BY: Alobo Eba
A Civil Society group under the aegis of Women Voice and Leadership Nigeria Project has called on the government of Cross River state to declare a state of emergency on all forms of sexual and gender based violence and prosecute all offenders including those in the high class.
The group made the appeal during a press conference in Calabar adding that rape and other gender based violence has become a pandemic that needs to be nipped to the bud. According to them “We call on the governor of Cross River state to declare rape in Cross River a pandemic that is taking more lives than COVID-19 in the state and should be treated with utmost urgency”.
Addressing the press, the CEO of Neighborhood Care-Well Foundation(NCF), Mrs Victoria Emah stated that Cross River and other parts of the country have witnessed an upsurge in the cases of sexual and gender based violence. According to her, this upsurge in cases of rape, battery and even child marriage is gradually gaining acceptance as a normal part of what it takes to be a woman or a girl. She added that the increasing rate of rape and other gender violence calls for urgent attention by all stakeholders.
Mrs Emah expressed dissatisfaction with the justice system noting that ” There have been only 65 rape convictions between 1973 and 2019, and in many cases, police officers try to settle cases as a family or household matters”. She went further to call on all hands to be on deck in ensuring that the incidence of rape and gender violence is drastically reduced as according to her “We need change now. This must stop!”.
Also speaking, the project coordinator of Gender and Development Action (GADA), Mrs Francisca Effiom stated that the group is making various demands from both government, security agencies, NGOs and the entire public. Some of the demands according to her include, improved funding from government on agencies and groups in charge of gender based violence, criminalization of gender based issues and punishment for offenders, public shaming of perpetrators of gender violence, creation of safe homes or spaces where victims of gender violence can rake solace as well as reinforcement of gender based units in schools equipped with counsellors to handle gender based issues.
On her part, the CEO of Child Care and Adolescent Protection Initiative (CCAPI), Mrs Evelyn Oti stated that her organisation has decided to train all gender officers across the 18 Local Governments in Cross River state to help handle issues of gender violence. She added that they have provided help lines to members of the public to report incidences of violence at home and workplace and called on members of the public to jettison the culture of silence and learn to speak out when violated or battered. She called on all stakeholders to work in harmony with their organizations in a bit to put an end to the menace of gender violence.
Reacting, one of the country representatives of the group called on the government to establish an Anti-Rape commission to handle cases of rape and other gender violence and ensure speedy prosecution of offenders.