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“Rape Pandemic” – Groups make rally to Plateau Assembly to seek justice for victims

by Christiana Gokyo, Jos

It has become glaringly observed that, rape has been on the increase in the country. Hardly a day passes without reporting a rape case. One could wander what actually causes these rapists do that crime.

Consequent upon this scenario, groups of bodies – the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), the Nigeria Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ), Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) and the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Plateau State Chapter – took a rally recently to the Plateau State House of Assembly to seek justice for victims and put an end to the menace.

The groups pondered thus: “Among some of these victims you would find out that, they are between 3,4,5,6 down to 12 years of age. Even a 3 months’ old child was raped; and what is the benefit of destroying someone’s child and living the victim traumatized?”

The groups, while chanting songs of solidarity, had placards with various inscriptions such as “I vow to expose rapists,” “Children not sex objects,” “Protect women and children,” among others.

Speaking on behalf of the groups, chairperson of FIDA, Mrs Mary Izam, who declared rape and gender-based violence as “an emergency in the state,” while appointing accusing fingers at “weak judicial system” as being responsible for the high rise of rape cases in the nation.

Mrs Izam called on all states for the implementation of violence against Person’s Prohibition Act, VAPP Act, the Child Rights Law, and other related laws to curb rape in the state, and also called for prompt action to curb the alarming increase of Gender-Based Violence (GBV) cases in Nigeria.

She noted that, with the increase in the number of GBV cases, particularly the abuse and rape of women and the defilement of babies and children across the states of Nigeria, it seriously needs urgent attention.

According to her, “With these evil and unpleasant happenings in our communities, our children, girls, and women are no longer safe.”

The groups made a clarion call on the Nigeria government for more holistic and aggressive approach in tackling this serious challenge across the country.

Mrs Izam stressed that, “FIDA in Nigeria strongly objects to this evil trend of the incessant abuse and sexual molestation of women and children, and demands speedy and decisive action.”

They also called on government to declare a state of emergency on gender-based violence so that it is tackled forthwith, most efficiently and effectively across all states of the federation.

It’s said rape and defilement are crimes; if you do the crime, you must be prosecuted and adequately punished for the crime. This must not be compromised nor the settlement of any such cases.

According to her, “FIDA’s mandate is to protect, preserve and promote the rights of the vulnerable in the society, especially the indigent women and children, who are often preyed upon, and we must heed their cry and come to their immediate aid.”

She urged government to equip the Police, who have the responsibility to arrest, investigate these cases to fight this menace diligently to secure conviction that will serve as a deterrent to offenders.

The groups also called on Chief Judges in all different states to designate a “special fast track court” to handle gender-based violent matters, and appealed for the establishment of the family court in line with the provision of the Child Rights Act Law and the provision of all machinery to ensure it begins operation speedily.

FIDA also advocates for the establishment of a Sexual Referral Centre, one-stop-shop with Rapid Response Teams attached, comprising the Police, doctors, lawyers, social welfare officers and psychologists, of evidence for the effective prosecution of perpetrators.

Also, the Nigeria Association of Women Journalists’ chairperson, Mrs Jennifer Yarima, said, education should be given to children at early stage to enable them identify rapists and expose them, while noting that there was no excuse for the crime, and condemned the act.

Chairman of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Mr Paul Jatau, called on media professionals to use their various platforms to enlighten people on the dangers of rape.

Responding, speaker of the Plateau State House of Assembly, Mr. Abok Ayuba, said the House would ensure the implementation of the VAPP leaning other existing laws against gender-based violence.

He was represented by member representing Jos Northwest, Esther Dusu, who advocated for national register for perpetrators to serve as deterrent to others.

He commended the groups for lending their voices and promised to cooperate with them for the betterment of the society.

The past two weeks have been filled with sad stories of young girls, babies and women being raped and assaulted across Nigeria. Plateau State also has had its share of such cases with some unreported during the Covid-19 pandemic alone.

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