BLESSING ABIRI, Program Advisor, CLEEN Foundation, Lagos office, coordinated a tweet chat section on why women and children should be protected from gender-based violence as COVID-19 rages on. Experts.
The COVID-19 lockdown with its immediate effects on lifestyle and the attendant increase on sexual and gender-based violence has predisposed vulnerable women and girls to perpetrators of gender-based violence, how critical is this?
The issue is very critical and this is seen in the response of the UN Sec-Gen when he said recently that for many women and girls, the threat looms largest where they should be safest –
In their own homes. The lockdown and quarantine according to recent UN findings have brought about a horrifying global surge in domestic violence due to the economic and social pressures of the lockdowns and with limited access of victims to response systems.
So indeed, it is a critical issue as we glean from experiences of other countries and UN that we urgently need to prioritize and plan for as we deal with covid-19 lockdown in Nigeria.
In the past 2 weeks of compulsory isolation, there have been alleged cases of rape of infants, young girls & women. Is there any strategic effort by the NPF to identify these cases and apprehend the perpetrators of such crimes?
In addition to what the NPF may have in place since the lockdown was initiated, a lot of women led NGOs have been publicizing various support services that victims can access. For instance, in Lagos, the Ministry of Women Affairs, FIDA, CSOs such as Project Alert on Violence Against Women, WRAPH and many other groups have provided various helplines on social media that members of the public can access to report SGBV cases during the lockdown period.
What are the key issues affecting effective response to tackling SGBV cases arising within the period of the lockdown?
some of the key issues that would affect the effective response include due to the lockdown some of the essential response systems such as shelters, counseling centres and support systems like family, churches, NGOs that focus on these services etc, are shut down due to the lock down healthcare providers and law enforcement agencies are focused on tackling the pandemic and attendant crime and criminality we have seen arisen as a result of the lock down.
So there is a shift of focus which makes the handling of SGBV issues secondary.
There is also the restriction itself which limits movement and traps the victims with abusive partners
A lockdown situation which extends typically puts sexual predators within close proximity of vulnerable girls/infants. How could parents/guardians protect their infants and girls from these sexual perverts during the period?
Parents/guardians in these times more than ever before, need to be doubly watchful and vigilant over their female children and wards.
- We can also not overemphasize the need for sensitization and education of our children in simple and easily understandable language of intimate parts of their bodies and signs on what to look out for so that they do not fall prey and report immediately.
Some studies have shown that violence against women increase during the lockdown period due to an escalation of tensions in the home. What should be the response of victims of such violence, given that they are “locked down” and cannot easily escape their attackers?
I am happy that various NGOs and state government owned agencies have taken it upon themselves to even in this lockdown period provide designated Tel No to support victims with various services they can access via social media channels.
This will go a long way to helping women who are experiencing such violence. If the victims are themselves unable to directly call such groups, they should confide in trusted family member or friend who would so on their behalf.
I also feel that while NGOs are doing their best, government ministries focused on women affairs and gender units/family support units of the NPF need to also be at the forefront and double their efforts in monitoring and responding to cases of SGBV and guaranteeing the protection of women and girls during this lock down period.
In conclusion, as was highlighted by the UN Sec Gen, women’s rights and freedom are essential to strong, resilient society and we must contribute to supporting the protection of these rights particularly now as we work to address COVID-19 in Nigeria and globally.