by Christiana Gokyo, Jos
PLATEAU STATE – The fight against sexual, gender-based violence and rape must be fought with a lot of attention to ensuring justice for victims and rehabilitating them, while severely punishing perpetrators to serve as deterrent for others.
This assertion was made by Governor Lalong of plateau state, while speaking at a webinar on sexual, gender-based violence and rape in Nigeria, organised by Gideon & Funmi Para-Mallam Peace Foundation.
The governor regretted that, the problem of sexual, gender violence and rape has taken alarming and disgraceful dimensions in Nigeria in recent times, which must not be allowed to go on.
“One thing we take very seriously as a government is the prosecution of rape and sexual offenders, following the increase in rape cases in the country. I have directed the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice to step up vigorous prosecution of offenders, no matter their status,” he noted.
“Very soon, we shall open a Sexual Offenders Register where the data of convicted offenders shall not only be deposited, but their identity made public so that they are named and shamed. And I believe that they are the ones that are entitled to stigmatization not their victims,” he stated.
He observed that, sexual and gender-based violence finds incubation in conflict areas where most women and children are at the receiving end.
The Plateau State Peace Agency has also been mandated to step up engagements with communities on the dangers of sexual and gender-based violence, particularly during crises.
On the role of the Northern Governors Forum in tackling the situation, the governor said “Under my leadership, the Nigerian Governors Forum has declared a state-of-emergency on the increasing rate of sexual and gender-based violence in the country; and we have all resolved and condemned all forms of violence against women and children.
“The Forum also resolved to ensure that member states promulgate laws with stiffer penalties against perpetrators of sexual-based violence. As part of our resolve, governors are to ensure the domestication of the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act, 2015, in their various states without further delay,” Lalong stated.
Speaking also, the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Catriona Laing, said “Addressing gender violence and rape is a challenge that must be handled holistically with the cooperation of all stakeholders where there is condemnation and intolerance for perpetrators as well as succor for the victims.
She added that, “The UK was willing to support the action against gender-based violence and rape as well as work with advocacy groups, government agencies and religious leaders in ending the scourge.”
First Lady of Ekiti State, Mrs. Bisi Fayemi, and her Kebbi State counterpart, Mrs. Zainab Bagudu, acknowledged the role played by the Nigerian Governors Forum and the Northern Governors Forum in ensuring that more states pass legislations against rape and violence as well as domesticate the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act 2015.
Conveners of the Forum, Professors Funmi and Para-Mallam, identified sexual, gender-violence and rape as “vices that get more exacerbated by crises” as can be seen in many areas where violence has been recorded.
They called for more action by government and civil society groups to end the cycle of violence that targets women, girls and children.