…Britain pledges support to fight gender-based violence
By Marie-Therese Nanlong, Jos
Worried by the increase in the rate of rape and other cases of gender-based violence in Plateau State, the State government has restated its commitment to severely punish perpetrators of such acts, so as to deter others.
The state government announced a sexual offenders register would soon be opened in the for data of convicted offenders to be recorded, their identity made public so that they are named and shamed because they are entitled to stigmatization, not their victims.
Governor Simon Lalong who spoke at an hour webinar with the topic: Tackling sexual and gender-based violence as a pathway to sustainable peace organised by the Gideon and Funmi Para-Mallam Peace Foundation stressed that the fight against sexual, gender-based violence and rape must be fought with a lot of attention to ensuring justice for victims and rehabilitating them while severely punishing perpetrators to serve as a deterrent for others.
He regretted that the problem of sexual, gender violence and rape has taken alarming and disgraceful dimensions in Nigeria in recent times and such must not be allowed to go on as according to him, “One thing we take very seriously as a government is the prosecution of rape and sexual offenders. Following an increase in rape cases in the country, I have directed the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice to step up vigorous prosecution of offenders no matter their status.
Very soon, we shall open a Sexual Offenders Register where the data of convicted offenders shall not only be deposited, but their identity made public so that they are named and shamed. I believe that they are the ones that are entitled to stigmatization, not their victims.”
Lalong noted that sexual and gender-based violence finds incubation in conflict areas and women and children are mostly at the receiving end. On the role of the Northern Governors Forum in tackling the situation, the Governor said “Under my leadership, the Nigerian Governors Forum has declared a state of emergency on the increasing rate of sexual and gender-based violence in the country.
We have all resolved and condemned all forms of violence against women and children. The Forum also resolved to ensure that member States promulgate laws with stiffer penalties against perpetrators of sexual-based violence. As part of our resolve, Governors are to ensure the domestication of the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act, 2015 in their various States without further delay.”
Also speaking, British High Commissioner to Nigeria Catriona Laing said addressing gender-based violence and rape is a challenge that must be handled holistically with the cooperation of all stakeholders, advocating condemnation and intolerance for perpetrators as well as succour for the victims adding that the UK was willing to support the action against gender-based violence and rape as well as work with advocacy groups, government agencies and religious leaders in ending the scourge.
First Lady of Ekiti State Mrs Bisi Fayemi and her Kebbi State counterpart Mrs Zainab Bagudu acknowledged the role played by the Nigerian Governors Forum and the Northern Governors Forum in ensuring that more States pass legislation against rape and violence as well as domesticate the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act 2015.
Conveners of the Forum, Rev. Gideon and Professor Para-Mallam identified sexual, gender-based violence and rape as vices that get more exacerbated by crises as can be seen in many areas where violence has been recorded and called for more action by government and civil society groups to end the cycle of violence that targets women, girls and children.