The Lagos Domestic and Sexual Violence Agency (DSVA) has called for collaboration with relevant stakeholders to prevent Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) against women and children.
Disclosing this during a webinar organized by the Network of Reproductive Health Journalists of Nigeria (Lagos State branch), the Executive Secretary of the Lagos DSVA, Mrs Lola Vivour-Adeniyi, affirmed that prevention rather than cure is the solution to ending SGBV in Lagos state and elsewhere.
Vivour-Adeniyi, who was represented by the Head of the Legal Department of the agency, Ms Tope Oyedija, stated emphatically that ignorance of the law was no excuse even as she noted that perpetrators of SGBV acts were well aware of the laws.
Speaking on the topic titled: “The Role of Policy and Legislation in addressing Sexual and Domestic Violence in Lagos State”, during a webinar organised by the Network of Reproductive Health Journalists of Nigeria, Lagos State branch to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and Children (IDEVAW), she said legislation such as the criminal code, the VAPP Law, and Child Rights laws, among others have played significant roles in checkmating the activities of perpetrators of SGBV.
According to the Executive Secretary, the investigation of the cases and prosecution of perpetrators of SGBV in Lagos state coupled with community engagement, support services, shelter, recently established by the agency and other contributions by CSOs, have also helped in the rehabilitation of victims of SGBV, protecting them from immediate danger, and easing them into protective custody where they have access to psychosocial support to mitigate the impact of the violence on them.
“Policy and Legislation has helped in restricting the actions of perpetrators of SGBV,” she stated.
The Lagos DSVA Executive Secretary encouraged everyone experiencing any form of domestic and sexual violence, and who requires someone to talk to, to call the toll free number 08000333333, even as she assured of utmost confidentiality.
In her presentation entitled “Mitigating the Impact of Sexual and Domestic Violence against Women in Nigeria”, the Executive Director of Women Advocate Research and Documentation Centre, WARDC, Dr Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi called for the abolishment of the patriarchal nature of the African culture, which according to her, makes women more vulnerable to SGBV.
She lamented that impunity has fuelled SGBV due to power imbalance, inequality, unfavourable laws and inadequate sanctions.
Akiyode-Afolabi proposed that strong policies, political will and sanctions should be put in place to mitigate the impact of domestic and sexual violence on women while survivors and everyone should continue to say no to violence and not give in to the excuses of the perpetrators.
The Lagos State Programme Manager of The Challenge Initiative, TCI, Nigeria, Dr Omotunde Odanye, in her presentation titled: “Empowering Women through Family Planning: A Path to Gender Equality and Violence Prevention” advocated for government policies that promote women’s rights and adolescents targeted quality and balanced information on family planning to avoid unintended pregnancy and other attendant challenges noted that lack of family planning options can stress a family and lead to escalation of violence among married couples.
“Empower a woman to make strategic life choices, family planning allows couples to attain the desired number of children, healthy child spacing through use of contraceptives. Information, which will enable complete education for girls and women, improve economic independence, gender equality, healthier women and girls, better relationships/families,” she argued.
Earlier in her opening remarks, the Lagos State Coordinator of the Network of Reproductive Health Journalists of Nigeria, NRHJN, Ms Kikelomo Oduyebo, stated that as a media advocacy group, the NRHJN would sustain its advocacy drive towards the elimination of violence against women and children, through partnerships with government, development partners and other Civil Society groups.
Oduyebo specifically mentioned the Women Advocate Research and Documentation Centre, WARDC, and The Challenge Initiative, TCI, Nigeria, both of which collaborated with the Network to promote the advocacy for sustained anti-SGBV policies to commemorate the IDEVAW.
Oduyebo said the NRHJN had been advocating on sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and adolescents since 2010 in Nigeria and the group is ever ready to join the global community to observe the 16 days of activism against SGBV which holds November 25 annually and is observed as International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and Children, till December 10, recognized as the Universal Human Rights Declaration Day.
In her testimonial, a survivor of SGBV, Queen Esther Abiola, called for improved women empowerment, and safe space to enable them to have more decision-making power during critical moments in abusive relationships and marriages.
Queen Esther, narrated how at 22, she was raped by the leader of an armed robbery gang in her home, she also stated how she ended up with a husband who subjected her to sexual, physical, verbal and mental abuse for 10 years. Her marriage is blessed with three sons.
According to Queen Esther, over the years, she has regained her self-esteem and financial power by working mostly online now as an author and public speaker advocating for safe spaces for women and adolescents.
She urged survivors of sexual and gender-based violence to always seek help by speaking out about their trauma in abusive relationships and marriages.
In his presentation titled, “SGBV: The Role of the Media in Raising Awareness and Challenging Stereotypes”, Mr Lekan Otufodunrin, Director of Media Career Development Network, noted that the media has been raising awareness on SGBV, especially in recent times, also informing, educating and challenging stereotypes.
Giving tips to the journalists, he stated: “Mainstream SGBV across the beats, report it, don’t let the reportage be limited to correspondents on crime or health beats. “Do news reports, features, conduct interviews and encourage others to tell their stories. Don’t stigmatise,” Otufodunrin added.
He urged the media to highlight all the voices behind SGBV whether religious, ethnic or cultural, and to follow through on developing stories and promoting diverse voices, exposing what is hidden, and challenging the stereotypes and the contradictions that feature survivors, and writing stories in an ethical way, not just about making headlines to attract attention.