A coalition of civil society organisations and human rights activists Friday simultaneously held a peaceful protest in the Federal Capital Territory and Lagos demanding a state of emergency to be declared on Gender-Based Violence (GBV) in Nigeria.
The protest which took place at the police headquarters in both cities followed a perceived rise in the number of rape cases in Nigeria including the recent deaths of two rape victims.
The groups include TechHerNG, working with Girl Child Africa, Connected Development, Enough is Enough Nigeria, Stand To End Rape, SilverChipFox, Yiaga Africa, Dorothy Njemanze Foundation, Education as a Vaccine, and ActionAid.
Dorothy Njemanze, Executive Director of Dorothy Njemanze Foundation, said the coalition is calling on the government to declare a state of emergency on gender-based violence adding that women should not be treated less because they are born female.
“I have been raped several times in my life and I do what I do hoping that others will not have to go through the same thing I went through but we do not see that happening,” she said.
At the protest, Chioma Agwuegbo of TechHer cited some reported rape cases most of which were minors, ”girls below the age of 18, a few above 18 and above 60”.
Jumai Umar, a consultant, who was a part of the march said, “I am here to lend my voice to the ‘NO’, to lend my voice in urging the authorities involved to their duties”.
Addressing the group of protesters in Abuja, Frank Mba, the Nigeria police spokesperson, said, “We understand the rationale, emotions, pains and frustration driving this protest”.
Mr Mba stated that ”the police is with Nigerians in the quest for a rape free country as every member of the police force has a woman/girl in their lives and would not want them to be victims of sexual abuse or rape.”
“We will work with you if you will work with us to drive this advocacy to further extent”, he said, adding that ”one of the ways to fight against sexual assault against women is to end the conspiracy of silence”.
“We have seen mothers who have compounded cases of incest committed against their daughters, therefore we must work together to build a generation of women who will be bold enough to report cases when they happen.”
He added that ”Nigerians must work together with the police to educate the people, a lot of investigations of such cases are mishandled.” He alleged the connivance of relatives to shut down police investigations and prosecution.
Mr Mba said ”the police will continue to build the capacity of police officers, build a generation of officers who can empathise with women, show tact and understanding, work with victims, victim’s family, activists, lawmakers and other well-meaning citizens to fight rape.”
The peaceful protest in Lagos and Abuja is one out of the laid down activities for a campaign to push for systemic change on Sexual and Gender-based Violence (SGBV) in Nigeria, the groups said.
Among these activities include legislative engagements and engagements with Nigerian Governors’ Forum and the Federal Executive Council.