Eliminating Violence Against Women

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By most accounts,
women across the world face different forms of violence, including domestic violence and rape, but the scale and true nature of the issue is often hidden.
In the light of this, the United Nations (UN) calls on governments, international organisations and non-governmental organisations to organise activities aimed to boosting public awareness of the problem.
Besides, many African countries have inaugurated different agencies that are saddled with the responsibility of protecting women’s rights, as part of designed efforts initiated to tackle the problem.
In furtherance of the crusade against violence against women, the UN designated November  25 every year as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. Since 1981, women’s rights activists have been using the day as a platform to renew their calls for the women’s emancipation.
On  December 17, 1999, however, the UN General Assembly designated November  25 as a special day to draw global attention to the plight of women.
Women’s rights activists say that violence against women is a technical term used to collectively refer to violent acts which are primarily or exclusively committed against women.
They say that any act of gender-based violence which results in, or is likely to result in physical, sexual or mental harm to women — whether in public or in private life – should be considered as violence against women.
They argue that at least one in every three women in the world has suffered from one form of violence or the other.
“Violence against women is a human rights violation. It is a consequence of discrimination against women, in law and also in practice, and of persisting inequalities between men and women.
“It is a global pandemic, with about 70 per cent of the world’s women experiencing violence in their lifetime,” some of the activists say.
Analysts believe that violence against women impacts on and impedes on any progress made in efforts to eradicate poverty, combat HIV and AIDS as well as ensure peace and security.
Mrs Odinaka Innocent, the Senior Programme Officer of Network of Universities Legal Aid Institutions, an NGO, insists that violence against women should never be overlooked.
She emphasises that it is absolutely wrong for anyone to raise a hand against a woman, regardless of the circumstances.
She laments that some women have been tacitly encouraging violence against women by not speaking out whenever they are abused.
Innocent, however, concedes that such women are probably afraid to speak out because of the fear of the stigma which such disclosure might bring upon them.
She, nonetheless, underscores the need to support women who are going through any form of violence, rather than justifying any violent act against women.
“The society should help women who experience one form of abuse or the other and not to force them to manage the situation,’’ she adds.
Sharing similar sentiments, Mrs Nnenna John-Paul, says that violence against women includes verbal, mental and physical abuse.
She claims that violence against women is one of the machinations of Satan aimed at destabilising homes.
John-Paul says that if a woman is mentally destabilised, she ceases to think properly and as such, her wellbeing is affected.
“If a woman is violated, so many things will go wrong in the home. For instance, the children will not be catered for because the woman is already traumatised.
“The woman will not be able to maintain her home, she will not be able to achieve much, both at home and at her workplace,’’ she says.
John-Paul says that whenever there is violence in the home, the woman experiences fear and this state of mind affects her relationship with her husband, children and other family members.
“A broken relationship affects the progress of a home and by extension, the progress of a nation,’’ she adds.
John-Paul, nonetheless, calls on men to watch the things they utter about their wives, saying that a wrong utterance could mean an abuse.
However, Mrs Nkechi Odinukwe , the Senior Programme Officer, American Labour Solidarity Centre, an NGO, calls on the National Assembly to expedite action on the passage of the Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Bill.
She says that the bill addresses various issues such as female circumcision, early marriage, rape and harmful widowhood practices, among others.
Odinukwe notes that the proposed law also prescribes harsh sentences for rape and other sexual offences; compensations for rape victims and institutional protection for women from abuse through restraining orders.
She says that the bill also has provisions which recognise the rights of every Nigerian to safety, both in the workplace and at home.
She, nonetheless, urges the Federal Government to initiate pragmatic measures that would protect health workers and patients against violence at their places of work.
“Workplace violence is one of the complex and dangerous occupational hazards facing people, particularly women, working in health care sector.
“Violence at work not only has immediate effect on the victims; it also affects other people directly or indirectly,’’ she says, adding that work-related violence hampers performance.
Odinukwe expatiates that violence in the workplace could cause anger, humiliation, shame, frustration, loss of confidence, while provoking and increasing job stress.
She says that such violence includes homicide, assaults, threats, bullying, sexual harassment, verbal abuse, among others.
Speaking on the forms of violence against women, Mr James Oluwasegun, the Head of the Legal Unit of Women’s Rights Advancement and Protection Alternative (WRAPA), says that the violence types include defilement of girls, sexual harassment in offices and grievous bodily harm.
He argues that domestic violence can be in different forms, adding that such violence in any form whatsoever affects the happiness of a woman.
He stresses that WRAPA, which was established in 1999, is aimed at tackling all the issues affecting the fundamental rights of women in Nigeria.
He says that over the years, the organisation has organised different programmes, geared towards the elimination of violence against women.
Oluwasegun says that the organisation receives reports of cases of violence against women regularly, adding, however, that rape cases in the FCT are no longer as rampant as they were in the past.
“Rape and defilement of young girls were prevalent in the FCT because of its densely populated suburbs.
“But with the demolition of houses in the suburbs, the prevalence rate has reduced because social vices are usually rampant in over-populated neighbourhoods,” he says.
“If issues of violence against women are not checked, it could result in divorce cases. And when parents are divorced, there is a devastating effect on the children,’’ he adds.
All the same, Oluwasegun insists that that there are extant laws designed to curb violence against women, saying that the punishment for perpetrators of such violence is well spelt out under the criminal and penal code.
He stresses that the laws have provisions for crimes such as rape and defilement of minors, adding, therefore, that perpetrators of the wrongdoing should be held liable.
Besides, Oluwasegun says that WRAPA has sent the Violence against Persons Prohibition Bill to the National Assembly, adding that the bill has passed through the second reading.
He underscores the significance of the bill, saying that it is to check violence against persons, both at home and in offices.
Moreover, Oluwasegun says that WRAPA is collaborating with the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development and the Law Reform Commission in its campaign on violence against women.
He, therefore, calls on all Nigerians to promote the growth of the society, saying that a trouble-free home and society will definitely stimulate development in all ramifications.
All in all, observers say that tangible efforts should be made to eliminate all forms of violence against women in the fast-evolving 21st Century civilisation.

Sharang is of News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)

 

Naomi Sharang

Cross section of women journalists at a road walk to mark  international day for the elimination of violence against women in Port Harcourt recently. Phot: Ibioye Diama
Cross section of women journalists at a road walk to mark international day for the elimination of violence against women in Port Harcourt recently. Phot: Ibioye Diama