Tackling Sexual Violence

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Sexual violence, in all its ramifications, remains a sin and serious crime against God and humanity. It, indeed, depicts man at his most bestial level in his bid to satisfy his uncontrollable libido.
Irked by the increasing prevalence of sexual violence at the global level, the United Nations (UN) declared June 19 annually as the International Day for Elimination of Sexual Violence to sensitise the global community in sex-related crimes.
Commemorated since 2008, over 200 countries use the event to raise awareness towards the elimination or, better still, eradication of sexual violence, particularly in areas of conflict and strife.
In Nigeria, as in many other African countries where civil disturbances, terrorism, gangsterism, cultism, communal clashes, kidnapping and other social vices have become widespread, sexual violence had increased geometrically as it is common in all strata of the society – be it at home, office, educational institutions and, worse still, even in sacred places such as churches, mosques and shrines.
Underscoring the aptness of this year’s theme of the epoch; ‘Violence: The Importance of Survivors Centred Approach’, the UN in a statement to mark the event said sexual violence has virtually become endemic in our generation, citing rape, abduction, sexual slavery, forced marriage, child and human trafficking, among other anti-societal vices, as regular features in some parts of the world.
In Nigeria, for instance, sexual violence has been common in the country as cases abound in the North East of Nigeria where terrorism prevails, North Central with banditry and herdsmen menace, South South and South East where kidnapping, abduction, communal clashes and armed robbery hold sway. In all these circumstances, victims are held captive and subjected to horrific and violent sexual ordeal better imagined than experienced.
We recall the 2014 abduction of 279 Chibok school girls in Borno State and 2017 Dapchi school girls taken hostage in Yobe State by the Boko Haram insurgents who turned the girls into sex slaves, some of whom were impregnated, forced into marriages and, in some cases, infected with sexually transmitted diseases (STD) or Human Immuno-Deficiency Virus (HIV).
The stigma of these terrible experiences leaves no one in doubt as to what becomes of the future of the victims of sexual violence. This is where government and other stakeholders should step in to, not only rehabilitate and reintegrate them, but also do the needful by ensuring that justice for survivors is not only seen to be guaranteed but enforced.
It, indeed, calls for survivors-centred approach which includes mental, physical, educational and sexual health of the victims. Governmental and non-governmental bodies must ensure an end to impunity of perpetrators of this anomaly, especially in conflict-related areas.
This is why we endorse the initiative of African Women Lawyers Association (AWLAN), African Women in Power (AWP), National Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ), International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) and other bodies who have taken pragmatic steps toward stricter enforcement of extant laws against sexual violence.
As the global community marks the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence, it is expected that interest groups, especially women, go beyond individual efforts in their campaign against what has, indeed, become an enormous global challenge and sin against humanity, but also synergise in the battle ahead.
It is imperative that all hands are on deck to enhance and ensure the natural right of women and stop forthwith various abuses on womenfolk. As a civilised society, we must always strive to expose perpetrators of sexual violence to enable relevant authorities bring them to justice.
The era of sex-for-food, sex-for-marks, and other abuses related to sexual violence must stop for good. We must report all cases to the police or appropriate bodies like MSF (Doctors Without Borders) for immediate and emergency response and action.
As we mark today’s event, the world should recommit itself and take proactive and practical steps to end sexual violence.
This is time for action, not rhetorics!