The United Nations 16 days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence commences in earnest with today’s commemoration of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. This year’s event, underpinned by the very instructive theme – Invest to Prevent Violence Against Women and Girls – is a huge opportunity to redirect the world’s attention to the urgent need to increase investment in prevention.
The National Association of Seadogs, Pyrates Confraternity joins the global community in marking this very important event, and fully endorses the clarion call for collective action and investment in creating a world free from gender-based violence. We believe that investing in prevention is the cornerstone of building societies that are free from such atrocities, and reiterate the importance of collective efforts from governments, civil society, private sectors, and individuals to invest in initiatives that promote awareness, education, and support systems to prevent and eliminate gender-based violence.
The aftermath of the Coronavirus pandemic, persistent and widening violent conflicts, and worsening climate change have, in no small way, contributed to a global escalation of violence against women. Sadly, not much has been done by nations across the world in the area of budgeting for and committing to prevention as a viable solution to the scourge. One depressing data which emerged recently shows that globally, only a paltry 5% of government aid is focused on combating violence against women and girls, and less than 0.2% is dedicated to its prevention. This is an unsustainable situation which, if left unaddressed by all concerned, will only worsen what is already a dangerous and all-consuming phenomenon.
As a country, Nigeria continues to grapple with its own peculiar contexts and dimensions of gender-based violence. With the reign of terror by insurgents in certain parts of northern Nigeria still subsisting, sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) is frequently used as a tactic by these groups to target women and girls – including through rape, sexual slavery and forced marriages. The United Nations Secretary-General’s 2023 Annual Report on Conflict-Related Sexual Violence states that current attacks by the Boko Haram terror group in north-east Nigeria have been identified as a “major protection concern”. The report estimated that nearly two-thirds of women in north-eastern Nigeria have been victims of one or more forms of sexual and gender-based violence. These are heinous crimes that have largely gone unchallenged and unpunished. Another report by the UN Security Council Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED) hinged its expectations on providing member nations with the support that they need to effectively investigate and prosecute such crimes through the instrumentality of justice squarely centred on the survivor.
NAS/PC is enthusiastic about the UN’s proactive, thematic approach to this menace; an approach which aims to strengthen preventive measures and legal response to violence against women and girls, through the timeless principle of accountability. The UN’s efforts in this regard (through its relevant agencies such as the Office on Drugs and Crime) has led to robust collaborative work with national and international counterparts. For instance, over 500 Nigerian professionals in the criminal justice system have received specialised training from the UNODC since 2019, and for the very first time (in 2023), arrested Boko Haram terrorists were charged by Nigerian prosecutors for multiple alleged offences, including alleged acts of sexual violence. This is a landmark occurrence which should be encouraged even beyond the cocoon of terrorism-induced gender-based crimes.
On this International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, we reaffirm our commitment to advocating for the rights of women and girls, raising awareness about gender-based violence, and taking tangible actions to contribute to a society where everyone can live free from fear and violence. We call on governments at state and federal levels to enact and enforce laws that protect women and girls from violence, ensuring that perpetrators are held accountable for their actions. There should be increased investment in comprehensive educational programmes that promote gender equality, challenge harmful stereotypes, and raise awareness about the devastating impact of violence against women. Beyond these, we support the establishment of support systems, including shelters and counselling services, to aid survivors and empower them to rebuild their lives. We also encourage community-based initiatives that challenge cultural norms promoting violence and empower communities to actively prevent and address gender-based violence.
Because of its menacingly tragic ramifications as one of the commonest human rights violations, and the traumatic sequelae that it leaves on the bodies and minds of its long-suffering victims, humanity must rise as one, in a concerted resolve to put an end to violence against women.