and the United Nations General Assembly designated November 25 as the International Day for the Elimination of all forms of Violence Against Women.
Since 1981 Human Rights Activists have marked November 25 as a day to draw attention to the brutal assassination of the three Mirabal Sisters, political activists in the Dominican Republic on orders of the Iron Fist Ruler, Rafael Trujillo in 1960. Human rights activists have continued organising activities that highlight their struggle against domestic and gender-based violence through advocacy and action campaign, urging all to say No to Violence Against Women.
The activities continue until they reach a crescendo with the celebration of Human Rights Day on the 10th of December.
On Friday November 25, 2011, the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon set the ball rolling when he said that violence against women and girls, is taking many forms throughout the globe, and urged governments, people, partners and activists around the world to harness the energy of young people and to help us end this pandemic of violence. "Only then will we have a more just, peaceful and equitable world," he enthused.
Here at home, activists from various organisations added their voices to the global campaign. The Wellbeing Foundation established by the wife of the former Governor of Kwara, Mrs Toyin Saraki observed in a press release that 'One of the world's most prevalent human rights violations, violence against women exists in every country and in every community. According to gender-based violence statistics, one in three women globally will be physically abused in her lifetime with half of sexual assaults committed against girls under 16. In Nigeria alone, over 50% of women are routinely abused by their husbands, with more than two-thirds of Nigerian women believed to experience physical, sexual and psychological abuse in their villages' The Wellbeing Foundation also produced and launched a compelling advocacy video that highlighted the experience and impact of domestic violence against women in Nigeria. The foundation and its partners gave a voice to the victims of abuse and encouraged others to speak up against this human rights violation.
As if the perpetrators of violence wanted to rub in the salt, two disturbing cases of violence against women hit the headlines a day after the campaign commenced November 26 2012. A five year old girl was raped by a middle-aged man, in Osogbo, Osun State. The Nigerian Tribune reported that the suspect allegedly raped the girl around 6:30am near Salvation Army Primary School, Oke-Fia area of the city. According to the mother of the girl, Romoke, she left the girl in the room and went to the other building to fetch water while her daughter was still asleep.
The other case was reported in Aba, Abia State where a man set his wife Chinyere ablaze for complaining to her sister-in-law on phone about the husband's alleged maltreatment. The Sun reported that the man, whose name was given as Ndubuisi Okafor, a trailer driver, was reported to have accused his wife of being too religious which he claimed, prevented him from making good money. He was alleged to have destroyed the wife's Bible. A source revealed that two days to the incident, Chinyere, 40, mother of three, told the husband that she was sick and needed money to buy some drugs, which he initially refused to give.
This prompted Chinyere to call her sister-in-law on phone to complain about it and other related issues which did not go down well with the man. He allegedly pounced on his wife and after beating the wife to stupor; Okafor allegedly forced her to drink some litres of petrol, poured some on her body before setting her ablaze. Neighbours who were attracted to the apartment by the woman's cry for help broke into their flat, put out the fire before rushing the lady to hospital.
Dame Carol Ajie, a lawyer and activist urged the Abia State government to punish the culprits in the gang rape by five male students of Abia State University, video-graphed to the whole world, since September 2011. She lamented that impunity fuels the scourge of violence against girls and women. Such violence includes 'sexual crimes, acid bath attacks on girls, forced marriage of under-aged girls and child slavery. Five million Nigerian female members of our population are molested yearly including Septuagenarians and sometimes even older women who become targets and victims across scenes of rituals.'
Previous documented cases of violence taken up by activists include 2011such as,' the case of a girl, gang raped by ten boys in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, on November 23, 2011. A notorious political thug in Sapele, Delta State led a gang of four men to violate a teenage girl on her way to school. A monarch in the South West assaulted a female youth corps member and another one brutally attacked his queen, who died months after. We have reported cases of grandparents who habitually defile baby girls between ages 3 and 4 in Kano. Some police officers impregnate young girls in their custody and one even raped a nursing mother to a state of unconsciousness. The impunity of immorality is in every nook and cranny!' Sadly most of the cases are unreported and for the few that are, only a tiny per cent get to court and when they do, a smaller per cent get a conviction and very marginal sentences like two years imprisonment for an offence that carries a life term under section 358 of the Criminal Code Act. Rather than get punished to the full extent of the law, the culprits get a slap on their wrists whilst the victims remain sullied from the gory experiences and left often without support from the States and Federal Government that should protect the citizenry particularly the more vulnerable population.' These attitudes have to give way to the fight against moral corruption and gender violence with a view to keeping society safe for all girls and women.'
The UNFPA in Nigeria in collaboration with Gender Theme Group (GTG) of the UN is organising a panel discussion on the Impact of Early Marriage on Young Girls and the Nigerian Society as part of the days of activism in Abuja on December 3, 2012.
From the international community came a solidarity message from the British High Commissioner to Sri Lanka John Rankin who said. 'Efforts towards the elimination of violence against women should not be left to a few brave people, but should be embraced by all. "Violence against women comes in many guises and is widespread around the world. It includes domestic violence, rape, sexual harassment, abuse in the workplace and sexual violence as a tool of war. Incidents of violence against women are shocking on an individual level, and a barrier to true gender equality," He said UK will continue to play its part in supporting the energy, the courage and the determination of both men and women working to tackle the continuing problem of violence against women.'