OFFICIAL Documents from the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) have revealed Delta state as the top among the 36 states nationwide with the highest number of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) complaints.
Exclusively sourced by the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (The ICIR), the document from the NHRC showed a total of 104,280 Women and Gender Rights abuses complaints and 128,320 Sexual and Gender-Based Violence reports were received in 2020 by the commission.
Delta state tops the list with 14,735 cases of sexual and gender-based violence complaints and 11,346 women and gender rights complaints.
The report, which is the most recent from the commission, showed that there was a total of 1,287,750 human rights violation complaints received in 2020.
This figure is, however, 17,089 less than the total complaints received by the commission in 2019.
The reduction in the number of complaints, according to the NHRC, is attributed to the lockdown brought about by the pandemic, which may have reduced access for intending complainants.
Other states with the highest number of reports are Federal Capital Territory (FCT) with 10,299, Borno with 10,016, Imo with 9,687, and Edo with 9,419 SGBV reports.
Women and gender rights abuses complaints received are 8,216 from FCT, 7,789 from Edo, 7,511 from Borno, and 7,395 from Imo.
Cases of sexual and gender-based violence, women and gender rights abuses were at the peak during the pandemic year in 2020, which led to the declaration of state of emergency on SGBV.
According to a United Nations Women report, sexual and gender-based violence cases worsened during the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown.
The report titled ‘Measuring the shadow pandemic: Violence against women during COVID-19’ states that 45 per cent of women from the countries where the research was conducted, Nigeria inclusive, have been exposed to at least one form of violence directly or indirectly.
Although women suffered violence before the pandemic, there was however an increase in the number of women exposed to SGBV, the report showed.
Sisi Afrika, the Initiator of Feminists Inspiring Gender Unity, Respect and Equality (FIGURE), believes the increase in the incidences of SGBV is because pressure groups and individual activists have been tackling this societal menace from an individualistic point of view.
“And what I mean by this is the fact that SGBV cases are treated separately as a single issue with initiatives like the sex offenders register without also addressing it holistically as a conglomeration of what patriarchy has defined our society to treat women as,” She stated.
She added that for there to be justice, it will require going beyond locking perpetrators of SGBV behind bars. There would be a need to tackle the root causes as well as rehabilitate and re-educating the perpetrators before releasing them.
A lawyer, Aderonke Adedoyin said that the collective efforts of individuals and Civil rights groups in curbing the menace of SGBV/ Women and Gender Right Abuse could only do so much without systems that complement their efforts.
She said, “The continued increase subsists because perpetrators of these crimes exist and are walking freely. The ripple effect is that it emboldens potential criminals who carry on the legacy of perpetuating sexual crimes. Other contributing factors include but are not limited to the prevalence of patriarchal and sexist views that endanger women, a low level of trust in public authorities due to biased law enforcement practices, as a result of this, some cases of sexual crimes are not reported”.
Adedoyin said “Sexual and gender-based violence / Gender Rights Abuse is just one of numerous human rights violations. To curb its menace, Institutions that cater exclusively to SGBV must be established, adequately funded and effectively organised.
She added that state-level action is necessary to reduce crimes of sexual violence.
According to her, of the 36 states in Nigeria, only 18 states have domesticated the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act (VAPP).
“It’s surprising that these states have the highest reported cases because the SouthEast states and the F.C.T are front-liners in combatting crimes of sexual and gender-based violence. All southeastern states have ratified the VAPP law while three states in the south have domesticated the act, two states are awaiting assent, and one state is yet to enact the bill”.
States that have domesticated VAPP are more likely to record higher complaints as victims have more confidence in the system.
Enactment of state-level bills will also help shift the culture in Nigeria away from “blaming the victim,” says Doris Ikpeze, Ipas – Partners for Reproductive Justice – Nigeria policy advisor, in a report published on the organisation’s website
“Because of the stigma associated with rape, women and girls often do not trust the police, the courts— or even health providers—to provide them help after they have been assaulted, and so do not report the crime,” Ikepze explained.
Omolola Pedro is a Reporter/ Fact-Checker at The International Centre for Investigative Reporting. She believes in a society that is fair to all. She has deep interest in Gender Equality, Social Justice, and protection of human rights.
You can reach out to her via mail firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter:@pedro_omolola