The Independent National Electoral Commission in Lagos State on Tuesday urged politicians to eschew conducts capable of inciting violence against women in the forthcoming elections.
INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner, Sam Olumekun, who made the call during a stakeholders meeting in Lagos said the commission was passionate about inclusiveness in electoral process for balanced development.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the event tagged: “Mitigating Violence Against Women in the Electoral Process”, was aimed at creating awareness on gender-based elections-related violence.
Olumekun was represented by Ijeoma Okey-Igbokwe, INEC Head of Department, Voter Education, Publicity, Gender and Civil Society in Lagos.
He urged the stakeholders to integrate strategies that would foster violence-free elections, mitigate incidences of violence against women and enhance women’s participation in the elections.
He said: “Perpetrators of violence against women do so to take undue advantage of them and thus continue to perpetrate women’s non-inclusion in electoral process.”
He said that, since women occupied half of the Nigeria’s population, it was logical to demand a fair representation for them at all levels of political leadership and decision making.
Olumekun added: “Violence against women in elections manifest as physical abuse, psychological torture, denial of fair media exposure or outright sexual abuse among others.
“Gender-based electoral violence impinges on women’s rights to equal opportunity to pursue and realise their political goals.
“Violence against women undermines a vital requirement of electoral democracy which is equality and equity in participation for all eligible segments of the society.
“As we prepare for the 2019 general elections, it is imperative that measure is taken by all concerned to ensure that women’s right of free and fair participation in the electoral process is protected secured and preserved.”
The Guest Speaker, Nkechi Ali-Balogun, said that women had been psychologically intimidated and subjugated in the country.
Ali-Balogun, who spoke on “Preventing and Mitigating Violence Against Women in the Electoral Process,” said that electoral violence, traditions, finance, domestic duties were major barriers to women participation in politics.
He said: “Research has shown that a lot of women don’t go into politics. The reason is obvious, we have been intimidated, and meanwhile women are tenacious and resilient.
“Violence against women is a barrier. Tradition is our major enemy. Election-related violence manifests as physical, verbal and psychological violence to affect electoral process.
“Removing women from the space in elections is advantageous to men. We have numerical strength to sway elections. Any nation that does not give room for women is losing.”
Ali-Balogun, who called for women education and the development of their political acumen, urged them to build gender solidarity to pursue and realise their political goal.
Another speaker, Dr Franca Attoh, an Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Lagos, said that physical violence prevented a lot of women from participating in politics.
Attoh said: “Most time when you find women in a political sphere there is a tendency for people to term it as aberration. During elections, there is a tendency for people to subdue the other sex.
“Women are subdued through physical and psychological violence, through intimidation and blackmail, the essence of this is to put women to the background.”
In his remarks, Waheed Ishola, Director, National Orientation Agency, Lagos State, noted that the subject of violence against women was apt, as these had been opposition to women leaderships.
According to him, lack of adequate security often leads to voter apathy, saying adequate security will encourage many people, including women to participate in electoral process.
The seminar, which also had civil society organisations and women groups in attendance, dwelt on the role of security agencies in violence mitigation in elections.