Nigeria has expanded the number of Sexual Assault Referral Centers across the country from three clinics in three states to 11 clinics in 10 states, Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, has said.
Osinbajo disclosed this at the opening ceremony of a 2-Day National Conference on Sexual and Gender Based Violence Response in Nigeria held on Thursday in Abuja at the Presidential Villa Banquet Hall.
The event was organised by the Rule of Law Advisory Team in the Office of the Vice President in collaboration with the Ministry of Women Affairs, among others.
According to the vice president, the case for treating women and girls with equality and dignity is a self-evident one as women account for a significant part of the nation’s talent pool; as do young people below the age of 18.
He said that Nigeria’s progress and prosperity was greatly affected by its ability to safeguard its women and children.
Osinbajo said that Nigerians must never become accustomed to condoning the abuse of its most vulnerable people or to turning a blind eye to exploitation.
He said that a number of institutions in the Nigerian society – social, cultural, religious – were complicit in the perpetuation of these forms of abuses.
The vice president said that government’s share of the burden of responsibility was clear, especially considering that it had the monopoly of the law enforcement role regarding gender-based violence.
He said: “Some of the steps this administration has taken in the past three and a half years to address violence against women and children include the work of the Rule of Law Advisory Team in Office of the Vice President collaborating with relevant agencies and non-governmental organisations working in the area of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in the enhancement of reach and access of their protective services to victims.
“The team is responsible for giving support towards the establishment of Gender Based Violence Response Teams across the States.
“These teams ensure that survivors have swift access to the right service providers. As a result of the activities of these teams, today, we have a better understanding of the coordinated approach that is needed to prevent and effectively respond to gender violence.
“Nigeria has in the past two years expanded the number of Sexual Assault Referral Centers across the country from three clinics in three states to 11 clinics in 10 states and counting.
“These Sexual Assault Referral Centers ensure the provision of quality forensic, medical, psychological, legal and aftercare services to survivors of sexual and gender based violence.
“Happily, we now have more States adopting laws and policy guidelines for holding perpetrators accountable through the rule of law.’’
He said that the stakeholders were currently working on a uniform set of Standard Operational Guidelines that lay out simple steps for effective response across the country.
According to him, the Federal Government will continue to interact with service providers and policy makers to make sure that legal frameworks such as the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act, 2015, were fully enforced.
He commended the partners–World Bank, USAID, the British Council, the UN, UNFPA, WHO, Pathfinder International, Save the Children, Women Africa, Soar Initiative, PIND, BElemaoil and Airpeace for identifying with GBV causes.
On his part, Ketil Karlsen, Head of the Delegation of the European Union (EU) to Nigeria and ECOWAS, said that the union was fully committed to curbing sexual violence in Nigeria.
He said that the EU would support efforts aimed at checking gender related violence.
The event attracted relevant representatives from the 36 states of the country.