Protecting our girls against sexual violence
Across the world, girls face adversities and abuses that affect their self-esteem, education, training and entry into the workforce. Abuse in all its forms is a daily reality for many Nigerian children and only a fraction ever receive help. According to UNICEF, six out of every 10 children experience some form of violence – one in four girls have been victims of sexual violence. Of the children who reported violence, fewer than five out of a 100 received any form of support.
It is important to understand the ramifications of sexual assault, as not only a physical act, but could also be verbal or visual sexual abuse or any act that forces a person to join in unwanted sexual contact or attention. It encompasses a range of acts, including coerced sex in marriage and dating relationships, rape by strangers, sexual harassment (including demands of sex for jobs or school grades), and rape of children, trafficking of women and girls, female genital mutilation, and forced exposure to pornography.
Sexual assault is also not discriminatory to sex; both males and females are affected but studies have shown that the number of female sexual assault victims (and assault perpetrated by males) is far greater than those of male victims.
Several bodies and agencies have spoken and are still speaking against sexual violence. In March 2017, the United Nations Secretary-General outlined a comprehensive four-pronged strategy to prevent and respond to sexual exploitation and abuse across the United Nations system. The elements of the strategy are to: (a) prioritise the rights and dignity of victims; (b) end impunity through strengthened reporting and investigations; (c) engage with civil society and external partners; and (d) improve strategic communication for education and transparency.
Also, the UNICEF’s child protection programme aims to provide preventive and response interventions for children who are victims of, or at risk from violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation through strengthened child protection systems. The programme works with key state ministries and other partners, to ensure that identified children facing protection risks receive integrated case management and referral to specialised services. The programme works at implementing the priority interventions including: Strengthened legislative and institutional frameworks to protect children vulnerable and exposed to violence, abuse and exploitation; Strengthened capacities of government and key stakeholders, including social welfare and justice services that prevent and respond to violence against children; Supporting the development, coordination and implementation of an inter-sectoral national social norms change strategy to end violence against children, including child marriage, female genital mutilation (FGM)and other harmful traditional practices, strengthening the birth registration system to scale up the registration of children under age five years, with focus on children under one, ensuring children in humanitarian situations have timely and sustained access to quality preventive and responsive child protection services.
The public also play significant role by enlightening children on preventive measure to avoid sexual abuse and by not stigmatising those who have fallen victims but rather supporting them to overcome the trauma.
At African Women in Leadership Organisation, we reiterate our commitment against sexual violence in all its forms while assisting victims to overcome the trauma.
AWLO WHICH IS IN THE VANGUARD OF DRIVING WOMEN’S SUSTAINABLE EMPOWERMENT AND LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT IS HEREBY TAKING OUR EMINENT STANCE ON THE NEFARIOUS ISSUE OF RAPE AS FOLLOWS:
*THE AWLO CONCEPTUAL STANCE ON RAPE INCIDENCE.*
We consider the rising incidence of rape as a slap in the face of the global empowerment struggle for inclusion of women in the mainstream, and in leadership and governance. It is a hate crime much more than violation of human rights. It negates every concept of gender parity or narrowing the gender gap, and it is a negative statement on the uplift of women. The solution should be sought multi-dimensionally, psychologically, spiritually, educationally and legislatively.
We in AWLO consider rape as a height of misogyny and a brutish expression of control, domination, subjugation and torture. It is also a calculated expression by the misogynist to rob a woman of every self-esteem and vestige of dignity.
We are aware that this evil practice cuts across creed, race, age and status and that this is a malaise that negates the restraint and morality often preached by religious creeds. We therefore regret that rape continues to expose the fact that the gender inequality problem is beyond the social facade. It is in the depth of human psychology and the solution should not only be by legislation, by civil rights activism and jurisprudence, but by scientific enquiry necessitating more research and not just imprisonment.
We understand that some rapists appear normal, but they are not because they are often hijacked by their limbic brain short-circuiting reasoning and self-control. There is room for psychiatric test for men in sensitive positions and much more a preemptive measure.
This is food for thought for He-for-She movement because most rape cases are perpetrated by men.
Despite the secular nature of governance, we believe that any religious cleric or official in government caught in proven rape cases should immediately be considered a dire risk to the peace and security of our society and should be locked away to show the value of society against rape and to uphold the empowerment of MISSION AND GENDER PARITY GOAL
Dr Attai is the founder of African Women in Leadership Organization (AWLO).