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By Emeka Nwokocha

Worried by the astronomical rise in sexual and gender-based violence in Delta state, Partners for Peace (P4P) in Niger Delta (P4P), Delta state chapter, a nongovernmental organisation promoting peace in Niger Delta, has intensified measures to curb the crime head-on.

This was practically demonstrated on Wednesday 14 September, 2022 when the prevent Committee of the organisation launched impactful campaigns in Iwhreko, Otowodo and Afiesere communities, in Ughelli north local government area of the state, tagged, “Project Research and Speak up Against Sexual and Gender-based Violence (SGBV) Against Young Girls & Women in Rural Communities.”

P4P Prevent Committee Team Lead, Mr. Fred Nohwo, speaking to participants at Otowodo Town Hall

During separate sessions of the campaign in the three communities, the team lead of the Prevent Committee, Mr. Fred Nohwo, educated the motley crowds of community women, youths and men on the harm sexual and gender-based violence poses to society, saying that the report of a research recently conducted in Niger Delta posits that Ughelli north local government area has more cases of sexual violence in recent years.

Continuing, he explicitly defined gender-based violence as an act or threats of sexual, physical, or psychological violence occurring within and around homes, perpetrated because of gender norms and stereotypes and facilitated by unequal and power dynamics. He further defined rape as forced sexual intercourse, including vaginal, anal, or oral penetration, stating that penetration may be by a body part or an object.

Barrister Harmony Again, of FIDA, speaking to participants at Afiesere community

He noted that sustained advocacies against gender-based violence were potent measure for curbing the menace, even as he appealed to relevant stakeholders for partnership with P4P in the ongoing campaign against the surging crime.

Speaking further, Nohwo explained the different types of gender-based violence which include sexual violence, physical violence, emotional and psychological violence, female genital mutilation (FGM), child marriage, domestic violence and socioeconomic violence.
He added that the extant laws in Nigeria seriously frown at the heinous crime, stating that the campaign would be sustained and taken to other communities across the state in order to put an end to the crime.

Cross Section women at Iwhreko community town hall listening with wrapped attention

In the same vein, the coordinator of the Delta state chapter of P4P, Ms Jennifer Okotie said the campaign was aimed to encourage members of the communities to speak up against all forms of gender-based violence in their homes and within the communities, stating that collective efforts must be strengthened to be able to nip the ravaging crime in the bud.

Speaking at the event, the representative of the Ughelli chapter of International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) Nigeria, Barrister Harmony Agwu, educated the participants on the legal procedures they could leverage to seek unhindered justice in the event of rape, defilement, battery and other forms of gender-based violence, stating that, “FIDA is positioned to provide legal services pro bono to women and girls who have been sexually abused or subjected to domestic violence.

Mrs. Racheal Odoko, speaking at Afiesere session of the campaign against SGBV

Continuing, she said, “violence against women has been acknowledged worldwide as a violation of basic human rights with attendant health implications on the victim such as depression, post-traumatic stress and other anxiety disorders including suicide attempts.
She said that the Delta State Government, in 2020, while taking a cue from the federal government, signed the Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) bill into law to curb all forms of violence against residents of the state.

Responding to questions as to why gender-based violence, whenever it occurs, is rarely reported officially to law enforcement agents, the participants, mostly women advanced various reasons including compromise and lack of professionalism on the part of police personnel; lack of finance on the part of the victims and or their families to prosecute the case legally; vindictive cultural practices that make women subservient to their husbands; taunting of women in the community who boldly seek redress through the law; fear of likely breakup of their marriages when women boldly seek the law to protect their rights, ignorant of the law, and lack of courage by women to protect their rights.

Cross Section of elderly men at Iwhreko town hall listening with wrapped attention

As the session continued, emotions were heightened when some women took courage and narrated violent acts meted to them by their spouses.

The case of a woman at a session of the campaign in Iwhreko was very striking as she narrated her harrowing experience and pain resulting from abandonment, bullying and battery meted to her and her children by her husband. She added that her case was worsened by brazen compromise by law enforcement agent-police. Saying, “while undergoing torture as a result of my husband’s hostility, infidelity and lack of care, I lodged series of complaints at police station, but instead of protecting my rights, they (police) defiantly looked the other way.

In a similar vein, another woman gave a scary narration of the battery often meted to her by her spouse, saying that, “on one occasion, my husband beat me and broke my hand, but when I went to police station and lodged the complaint and sought redress at court, it was all about money, money, money! I couldn’t continue because I didn’t have enough money to follow up the case.

Mrs. Onome Queen, speaking at Otowodo session of the Campaign against SGBV

Also, Mrs. Tega Felix expressed concern about the worrisome cases of SGBV in the state, saying that, “society supports immorality with glee and fuels sexual violence with impunity.” She narrated a case where she intervened and tried to protect a teenage girl who was tricked and brought to a community to “do” prostitution against her wish. But when she (Tega) got wind of the act and tried to protect the girl from continuing in the immoral business by lodging a complaint at the police station, the youths in the community became angry with her and launched several attacks on her, adding that the woman who brought the girl to the community for prostitution (brothel keeper) staged a fierce quarrel with her.
Tega said that her intervention seriously put her life at huge risk as the society and law enforcement agents could not protect her life.

Speaking, the vice president general of Afiesere community, Chief Shikaleke Okiemute attributed the reason to poverty, stating that poor parents of victims of sexual abuse would easily accept money from the perpetrator of the act as a form of compensation rather than ensuring that the victim gets justice. He also expresses concern about corruption in the police system, of which police personnel oftentimes trivialize the crime after bribe has been paid by the perpetrator of the act.

Mrs. Ologe Kechi, speaking at Iwhreko session of the campaign against SGBV

Among the personalities present at the sessions were Blessing Okay, NSCDC personnel, Mr. Kingsley Orise, Secretary-General, Iwhreko community, Mr. Oke Obiuwevwin, PRO, Otowodo community, Mr. Oruma Amos, Youth Chairman, Otowodo community, Mr. Doro Eghwubare, Otowodo vigilante, Comrade Agholor Abraham, Ogwho Samson, Youth Chairman, Afiesere community, Mrs. Racheal Odoko, woman leader, Afiesere community.

 

 

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