YIAGA says Senate altitude towards passage of Gender Equality Bill delaying access to justice for rape victims


YIAGA Africa has blamed the National Assembly for hindered access to justice for victims of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) in Nigeria.

Yiaga program manager, Cynthia Mbamalu stated this Friday in Abuja during a two-day workshop to review legislation on Women and Girls Rights in Nigeria organized by Yiaga Africa under its EU- UN Spotlight Initiative Project.

Mbamalu called on President Muhammadu Buhari and the Senate President, Ahmed Lawal to prioritise assent to the bill when passed as one of the legacy projects of the present administration.

According to her, the existing legal framework in the country is not sufficiently enforced and implemented and needed some level of reform to tackle the menace of SGBV.

Mbamalu regretted that the system of reporting SGBV is not strong and efficient and in most states, lamenting that group and partners usually dedicate too much time in following up with cases to seek justice for victims.

Her words: “People have to wait for two, three, sometimes five years to access justice, if people have to waste all their lives and savings in getting justice, then we have watered down the effect of Justice and if partners working in the sector have to exhaust all the resources they have just to access justice for an incidence of violence then what we are doing is frustrating those working in the space.”

The Manager who blamed the delayed passage of the gender-equal opportunity bill for the increasing cases of SGBV in the country urged Buhari and Lawal to prioritise the passage and the signing of the bill as one of the legacy projects of the present administration.

She went on: “It is time to build support to ensure that the gender and equal opportunity bill before the Senate is finally passed into law, we need the Senate President beyond just a mere statement to actually show its commitment as the National Assembly resumes Sep 14th.

“And one of the considerations should be the bill because Nigeria can no longer take last position in the continent on issues of gender and women.

“This is also a call to the President that as one of his legacy projects, one thing he can do for Nigeria women and girls is to assent to the bill when it is passed because we are hoping that we have a bill of equal opportunity before the 2023 general election as well as the VAPP ACT.”

Also speaking, UN women representative, Kenechukwu Mbajiorgu noted that the elimination of violence against women and girls in Nigeria remains a key priority to the UN body’s engagement and activities.

According to Mbajiorgu, the UN women has played critical roles in the area of advocacy with state and national assemblies to ensure speedy review and passage of relevant legislation such as the Violence Against Person Prohibition (VAPP) Act.

According to her the UN body is engaging key stakeholders to secure passage and executive assent to the gender equality opportunity bill that is still under discussion at the red chambers as well as the sexual harassment bill that is also on legislative processes in the national assembly.

“We are still engaging keenly to ensure that it is passed for it to get executive assent, we are working with the UNDP, UNESCO, UNICEF, UNFPA under the spotlight initiative to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls in Nigeria.” She added.

Also, an Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP), Imam Usman, who noted that the force was adequately responding to SGBV cases through its gender unit, advocated for more funding for the unit for it to diligently prosecute SGBV cases.

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