ABUJA-The incidence of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) since COVID-19 pandemic has risen in epidemic proportions. Data from Federal and State Ministries for Women Affairs in Nigeria, on incidents of SGBV across 23 States in Nigeria indicates that 781 incidents were reported in the first two weeks of April 2020, showing a dramatic increase of 149% in the number of SGBV cases.
Many victims and survivors of this heinous crime require targeted and tailored psycho-social support, economic empowerment, social protection as well as access to gender and trauma sensitive legal assistance to help them rebuild their lives.
While addressing issues of sexual and gender-based violence, including in connection with conflict has been a priority for the Nigerian government with the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria declaring a state of emergency on the rising number of GBV cases in July 2020, the justice arm of the response remains the weakest, with few reported cases ending up in successful convictions.
In response to this, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice established an Inter-Ministerial Management Committee on SGBV and a new Special SGBV Prosecution Team under the Department of Public Prosecution (DPP) at the Federal Ministry of Justice (FMOJ) to give the GBV cases the required attention, following the declaration of state of emergency in GBV cases in 2020 by President Muhammadu Buhari.
This was disclosed in a statement by Ms. Olivia Ogechi Okorondu Communications Associate United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
She noted that on 25 November, 2021, to commemorate the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, UNODC Country Representative, Oliver Stolpe supplied key UNODC resource tools and publications on effective criminal justice responses to the SGBV Prosecution Hub, which was received by the Solicitor-General of the Federation and Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Justice, Mohammed Umar Etsu, on behalf of AG-Fed and Minister of Justice.
The resource tools included copies of the Handbook on; Effective Prosecution Responses to Violence against Women and Girls; Handbook for the judiciary on effective criminal justice response to gender-based violence against women and girls; Strengthening Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Responses to violence against women; and Essential services package for women and girls subject to violence.
The training tools combined she said, will strengthen the capacity of criminal justice actors and other essential service providers to effectively prevent and respond to GBVAWG by enhancing gender-responsive investigations, prosecutions and adjudication of SGBV offences and enhancing multi-sectoral responses and coordination between law enforcement, criminal justice practitioners and essential services providers (health, social services, sexual assault referral centres, forensic lab services and relevant NGOs) and provide tailored support for victims of SGBV.
It will support Nigeria in improving capacities related to data collection, research and analysis on prevalence of GBV which is fundamental for monitoring the efficacy of rape legislation and improving measures to address sexual violence and strengthening existing legal and policy frameworks relevant to the prevention and prosecution of GBVAWG, including in connection with terrorism, organized crime, trafficking-in-Persons (TiP) and conflict-related sexual violence, to ensure sanctions for offences of rape are effective, proportionate, dissuasive and commensurate with the gravity of the crime committed.
“Creating the Prosecution Hub has probably been one of the most decisive response we have seen around the globe to the dramatic rise of sexual and gender-based violence related offences also in Nigeria”, said Oliver Stolpe, UNODC Representative to Nigeria.