President Muhammadu Buhari has directed the Attorney General and Minister of Justice to inaugurate an Inter-Ministerial Gender-Based Violence Management Committee to address all forms of violence against women and children in Nigeria.
The Minister of Women Affairs, Mrs. Pauline Tallen, made this known at the virtual meeting on the 2020 State of the World Population (SWOP) Report titled: “Against my will: Defying the practices that harm women and girls and undermine equality” in Abuja on Thursday.
Tallen said that the President had also directed the Inspector-General of Police to deal with perpetrators in furtherance of the declaration of zero tolerance to rape and other Gender-Based Violence.
She reiterated the commitment of the Buhari-led government to end violence against women, saying there was a stronger collaboration with the police to bring perpetrators to book.
She added that “we are constantly engaging with the Nigeria Police on the need to promptly address issues of rape and GBV in the country.
“In the same vein, the Nigeria Governors Forum in June declared State of Emergency on rape in all the 36 states of the federation.”
The minister, however, noted that Nigeria had recorded a spike on Gender-Based Violence, with an unprecedented surge in rape cases of both minors and older persons.
She described the situation as “so depressing; it is a pandemic in a pandemic.”
She expressed worry not only on the violence, but the economic hardship being experienced by women occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic.
She explained that “Nigeria, like many other countries, has recorded a spike in gender-based violence and an unprecedented surge in rape cases, even of minors and older persons.
“With the restriction placed on movements, household incomes became negatively impacted in many developing countries such as ours where women have greater representation in the informal sector.”
Tallen warned that the situation had partly led to food insecurity, poverty, and malnutrition, thereby increasing gender inequality.
The minister said that the ministry had made efforts to generate data to ascertain the level of the negative impact of the lockdown on women’s’ means of income.
“To further ascertain the extent which these businesses were affected, the ministry, in collaboration with the National Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA) and SME is also working.
“We undertook a National Survey on the impact of COVID-19 on Women-led Businesses in Nigeria and the report was launched in June to coincide with the UN Micro-Small and Medium-size Enterprises Day,” she said.
She pointed out that the 2020 SWOP Report did not only highlight the magnitude of harmful practices against women and girls, it provided guidance to government and partners on what was required to eliminate such acts.
child marriage, female genital mutilation, and son preference.
According to her, the report predicts that an additional 13 million children risk early marriage between 2020 and 2030; the deadline set by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
The women affairs minister, therefore, called for drastic actions to change entrenched cultural practices and attitudes that dehumanize and enslave women.
Tallen reassured that the Federal Government like other governments across the world was committed not only to eliminate harmful practices against women and girls; but also curb the rampaging impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
She said “let me assure you that the Federal Government is leaving no stone unturned to ensure that the fundamental rights of the most vulnerable in the society, especially women and girls, are protected.
“This has made government at all levels to respond positively to the national outcry that trailed the unacceptable trends and patterns witnessed in the last few months.”
She then commended the Senate President and the senate for rising to the challenge by passing a bill for an act to prevent, prohibit, and redress sexual harassment of students in tertiary educational institutions and for matters concerned.
Tallen expressed optimism that the bill would go a long way to bring about the much-needed sanity in Nigerian institutions of higher learning including lecturers when fully operational.
She saluted the UN system in the country led by Edward Kallon “for the immense support”, especially the contributions of UN Women, UNICEF, and UNAIDS.