The Executive Secretary of the National Human Rights Commission, Tony Ojuku Esq disclosed that the commission has received a total of forty cases of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV), in Rivers state and will ensure that the perpetrators of the crime are made to face the consequences of their actions
Ojukwu made this known during the opening session of a two-day public hearing in Port Harcourt, supported by the UN Spotlight Initiative and the Government of Japan. He said the Commission is concerned over the increasing cases of sexual and gender-based violence across the Country.
He expressed the commitment of the Federal Government to tackle the problem by ensuring justice for victims. He said, “Sexual and gender-based violence is a human problem which even though affects both sexes weighs heavily against women and girls”.
Ojukwu lamented that “SGBV has been booming in Nigeria because most victims do not come out to speak for fear of stigmatization and discrimination, coupled with the lack of remedy for victims. He assured that “the Commission is determined to change the menace which is shrouded in the culture of silence”.
The ES said the Port Harcourt public hearing like others that took place in Enugu, Lagos, and Ebonyi is aimed at creating awareness about the ugly scourge and restoring public confidence that the government is listening as perpetrators would be held accountable and victims compensated.
The human rights boss attributed the difficulty experienced in reducing the rising cases of the menace of SGBV is to the interference of traditional and religious rulers in handling the matter.
“Traditional and religious leaders are frustrating our fight on SGBV because they use cultural and traditional practices to settle cases which in itself encourages perpetrators to commit more sexual violence. Therefore, “there has to be awareness among the traditional rulers, chiefs and religious leaders on the new way of thinking that is not based on the old traditional practices”.
The panel which is expected to investigate SGBV cases as well as listen to testimonies of victims had mapped out eleven objectives to address, including review of extant laws, giving perpetrators the opportunity to tell their own side of the stories, etc.
The Leader of the Society for Women and Youth Affairs a Non-Governmental Organization in Rivers State, Mrs. Stella Amanie said that Civil Society Organizations are also faced with challenges to effectively fight sexual violence against women including the challenge of the culture of silence.
Core Reporters report that some of the cases for consideration at the two-day public hearing include alleged domestic violence, physical violence, abandonment, child abuse, denial of access to child, denial of access to inheritance, inhuman and degrading treatment, threat to life, forceful eviction from the matrimonial home, alleged defilement, neglect of parental responsibility among others.