The Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Hajiya Zainab Maina, on Thursday in Abuja called on the country’s lawmakers to legislate stiffer penalties for rapists.
Maina made the call at a one-day national stakeholders meeting on the outcome of the 57th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women.
She said that Nigeria’s participation at the UN session in March demonstrated government’s commitment, resources and political will to curb violence among women and girls.
The minister said member nations had put in place diverse measures to curb the menace and stressed the need for Nigeria to do same.
“In Nigeria, there is an increase in reported cases of rape and violence against women; and of the reported cases, only small percentage gets to the courts and when they do, an insignificant percentage gets conviction from very marginal sentences like two years imprisonment for an offence that carries a life term under section 358 of the Criminal Code Act.
“`Rather than receiving the full wrath of the law, the culprits get a tap on their wrists while the victims remain desecrated from the gory experiences and are often left without much support from the state that should protect the citizenry particularly the more vulnerable population.
‘’These attitudes have to give way with a view to keeping society safe for all girls and women.”
Maina said that violence against women and girls was the greatest challenge leading to their under-empowerment, adding that it was usually underestimated and often overlooked.
She said that Nigerian laws and conventions, if implemented, would help to protect the rights of women and girls.
She called on the legislature and other stakeholders to renew their commitment so as to prevent and respond to the fight the menace.
“As a people, we need to improve on our collective efforts to prevent and respond to this crisis; when women are afforded their rights and given the chance to pursue education, employment and political participation, they drive social and economic progress; they lift themselves, their families, communities and their nations.
“To build this huge future and contribute effectively to nation building, girls must be able to learn without fear and women must be able to make decisions about their own lives and the future of their families without intimidation and harassment. ”
Mrs Oby Nwankwo, Nigeria’s Permanent Representative to the UN Committee on Convention for the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), called on women to stand as a formidable force for developmental changes.
She stressed the need for Nigeria to pass the provisions of the CEDAW bill into law so that women and girls would start enjoying their full rights.
“So, please save us the embarrassment; I know that we can do it; I know that we all have contacts in the national assembly; so, I urge you today to please, let’s work together; come out with a solid work plan that will enable us, so that at the end of the day when we go back to the CEDAW committee, or when we go back to the CSW, we will be able to say this is what we have done concretely, to promote the implementation of CEDAW in Nigeria.’’
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that states’ commissioners for women affairs, Gender Focus NGOs and Development Partners attended the stakeholders’ meeting.