By Christiana Ekpa
Speakers of Houses of Assembly in the North-East have resolved to fast-track the passage of the Violence Against Persons Prohition (VAPP) Bills in the states within the region.
The speakers expressed their commitment to enacting the law during a roundtable meeting of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) with lawmakers in the north-east on the proposed bill, which held in Gombe, Gombe state capital.
The meeting was funded by the African Women Development Fund (AWDF) and facilitated by the Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC).
The Chairman of the North-East Conference of Speakers, Abubakar Sulieman, described gender-based violence as not only human rights violation, but a threat to life and public health.
Suleiman, who is also the Speaker, Bauchi State House of Assembly, said it was the responsibility of legislators to make laws that would benefit the people.
He said “Research has shown that women and girls are exposed to high level of sexual violence, rape, defilement, domestic violence, transactional sex, sexual exploitation and abuse with little if any opportunity to seek justice.
“In Nigeria, our value system is changing and the inequality in the society manifests itself in prevalence of violence against women and girls.
“Due to the weakened social structures, laws and policies against violence and against women and girls are either absent or where available, implementation is weak,” he said.
The chairman added that the prevalence of violence against women and girls had made it expedient to make use of the constitution to protect people from rapists and paedophiles in society.
“Our determination to support a society free from violence is therefore part of our call to duty and sitting here today, our mission is to answer this call,” he said.
In her remarks, the WARDC Executive Director, Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, said the bill, when passed in all the states in the region, would address the many challenges that women and girls faced.
Akiyode-Afolabi said the level of violence experienced by women and girls did not commensurate with what was known in public domain as a result of poor reportage of cases.
She said “Alarmingly, as at 2020, the incidences of rape and sexual assault do not seem to be subsiding. Recent data from the Inspector General of Police showed that over 700 cases of rape was treated and convicted.
“One reason for poor reportage is the stigma and shame associated with being a victim of rape. Most women and girls prefer to conceal rape cases to save themselves from shame and public embarrassment,” she said.