THE Society for Family Health (SFH) has blamed economic downturns and biting effects of COVID-19 as major drivers of gender-based violence (GBV) in Nigeria.
Addressing the youth, representatives of civil society groups and government agencies working to end GBV in the country at the weekend, SFH said poverty and COVID-16 punctured the success recorded in nearly two decades of fighting against GBV.
The event marked the end of the organisation’s 16 days of activism against GBV.
Despite the challenges, Deputy Managing Director of the SFH Jenifer Ayanti said the nation must rise against the malaise.
She said initial data showed that women, girls and minors had been victims of SBV, but recent events proved that men were also harassed.
According to her, everyone who witnessed a case of SBV must speak out, while the agencies of government responsible for addressing such violations must promptly act.
Ayanti advised women facing abuse in their marriage to speak out.
She also urged religious and other leaders to support people speaking out about abuse in their places of worship.
“Being someone who is a firm adherent of one of the religions, that is Christianity, I believe our religious leaders have a role to play. When a woman comes to a religious leader and says her husband beats her or says she endures abuse in her marriage, the leader should listen to her. When you listen to her, provide her with a safe house. Sometimes, all you need to do is take the woman out of the environment and let her be somewhere safe, even if in the religious leader’s guest house. They should withdraw the woman and talk to the man and address the issue.
“You don’t just say if your husband is beating you, stay in the marriage, go there and be submissive. That doesn’t solve the problem. There is a problem; the man is violent. That has to be addressed. Though the marriage vow says till death do us part, we don’t want the woman to die. What happens to her children and the man? The man is put in jail, and the woman is dead. The children are given to relatives and end up roaming on the streets.”
She emphasised the need for education and empowerment for women to reduce their susceptibility to abuse.
Besides, she stressed the need for the government to strengthen mechanisms for punishing gender-based violence perpetrators.
Similarly, Gender, Legal and Human Rights Technical Advisor on the Key Population Project for the organisation Chidubem Nwofor said this year’s 16 days of activism was eye-opening in gender-based violence against women and other victims.
“Today, we talked about what constitutes gender-based violence. We look at gender-based violence from the point of view of beating, kicking etc. We realised that many emotional things we do one way or the other constitute gender-based violence.
“The take-home for today is that everybody has a role to play in gender-based violence…But the challenge we have here is shaming of victims or survivors, not making people who perpetrate gender-based violence take responsibility for their actions.”
He called on the government to increase commitments to fighting all forms of abuse.
While commending the opening of registers for shaming the perpetrators of SBV publicly, he called for caution and urged the government to ensure it did not shame innocent persons.
The United Nation’s report on gender-based violence in Nigeria, during the lockdown occasioned by COVID-19 in Nigeria in 2020, showed a spike in the malaise within weeks.
The report estimated that data on reported incidents of GBV cases in the country, based on preliminary information from 24 states, showed that the total cases of GBV incidents reported in March were 346.
But in the first part of April, reported incidents jumped to 794, “depicting a 56 per cent increase in just two weeks of lockdown. Some of these incidents of violence have tragically resulted in the death of victims, the rape of children, including incestual rape, and tenant–landlord assault.”
On rape alone, the UN reportedly said the country recorded 3,600 cases during the lockdown.