This blog is part of the 16 Days of Activism to End Gender Based Violence, which runs from November 25th through December 10th, 2014. The 16 Days of Activism are an international campaign that highlights violence against women as a human rights issues and calls for the elimination of all forms of violence against women. Throughout the 16 Days, Amplify will be featuring one blog each day from youth activists who sit on our International Youth Leadership Council and Girl Engagement Advisory Boards.
by Elizabeth, Member of the Girl Engagement Advisory Board
Gender-based violence occurs in all societies of the world, within the home and in the wider community. and it affects women and girls disproportionately. Young girls and women who are particularly vulnerable to violence are those who live in extremely precarious conditions or who are discriminated against on the basis of race, language, ethnic group, culture, age, opinion, religion or membership in a minority group.
According to the 2012 Gender in Nigeria Report, “one out of every five Nigerian women and girl aged between 15 years to 24 years has been a victim of one form of violence or the other”. This was said by the Director-General of the centre, Ms Onyeka Onwenu, in Abuja during a roundtable organized by the center and the U.S. Mission in Nigeria to commemorate the 2013 International Day of Elimination of Gender-based Violence. More worrisome in recent times is the increase in the violation of little girls ranging from two years to seven years. Much of this violence perpetrated against women and young girls are by people they know, and love and trust – their boyfriends, their husbands, their brothers, other relatives, neighbours, school mates, and even their colleagues.
There are different types of gender based violence which include commercial sexual exploitation, rape and female genital mutilation, but the most rampant in Nigeria are rape and commercial sexual exploitation. Many women from Nigeria are forced into prostitution and human trafficking, die needlessly for lack of proper health care, face poverty for lack of an education, and cannot live up to their potential to contribute to a democratic and prosperous Nigeria. Because these women pay the cost of gender-based violence with their bodies and their minds, Nigeria pays the price as a nation whose potential remains unfulfilled while so many of its citizens continue to be victimized.
Feminist scholar Ogunniran Iyabode noted that “rape is a crime not comparable to any other form of violent crime”. The act of rape is invasive, dehumanizing and humiliating. The consequences for a rape victim are severe and life-long and include the loss of the ability to trust, of freedom and identity. If rape is as traumatic for the victims as described above, it is ironic that victims prefer to endure all the humiliation in private than try to prosecute cases. But this is so because it becomes a case of “male offences, female trial” which sees the woman or girl who is the victim expected to prove the male guilty, thereby experiencing another level of trauma. As a result, rape culture in Nigeria is a conspiracy of silence, concealing the nature and the extent of the problem.
To curb this problem, in line with the Post 2015 Development Agenda, we wish for the rights of girls to be fully covered where adolescent girls are free from violence and exploitation and are supported by enforced laws, strong and adequately resourced child protection system (GOAL 3: SAFETY). To ensure that all girls have access to “girl friendly space” and all states have national and sub national mechanisms to identify, refer and report sexual violence against adolescent girls. Finally, to put a stop to child trafficking and exploitation of girls by passing and enforcing laws and policies that hold perpetrators—not victims—accountable.