The Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) has called on all Stakeholders in various States of the Federation and International Development Partners for effective implementation of all Policies, Programmes and law relating to Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV).
The call was made at the High-level Engagement with States on the event titled “Promoting rule of law, Access to Justice and enhancing Criminal Justice Pathway to address Violence against Women and Girls on Tuesday, 3rd October, 2023 at Abuja.
The 3 day programme was organised by Office of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) in Partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
In his Key Note Address, the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation (HAGF) and Minister of Justice, Lateef O. Fagbemi, SAN, represented by the Solicitor General of the Federation and Permanent Secretary, Mrs Beatrice Jedy-Agba, OON, mni, noted that the problem of SGBV had continued to dominate national and global discussions because of its prevalence and difficulties in detecting and prosecuting most offenders.
“SGBV is highly insidious and constitutes a grave human rights violation. It is a hidden crime on account of its cultural permissiveness as it is deeply rooted in harmful gender norms and practices which forms our way of life, thus making its detection and eradication very difficult. This situation is further exacerbated by gender stereotyping and the impunity of perpetrators, taking advantage of family ties and shaming victims to avoid prosecution”. He hinted.
Fagbemi explained that critical factors of the situation had led to the engagement with the State Actors on SGBV because SGBV are mostly State offences, predominantly committed in the communities within various States. He added that with the enactment into law of the Violence against Persons (Prohibition) Law by nearly all States of the Federation, it became necessary to develop and build the capacities of State Actor to effectively implement the provisions of the law.
The HAGF highlighted SGBV as an act that is perpetrated against a person’s will on the basis of gender norms and unequal power relations. It manifests in various forms, including, Rape, Sexual Assault, sexual harassment, spousal battery, child sexual abuse, child marriage, incest, abandonment, forced isolation, female genital mutilation, harmful widowhood practices, economic abuse as well as emotional and psychological abuse.
Furthermore, he said the growing incidences of SGBV therefore demanded stronger and more coordinated responses and approaches as it continued to determine family values and endanger the lives of women and children.
Fagbemi assured FG’s commitment to the implementation of its obligation under the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and other international human rights instruments as well as national laws prohibiting incidences of SGBV namely, Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act of 2015 (VAPP), the Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Enforcement and Administration Act (2015) and Child Rights Act, amongst others.
He promised that Government would continue to develop appropriate frameworks and counter-measures to overcome the unique challenges posed by SGBV.
In addition, he said Federal Government took further steps amongst which are:
Setting up a Federal SGBV Prosecution Hub in December 2021, to ensure a coordinated and responsive investigation and prosecution of SGBV cases at Federal level, Facilitating access to justice for SGBV Victims through prosecution of SGBV cases, legal counseling and mediation between parties and procurement of protection orders.
He disclosed that The Ministry is currently reviewing the National Policy on Justice, 2017 to encapsulate SGBV matters and provide a sustainable framework for addressing the problem.
Fagbemi commended the theme of the workshop which focused on sharing knowledge, experiences and developing capacities of the State Actors, therefore expecting recommendations of the participants in terms of policy or legal actions on SGBV. He appreciated the Hon Minister of Women Affairs and all Stakeholders.
In her goodwill message, the Minister of Women Affairs Barrister Uju-Kenedy Ohananeye explained that women and girls are faced with different kinds of violence ranging from sexual violence, domestic violence, physical violence, psychological violence, cyber bulling, forced marriage and sex exploitation to trafficking, adding that, if unchecked, could pose a serious threat to economic development and the social cohesion of the country.
In her words, “I am delighted therefore, not only because this engagement is unique in a sense that justice is being brought to the front burner in our efforts to tackle SGBV, but also the fact that data is identified as critical ingredient in tackling this hydra headed societal ills.
The Ministry of Women Affairs recognizes this fact and is determined to collaborate with relevant stakeholders in building a robust synergy in its drive to closing the existing data gap on SGBV” she added.
Director Public Prosecution of the Federation, (DPPF) Mohammed Babadoko, Esq. in his welcome address, explained that the objectives of the programme included the promotion of rule of law and access to justice; assessment of national laws, policies and strategies on criminal justice; development of effective criminal justice responses and remedies; capacity building for collection and analysis of relevant data on SGBV crimes; elimination of discriminatory rules and procedures as well as the promotion of specialized and coordinated approaches for all institutions in the criminal justice chain to address SGBV and other crimes.
In his good will message, the resident representative of United National Development Programme (UNDP) represented by Mr. Simon Ridley, informed participants that the 3 day High Level State Engagement was part of UNDP intervention under the EU-UN Spotlight Initiative which is a global multi-year partnership between the European Union and the United Nations established to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls.
He urged the gathering to delve deeply into the realms of promoting the Rule of Law and Access to Functioning of Criminal Justice Pathways to combat Violence against Women and Girls such that interventions are rooted in a victim-cantered modality which aligns with international standards and norms.
“Ultimately, the Ministry of Justice and UNDP will emerge from this engagement with actionable recommendations that will guide the path forward.
We will work in collaboration with key line Ministries and Agencies to translate these recommendations into concrete steps, forging a more just and equitable for all.” He concluded.
The Director-General, National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) Prof. Fatima Waziri-Azi, showered encomiums on the Judiciary for their courage especially with regards to some recent convictions of Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBVs) offenders. According to her, the convictions would go a long way to deter other would be offenders. She is doing charged the judiciary to do more, most especially in relation to coordination, information sharing and resource mobilization toward ending violence against women and girls.
In her vote of thanks, Head SGBV Response Unit in the Ministry expressed her appreciation to the AGF for his open hearted reception of addressing issues regarding the protection and realization of the rights of women and children and for his support with actions that culminated in the programme.
She also thanked the SGF for her astute commitment in the fight against SGBV as well as the UNDP.