A joint statement by Alliances for Africa (AfA) in collaboration with the Imo State Committee on Ending Violence against Women and Girls (ISCEVAWG); a multisectoral committee comprising of state and non-state actors, mandated to improve survivors access to essential services through the enactment of the Imo State VAPP Bill.
16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence is an annual international campaign to challenge violence against women and girls. The campaign takes place every 25th November, the international day for the elimination of violence against women to 10th December, international Human Rights Day. The global theme for this year’s campaign is Orange the World: End Violence Against Women and Girls Now!
It is no news that we are facing a pandemic on violence against women and girls (VAWG) in Imo State. The most predominant being the incidences of sexual assault of minors as revealed by the over 250 cases documented by AfA in partnership with the ISCEVAWG between April 2020 to October 2021. Sadly, the violence against women and girls has been normalized despite the best efforts of all stakeholders through massive awareness and frontline response services. From trivializing rape, victim-blaming, to gaslighting survivors, we are all daily witnesses to this rape culture and rising incidences of VAWG which has continued under the guise of culture, tradition, religion and the impunity of perpetrators.
The lack of a legal instrument to tackle issues of sexual and gender-based crimes in Imo state remains the major bottleneck to ending VAWG in Imo State. It is on this premise that the Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Act of 2013 was re-introduced in the 9th House of Imo state Assembly in 2019, which followed thorough amendments and has since, passed third reading in July 27, 2021 awaiting the governor’s assent.
This legal document is a comprehensive instrument that tackles all forms of violence against persons, particularly women and girls who are the majority of its victims. The VAPP is the single law in place that transcends the criminal and penal code in guaranteeing justice and protection of the rights and properties of victims of sexual and gender-based violence by its expansion of the definition of rape, domestic offenses, incest, and several forms of violence. It ensures justice and protection of victims in a way that guarantees freedom, compensation and respect for human rights. More so, it upholds the dignity and rights of men and women equally.
The delay in the assent of the Imo VAPP Bill by the Imo state Governor, Sen. Hope Uzodinma and the implementation of the provisions of the bill, has given rise to the increase in sexual and gender-based violence in the state.
It is noteworthy that out of 36 states in Nigeria, 20 states have assented to the bill while Imo remains the only state in the Southeast that is yet to adopt the VAPP as a working document for the ultimate protection of survivors.
We implore the State Governor to;
- As a matter of urgency, assent to the VAPP bill to make it a working document.
- Leverage on the existing unutilized state edifices to establish a Shelter (safe home) for safeguarding survivors from abusers.
- Establish the Violence Against Person’s Agency that will monitor and supervise the full implementation of the provisions of the VAPP, which will include but not limited to, a Sexual Assault Referral Center (SARC) that will render services to aid the reintegration of survivors into society.
- To create an active state GBV rapid response team that will see to the provision of immediate survivor centered services.