By Miracle Enuji
…advocate Parental Responsibility, Decent Dressing, NGO Participation, Religious Approaches to Stern Trend.
The scourge of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) currently ripping through societies across the world, has become a major concern for the government and relevant stakeholders who fear the imminent destruction of future generations.
These worries were laid bare at a One-day Sexual and Gender Based Violence Stakeholders Conference organized by the Delta State Sexual and Gender Based Violence Response Team (DSGVRT) and O5 Initiative Foundation on Monday, December 2, 2019.
The event which held at the Unity Hall, Government House, Asaba with the theme, Generation Equality: Stands Against Rape and Other Forms of Sexual and Gender Based Violence, was in commemoration the 2019 International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.
Stakeholders from different walks of life including, members of the Delta State Government, Non Governmental Organisations, Civil Society Organisations, Traditional and Political Leaders, expressed their views on the menace and highlighted ways of curbing it.
The State Governor, Senator Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa represented by his deputy, Barr. Kingsley Otuaro described Sexual and Gender Based Violence as worrisome, “it is a national and global challenge, it is a disturbing phenomenon”.
He condemned the act of abusing of minors which he alleged could be linked to demonic or ritual purposes, charging stakeholders to take a firm stamp on the issue and turn to God for divine assistance.
In her contribution, Wife of the Governor and Founder, O5 Initiative, Dame Edith Okowa knocked parents who have abandoned their true responsibilities of taking good care of their children for pursuit of wealth and other frivolities thereby giving room for children to embrace strange doctrines.
Dame Okowa who based her message on Biblical injunctions, stated that actions of present day parents have destroyed many homes and ruined future generations, charging them to return to their original law and go to God in repentance quoting the Holy Bible according to 2 Chronicles 7:14.
Startled with the rise in rape cases of minors, she however disagreed with the notion that indecent dressing isn’t a call to rape, urging girls and women to dress properly at all times.
The First Lady further kicked against stigmatization of victims which she said has kept many in silence calling on mothers to establish good communication with their daughters in order to know when things are going wrong.
In his welcome address, the State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr Peter Mrakpor Esq. said that the Delta State Sexual and Gender-Based Response Team made up of Multi-Governmental and non-Governmental agencies was inaugurated on March 27, 2018 by then Rule of Law Advisor, Office of the Vice President of Nigeria, Mr Akingbolahan Adeniran Esq.
Stating that no community, society, country or region is immune to sexual and gender-based violence, he noted that there is a growing scourge of the menace across Delta state of which over 50% are underreported, noting there is a noticeable increase in these cases.
According to Mrakpor, “This year 2019 till date, the state has about 134 sexual based offence cases pending at the various High courts in Delta State. Also, 17 cases are ready for filing this month, while the state has obtained 8 favourable judgments so far in 2019.
“What is more alarming is the reported cases settled in and out of the Police Station without conclusive investigation and prosecution and this occurs daily due to ignorance, poverty, intimidation, stigmatization and poor/unprofessional handling of such cases by the Police and other government agencies.”
While disclosing that the State Commissioner of Police has instructed that a special desk be opened at every Police Station to handle rape cases, the Attorney General added that, cost of medical and forensic examination of abused victims, the fact that survivors are physically made to attend court, cost of litigation and long period of legal process still poses a huge challenge to perfecting justice against sexual and gender-based violators.
The Chief Judge of Delta State, Hon. Justice Marshal Umukoro in his goodwill message, assured the Response Team that they have a staunched and reliable ally in their fight in sexual and gender related violence in the state. “We are partners with you in this course”.
Justice Umukoro disclosed that there were 101 standing rape cases in Delta Courts and attributed unpreparedness of the victims to testify to the huge pile up. He added that perpetrators of this violence according to inmate records at the correctional centers across the state, are mostly school drop outs or from broken homes or had absentee parents.
In another remark, the Commissioner for Women Affairs, Mrs Flora Alatan, condemned the spike in abuse cases especially rape tasking men to zip up and teach their boys to zip up too and charged women to cover up their sensitive parts, “women close up”.
Others who spoke at the stakeholders conference include Comrade Dr. Eris Jewo Ibi, Initiator, Association Against Child Sexual and Gender Based Violence, representatives of FIDA and IHRC in Delta state.