By Jerome Uneje
Baba Junior, not again! “Must you always look for an excuse to hit me…tonight you will kill me o! Just because you think I should never contribute to whatever decision made in this house – since you are the head”. Immediately Mama Junior lets out aloud shout that awakens Junior, the eldest son of the family as fight ensues. Junior jumps and rushes out of bed only to stand in between the corridor that leads to his parents’ bedroom as the door is under lock. Slowly, he begins to sob, begging his parents to stop he mutters a prayer – “O Lord help my parents to understand the obligation of a family as a union of love and equity”.
Junior’s unpleasant incident is one out of the many cases of Gender based violence that occurs in Families across Benue State and Nigeria. This is largely owing to the age long tradition and custom including religious beliefs that places a woman beneath a man in all areas. This traditional belief system is deeply seated so much that the society has practically refused to make a shift despite all the global advocacies and campaigns.
Gender Based Violence (GBV) in its true meaning is therefore the violence that is directed against a person on the basis of gender. It constitutes a breach of the fundamental right to life, liberty, security, dignity and equality between women and men, non-discrimination and physical and mental integrity. (Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, 2012) While men and boys can be victims of GBV, the main focus here is violence directed against women. This is because women and girls are the majority of people affected by GBV and they also suffer serious effects as a result of same.
Gender Based Violence (GBV) is one of the most prevalent human rights violations in the world. It knows no social, economic or national boundaries. Worldwide, an estimated one in three women has or will experience physical or sexual abuse in her lifetime. According to the EU-wide Survey on Violence against Women 2014 conducted by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights, 22% of women have experienced some form of physical and/or sexual violence by a current or previous partner. As such, as many as one in every three women have either been beaten, coerced into sex, or abused in some other way – most often by someone she knows, including her husband or another male family member as in the case of Ochanya. A young maiden from Benue State, who was violated for many years by a man and his son, a people she calls family which led to her untimely death. Also one woman in four has been abused during pregnancy especially in her own home.
Be that as it may, Gender-based violence both reflects and reinforces inequalities between men and women. This therefore encompasses human rights violations, including sexual abuse of children, rape, domestic violence, sexual assault and harassment, trafficking of women and girls and several harmful traditional practices. Any one of these abuses can leave deep psychological scars; consequently leading to low self-esteem, psychosomatic-trauma, depression, perpetual fear and dependence.
As Nigeria prepares for yet another cycle of Elections come 2019, Gender Based Violence and all other forms of Discrimination against Women should be a cardinal issue to be addressed by Politicians in their campaign promises to the electorates especially women. Surprisingly, gender based violence is prohibited by many legal frameworks both Local, Regional and International, including Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act (VAPPA, 2014), HIV/AIDS (Anti –Discrimination) Act, 2014, African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Right (ACHPR) etc. In spite of all these Instruments over 65% of women still suffer Gender Based Violence routinely owing to the lack of political will by the Government and by extension the society to implement the above mentioned laws and/or Instruments.
This however, is a clarion call on Women Rights Advocates, Human Rights Activists and other Activists to collectively engage with the Politicians to mainstream gender based violence in their campaign promises. Beyond this, structures should be put in place to ensure that the promises made by the Politicians during these campaign periods are actually carried out. This way we believe can lead to a significant reduction in gender based violence if and when the implementation of these laws are effected by the State Actors (Government).
Going forward therefore, we recommend the following;
- All Women Human Rights Groups both at the National and Sub-national level should collectively engage the Politicians at all level towards the implementation of women human right laws.
- Awareness creation should be intensified using community structures to sensitize the public particularly Community and Faith Based Groups.
- The Media should focus its features and editorial more on the issues of Gender Based Violence.
- The Gender Equal Opportunity Law passed in Plateau State should be replicated and implemented across the Country.
- Capacity of women human rights groups should be strengthened in order to enhance a robust engagement with State Actors at all level.
Junior whose parents will never heed to his tears finally got hold of themselves; on hearing a resounding knock on their door. Junior had gone to invite his uncle on the other wing of the flat, knowing they will respect and honour his words. But shouldn’t the engagement of Women Human Rights Groups and other Human Activists put an end to such fights in homes? If truly Politicians at all levels are engaged with – during their campaigns and structures are put in place to see to it that such promises are embarked upon, even after the campaign periods for proper and absolute implementation then Junior and a host of other psychologically traumatized children will have to wipe their tears and build on the dream home filled with “love and equity”.
The engagement of Women Human Rights Groups and other Human Activists with Politicians at all levels during their campaigns promises including the structures that will see to it that such promises are met after the campaign periods especially the implementation of the available laws and Instruments might just be the right stride Junior and a host of other psychological traumatized children would need to wipe their tears and equally build a desirable home filled with “love and equity”.
This might just be the right stride Junior and a host of other psychological traumatized children need towards owning a lovely and equitable home. With the Women Human Rights Groups and other Human Activists’ engagement with the Politicians during their campaigns and the implementation of the available laws and Instruments the like of Junior and a host of other psychological traumatized children in the State and Nigeria will be secure, having their prayers of love and equity answered in an unbiased home.