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Nigeria’s sexual assault cases under-reported – Minister

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Many cases of sexual assault are under-reported, and most times the cases are poorly prosecuted due to lack of evidence to prove rape, the minister of Women Affairs, Pauline Tallen, has said.

She said victims are often reluctant to report for the fear of the social stigma associated with rape and survivor blaming.

The minister, who was represented by Ebele Obiefuna, Senior Social Welfare Service spoke on Wednesday at the official commissioning of the first Sexual Assault Referral Center (SARC) in FCT said limited facilities to provide victims with necessary medical assistance, trauma centres, and counselling are contributory factors to victims silence.

The commissioning at the Bwari general hospital is part of the programmes set to commemorate the 16 days of activism to end violence against women and girls, organized by the British Council under its European Union (EU) funded programmes; the Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption (RoLAC) and the Managing Conflict in Nigeria (MCN).

She said the Nigerian police reported that it received 717 cases of sexual assault since January 2020.

Following the development, the minister said many strategies have been put in place to help curb the increase of sexual assault.

“Presently, there are 28 SARCs in 17 states of the federation namely, Akwa Ibom, Borno, Edo, Ekiti, Jigawa, Kano, Kwara, Niger, Ogun, Sokoto, Zamfara has one each, while Enugu and Adamawa 2; Lagos 3, Kaduna and Yobe 4 each”.

According to her, SARCs have assisted over 15,000 survivors of sexual assault of whom are under 18 years old within the space of seven years.

“Medical staff at all the 28 SARCs have been trained in forensic medical examination procedures and documentation as well as in the provision of psychosocial services to survivors of sexual assault,” she said.

She said her ministry launched the national data situation room and data dashboard for ending violence against women and girls in Nigeria.

Also, the minister of state for FCT Ramatu Aliyu, who was also at the event, said the commissioning gave confidence that the huge loss of data, stigma, weak or lack of evidence, slow process of prosecution, reluctance to report cases of sexual violence will be a thing of the past.

“It is obviously no longer business as usual for perpetrators of sexual violence”.

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“For us at FCTA, we will continue to support initiatives that will advance the rights of women and other vulnerable groups and improve their access to justice; we will also advocate for adequate funding for the SARC, mobilize support for the establishment of more SARCs that is accessible and responsive to the need of the victim and survivor of sexual violence in the FCT,” she said

Also, the Head of Section – Democracy, Governance, and Migration at European Union Delegation to Nigeria & ECOWAS, Clement Botillier, said sexual crime is widely acknowledged as the most serious crime affecting women and girls in Nigeria.

Mr Botillier added that the pandemic created a surge showing a significant increase in sexual gender-based violence.

“The fight against gender-based violence remains one of the priorities of the European Union because we believe this is a threat and that there are challenges that affect so many people in the world.

“SGBV is creating underdevelopment, negatively affects cohesion, the ability to contribute to society and ultimately prevent society from thriving, because of this the EU has committed significant resources in the fight through technical and financial support to front line defenders,” he said.

The National Programme Manager RoLAC, Danladi Plang, while speaking, also called for the need for Sexual Assault Referral Centers.

He said it was important as it tries to solve the problem that makes it difficult to prosecute rape perpetrators as it provides immediate emergency medical reports, forensic medical examinations, confidentiality, privacy, and a client-focused approach.

“The success of the SARC initiative has demonstrated the critical role it plays as a hub of a network of collaboration among the many institutions and responders that are active in the effort to reduce sexual violence and assist victims.”



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