Sexual violence against women, girls rising in communities – Survey

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By Chika Onyesi

A recent survey on sexual violence against women has indicated an increase in the number of incidents in Nigerian communities.

The survey conducted in three Nigerian States- Enugu, Nasarawa, and Kaduna, showed that about 49 percent of women and girls under 40 years had been sexually abused.

Codenamed Kasa, (voices), the survey created to help amplify voices living in violence for action, also showed that about 80 percent of women, 60 and above, had experienced sexual violence in their lifetime.

Christy Asala, the technical expert who presented the survey findings to journalists during a virtual press conference, said the research was an opportunity to ask and listen to women from all walks of life about their experiences with sexual violence.

Asala, who spoke on behalf of the African Women Development Fund, AWDF, said the data obtained from the survey poses great concern for stakeholders as many women who live in violence have no idea that they do.

‘‘The data we got from the survey is a source of concern because the numbers are enormous, during the listening sessions, the respondents shared their experiences about sexual abuse.

“Those above 60 years reported a 61% incidence, respondents aged 21-30, 31-40, and 41-50 faced a shared rate of 51%. Respondents aged 51-60 encountered a 49% Prevalence, and individuals aged 10-20 revealed a troubling 39% exposure to sexual violence,” she said.

The research on sexual violence, funded by the African Women Development Fund, found that the key demand by women and girls is the urgent need for preventive and curative measures to protect females from violence.

Women and girls interviewed also demanded capital punishment for perpetrators of sexual violence and the commitment of law enforcement officers to help them get justice.

Meanwhile, Charles Jang, a Research, Monitoring, and Evaluation Officer at Cognito, who participated in the survey noted that young females have challenges reporting issues of sexual violence.

In his words, ‘‘A lot of people are trying to break the culture of silence but when they report, procedures are not followed till the end. It is either the Ministry of Justice is not meeting up or the law enforcement officers default.

‘‘The girls, especially those abused by their relatives are willing to speak but the Nigerian system does not encourage them to.’’

Onyinye Mamah, a coordinator of the survey in Enugu State said the mechanisms for eliminating gender violence need to be improved across the country but mostly in Enugu.

Mamah, who heads the Heroin Women Foundation in the State, called for strong reporting mechanisms as cases have often fallen through the cracks with victims not getting justice.

‘‘When we report to the Ministry of Justice or the Police or other agencies, they don’t take it as seriously as NGOs do. All the NGOs can do is mini-rehabilitation but cannot punish offenders,’’ she said.

The survey was implemented by the White Ribbon Alliance of Kenya in Nigeria, Ghana, and Senegal.

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