Hope Givers Initiative (HOG-I) – a non-profit organization for orphans and vulnerable children, women and youth, says its mobilizing adolescent volunteers as Child Rights Activists to champion the crusade against rape and other gender based violence in the society.
Executive Director, HOG-I, Mrs Onyeka Okey-Udegbunam spoke at Finotel Hotel Awka over the weekend during a parliamentary dialogue session on rape, causes and solutions with about twenty adolescent volunteers from prevalence areas of Awka North, and Anambra West local government areas of Anambra state.
The Parliamentary dialogue on rape by Hope Givers Initiative (HOG-I) was supported by Christian Aid Nigeria under Evidence collaboration and Inclusive Development (ECID).
Mrs Okey-Udegbunam explained that the adolescents were brought together as champions to carry out campaigns and speak up for rape victims in their society.
“As ambassadors, you are expected to hold programmes against rape and we shall be supporting you,” Udegbunam said.
The Executive Director, Care Givers Initiative called for a collective action from all the organizations in the state championing the welfare of children and youths on the Anambra Government on the need for establishment of additional correctional centers for children to reduce crime among adolescents in the state.
She summed the demands of the adolescent activists as categorically saying no to rape and request for an additional correctional center in the state, possibly one in each senatorial zone, even as she emphasized on the need to work as a team always by NGO’s.
In her paper , ‘’Handling the issues of Gender based violence in line with the Child’s rights law of Anambra state 2004’’, Barr Mrs Okwy Igwegbe, Deputy Clerk, Anambra House of Assembly, encouraged all actions focused on ending violence against women and girls lamenting that one out of every three women have experienced physical and sexual violence in their life time.
Barr Mrs Igwegbe advocated the need to advance effective approaches and interventions to address the social norms and behaviours that encourage violence which she insisted should include scaling up an improving response when violence occurs.
While, she informed that Anambra state applied the Child Rights Law 2004; Violence Against Persons Prohibition Law, 2017; and Criminal Code to combat gender-based violence, Barr Mrs Igwegbe appealed to Non-Governmental Organizations and Civil Society Organizations that have capacity to deal with gender based violence cases to also cooperate with the law enforcement agencies in capacity building , management of victims and procedures for collecting evidence towards successful prosecution of offenders.
‘’Gender based violence takes place all over the world and therefore , requires a multi-pronged approach and sustained engagement with multiple stakeholders in order to eradicate it or at least reduce it to the barest minimum’’.
She recalled that the country had statistically recorded within five months January to May 2020 seven hundred and seventeen (717) rape incidents, and arrested seven hundred and ninety-nine (799) rape suspects, and about Six hundred and thirty-one (631) investigated and charged to court while investigations are ongoing in 52 of the cases.
She said section 309 of the criminal code provides that punishment for rape is life imprisonment and section 310 provides that the punishment for attempted rape is fourteen years imprisonment.
According to the VAPP Law, offender is to face life imprisonment, and victim must be compensated. According to the provisions of the Child’s Right Law, if an offender is fourteen (14) years old, he should be subjected to fourteen years imprisonment, then in the case of gang rape, perpetrators are to be imprisoned for a period of twenty (20) years.
Barr. Mrs Igwegbe went further to speak on other aspects of gender based violence. She noted that both male and female suffer these violence, but women and girls suffer more, such as Female Genital Mutilation, Child Marriage, rape, sexual assault and Child Betrothal among others.
On his part, a Lecturer at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu Teaching Hospital Awka COOUTH, Awka, Dr Ifeanyichukwu Ezebialu who spoke on the need for early report and medical precautions to take on cases of GBV, noted that societal approach to rape deterred victims from reporting cases, noting that a wide range of consequences emanated from rape, even as he advised victims to visit the nearest hospital immediately before proceeding to Police Station.
“This is essential to make early medical documentation and proffer reproductive services as well as other good health life for the victim against infectious diseases and complications,” he explained.
The medical expert also called for mechanism to ensure that the culprits did not return to communities where rape incidents occurred, if legal punishment for such case was not served on them.
Dr. Ezedialu that people who engage in sexual assault may have psychological problems, therefore there should be no reason for a normal person to commit such crime, buttressing that it is pertinent victims of rape cases report early to hospitals for proper examination as the incident could lead to: genital bleeding, risk of infection, pregnancy; which can lead to dilemma, unprofessional termination that may lead to inability to conceive in future.
Also speaking, Mrs Josephine Onah, the state Coordinator, Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption (ROLAC) expressed happiness seeing children enlisting to prosecute the campaign against rape, and promised that ROLAC would continue to assist to see that the rights of children were protected in the state.
The coordinator, who called for synergy in the implementation of laws against child abuses, said her organisation was facilitating the establishment of two family courts in Onitsha (High Court and Magistrate courts) on June 24, even as she spoke on the need for holistic effort of governmental and non-governmental bodies to deal with the cases of gender based violence in the state.
She emphasized that synergy is needed with organizations domiciled under women and children affairs in the state to raise campaigns, sensitization, and to implement laws meant to protect human rights.
On her part, Mrs Nkechi Anazodo, the Head of Department, Child Department, Ministry of Women Affairs, Children and Social Welfare, expressed the state government’s determination to prosecute rape offenders.
“The state government is fully out to fight rape because abusers will no longer go free,” Anazodo, represented by Miss Obianuju Nwode said.
She urged members of the public to dial the following numbers 09066916915, 08036661325 and 08107729662 to report cases of rape. The numbers she said belonged to Ntasi center Enugu Ukwu, ASCRIC and Child Protection Network as well as Directorate of Child Development of the ministry.
The state Ministry of Women Affairs, Children and Social Welfare, had earlier announced that no fewer than 80 rape cases were reported during the lock down in the state.
In her opening remark, the Program Officer of Hope Givers Initiative (HOG-I), Endurance Udegbunam noted that the upsurge of sexual violence during the lock down especially by fathers to their daughters; which according to her is most worrisome, and a topical matter that raised the need for the meeting to seek for possible cause and solution to deal with the issue of rape, as well as other related forms of gender based violence.
She said the youths were in a position to give reliable information that could aid the efforts towards tackling the menace, as they fall under the major categories of victims, and could be friends to the sufferers which made their presence worthwhile.
In his contribution on the services of Sexual Assault Research Center, SARC , Enugu Ukwu, Fidelis Chibuzor Muo who is a Clinical Psychologist and a Councillor at the center, said the services at the center is free of charge including legal, medical and counseling services even as he lamented on the consequences of rape on victims including hopelessness, depression, stigmatization and on worst cases suicide.
During the interactive session earlier, the adolescent activists called for stiffer punishment for rape and other gender-based violence offenders to mitigate the rising cases of the offenses in the country.
The adolescent volunteer activists identified the causes of rape to include, lack of self-control and parental care, exposure to pornography, indecent dressing, cultism, drug abuse and lack of sexual education, among others.
They called for death penalty, creation of more awareness on dangers of rape, effective implementation of relevant laws, support and counseling for victims as well as avoiding stigmatization.
Those who spoke included Angela Nwarienne , Udealor Chisom , Chinenye Emmanuel, Chukwunwike Samuel and Nwasike Prince among others. They encouraged parents to take time to educate their children on the dangers of rape, and ways to escape it, giving an instance of the possibility of a perverse neighbours who may want to take advantage of the ignorance of a child in the absence of her parents. Therefore, he noted that parental attention, and implementation of law against rape and every other related violence is needed as solutions.
They pointed out that there were many rapists even among those campaigning against the menace, and noted that such people easily evaded prosecution because they flaunted ‘money and power’. They urged victims and family members to speak up and report such abuses to authorities for prosecution.
Mrs Anaekwe Eucharia , the Executive Director, Gender Perspective and Social Development Center, (GPSDC) were among those who attended the event.