“Over 6 million women in South West Nigeria victims of female genital mutilation”

Over 6 million women are victims of female genital mutilation
across the six states in south west Nigeria, a group, New Initiative
for Social Development, has said.
At a training organized for journalists in Ado-Ekiti, Wednesday, the
group said that Oyo State has the highest figure with almost 2
million victims.
The training, tagged ‘Reduction of Discrimination and Violence
against Women in South West. Nigeria,’ was organized with the
support of the British High Commission.
“There is a general apathy on the issue of violence against women
on the part of the police institution,” said Abiodun Oyeleye,
Executive Director of the body.
“A typical example will be that of a victim approaching a police
station and the police officers insist on laying the complaint over
the counter without trying to conceal her identity or guaranteeing
her privacy or possibly requesting information that is not central
to the genuine complaints.”
The one-day training was aimed at creating awareness for the
Violence against Persons Prohibition Act which was signed into
law in May 2015, after 13 years in the National Assembly.
Margaret Fagboyo of the Department for International
Development said the “tortuous journey” of the bill was enough
pointer to the complexity of the problems facing discrimination
against vulnerable women.
“Studies have shown that our society is endemic with incidences
of rights violation and abuses, as well as cases of discrimination
against vulnerable persons,” said Mrs. Fagboyo, acting Regional
Coordinator, South West, DFID.
“The high prevalence and intensity of the violence most times
arose from local customs, traditional beliefs and value system.
“Unfortunately, the legal and judicial system do not offer much
protection against the violence and abuse. The ugly trend is
further accentuated by our culture of silence.”
Mrs. Fagboyo said until the passage of the VAPP bill last year, only
a handful of states in the country had specific laws targeting
domestic violence and abuse.
“However, the content of the new law is tailored towards our
environment, reflecting the realities of domestic violence and
discrimination in Nigeria today. In addition, the law incorporates
relevant provisions of international human rights laws and
principles.”
Mrs. Fagboyo also said the new law covers practices such as
spousal battery, forceful ejection from home, forced financial
dependence or economic abuse, harmful widowhood practices,
and female circumcision among others.
“Victims and survivors of violence are also entitled to
comprehensive medical, psychological, social and legal assistance
by accredited service providers and government agencies, with
their identities protected during court cases,” she said.
“So, on one hand, the legal provisions aspect has been settled, the
question however remains: how do we ensure its awareness and
enforcement? It would only remain a law in abeyance if the key
stakeholders refuse to own it, and merely keep it in the statute
book.”
According to Wale Adebajo of the British High Commission, the
challenges of the domestic violence law is that it is not yet known
to the people.
“The citizens have no access to the law including the justice sector
stakeholders which makes it very difficult to enforce,” said Mr.
Adebajo, Communication Manager and Political Adviser, British
Deputy High Commission.
“That is why the British Government is supporting New Initiative
for Social Development to promote the Violence Against Persons’
Prohibition Law and educate the stakeholders to make the
enforcement possible in order to reduce violence against women
including harmful traditional practices especially in Nigeria
especially in the southwest.”
Ikechukwu Okafor, a university lecturer, described the law as
comprehensive in its objectives and approach to violence against
persons.
“It seeks to harness contributions from all participants and
stakeholders in fighting this crime,” said Mr. Okafor, a Senior
Lecturer at Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti.
“Apart from the courts, police and prisons which are usually the
primary institutions for criminal matters this Act spreads a wide
net of stakeholder participation including governmental, non-
governmental, faith-based, voluntary and charitable organizations
amongst others.
“The objectives and approaches adopted by this Act are robust
and all-inclusive. However, its success will largely depend on
strong advocacy which leads to attitudinal change in the society.”

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