A nonprofit organisation, Lawyers Alert, has decried the rate of Violence Against Women and Girls in Nigeria and charged all relevant stakeholders to take actions to end the scourge of Gender Based Violence in the country.
This was the thrust of a session on VAWG, which focused on: “Enhancing Justice for Survivors of Gender-Based Violence in Nigeria,” organised by Lawyers Alert in partnership with the Gender Unit of the Nigeria Police Force and Police Duty Solicitor Scheme of the Legal Aid Council of Nigeria.
The participants observed that in spite of the fact that 85 per cent of Gender Based Violence cases are criminal in nature, Women Rights Organisations in the country working in this area hardly relate with the GU towards resolution.
Reports say that only about 15 per cent of Women Rights Organisations in Nigeria are aware of the existence of the police Gender Unit.
The participants posited that strengthening and empowering the Police Gender Unit would further sustain the gains made by women groups, activists, donor bodies, government and implementing partners in the fight on ending Gender Based Violence and Violence Against Women and Girls in Nigeria.
At the session, the partners sought comprehensive study of the police Gender Unit in Nigeria and also demanded a further assessment that is more scientific and aimed at creating a deeper understanding of the unit’s operations vis-à-vis challenges.
The President of Lawyers Alert, Rommy Mom, noted that the challenges vary from one part of the country to the other, saying that a country-wide study of the police Gender Unit has become necessary to identify the peculiarities with a view to enhanced service delivery.
Mom urged Civil Society groups and other stakeholders to carry out extensive advocacy to the hierarchy and management of the NPF towards understanding the scope, dynamics and magnitude of GBV in Nigeria for comprehensive support.
The partners resolved that the advocacy should emphasise the fact that GBV exists, especially at the grass root level.
The session harped on the need for the creation of police Gender Unit offices across the country and equipping them with personnel, especially at divisional levels.
The session also proposed a zonal consultative forum with Women Rights Organisations and Community-Based groups across the six geopolitical zones so as to create awareness and sensitise these groups on the existence of the police Gender Unit in Nigeria.
“In our work at Lawyers Alert, especially with regard to the provision of free legal services to women and women groups, WROs have been found to trying to resolve criminal matters via civil means,” Mom said.
The participants frowned that rape, Female Genital Mutilation, sexual harassment among others are some of the issues resolved sometimes as civil matters.
The session also harped on capacity building for the police Gender Unit by developing an all-inclusive Capacity Building Plan to be used for training and re-training on GBV for officers in the police Gender Unit.
The session also recommended a harmonious and mutually beneficial relationship between the police Gender Unit and the Police Duty Solicitor Scheme of the Legal Aid Council of Nigeria towards providing survivors of violence legal support.
Other recommendations at the session included the development of gender policies or strengthening the implementation of gender policies, where such exist, equipping other security agencies with knowledge of GBV and its dynamics and development of Standard Operating Procedures for GBV interventions.
Given the immense potential of the GU to be the data hub of GBV in Nigeria, the participants maintained that data capturing should be uniform and scientific.
The participants said this will facilitate automatic analysis for tracking trends, types, demography and so on and that the data can be used for strengthening laws and policy reforms, including other interventions.
Participants demanded that the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act and Administration of Criminal Justice Act should be fully explored to unravel how these laws can be used to empower the Gender Unit in the efficient and effective management of GBV in Nigeria.
At the end of the meeting, the participants observed that much has been done to empower police in the discharge of its duties with regard to prosecuting criminal aspects of Gender Based Violence in Nigeria.
They noted that there is the need to ensure that those who should be benefitting from such services are aware, willing and able to access same.
The session tasked Women Rights Organisations on the need for adequate advocacy and sensitisation.
Participants demanded that the gender unit should be equipped with adequate manpower and relevant technology to carry out its mandate effectively.
Mom said: “Both efforts complement each other.
“It would be counter-productive to encourage more victims to make reports if the Police Gender Unit is not sufficiently capacitated to handle such issues effectively.”