The Violence against Women campaign program kicked off with a 2km awareness road walk around Obalende – Onikan area on Thursday 8th, December, 2016 with an army of women, girls and men all dressed in the orange t-shirts and holding placards with different messages against GBV and distributing fliers and stickers with key messages to increase public knowledge of GBV. The office of the Public Defender, Lagos state also joined in the walk with their team distributing IEC materials to members of the public.

The event which was sponsored by IPAS Nigeria, also featured a roundtable dialogue to demystify GBV in Nigeria by addressing the negative information and attitudes attributed to situations and survivors of violence. The dialogue spotlighted questions, answer, comments and clarifications on some of the real life GBV situations women and girls face daily. The experts in attendance provided relevant and correct information on and reiterated with a strong voice that there is absolutely no excuse for violence.

The National President, YWCA of Nigeria, Lady Chikwue Ochiagha in her keynote address, presented the alarming increase in GBV especially as it affects women and girls. She spoke on the myths around violence which have over the years enabled violence and its negative effects on survivors by bringing to fore the falsehoods of some of the widely held mindsets in the society around GBV. Some of them include:

  1. Battering is not a crime.
  2. Men have the right to control their wives’ behaviour and to discipline them.
  3. Conflicts and discord are a normal part of any relationship.
  4. Battered women allow abuse to happen to them.
  5. Batterers are lower class, minority, and uneducated.
  6. Battered women are timid, uneducated, poor, and helpless.
  7. Poverty is the main cause of violence. There is no reason for violence in wealthy families.
  8. Battered women have poor parenting skills.
  9. Some women deserve the violence they experience.
  10. Violence is a private family matter therefore the community has no right to intervene in family violence just to mention a few

Lady Ochiagha called on all present to participate and learn how to handle such situations when it does happen to them or their relatives, knowing their rights, where to report for immediate action and speak out against it.

Mrs. Biola Onalaja from the Office of the Public Defender (OPD), shared that at the OPD there are lawyers and social workers who work to assist the vulnerable in the society by providing free legal services. Reiterating that they work closely with their clients and even follow them to the police stations to ensure that their clients remain comfortable and get the needed assistance. She stated that a large percentage of people that come to them for assistance are survivors of violence who they either work with, refer to a more appropriate agency or Police to ensure that justice takes its course. She encouraged that victims of gender based violence should be ready to speak out as that is the only way the perpetrator will be brought to book, and provided OPD toll free lines which anyone can call when in distress for prompt action.

Mrs. Rotimi Odutola, Assistant Director, Citizens Mediation Center (CMC), who was also a guest at the dialogue stressed the involvement of men in the effort to end GBV, as they are key partners in ensuring its success. She explained to participants that CMC is an alternative dispute resolution agency that works closely with the police and Office of the Public Defender to resolves matters of contention among the citizenry.

She added that CMC also works with Lagos State Domestic Sexual Violence Response team and Mirabel Centre for immediate necessary medical actions, assist in reporting to the police, investigate the case and assist in the court process where necessary. Mrs. Odutola also shared a vital information – Lagos state Government Criminal law 2011 which stipulates that it is a criminal offence for a husband to forcefully have intercourse with his wife – which makes marital rape a criminal offence.

Assistant Commissioner Police, Lanre Ogunlowo applauded the organizers of the programme, he stated that the cases of GBV are still under reported, adding that in 2016 alone, Lagos Police Command has only 180 reported cases. He shared that the Police Command now has trained personnel to Handle GBV with diligence investigation and prosecution, and emphasized that the success of Police Investigation lies in the hands of the victims and their families as the Police have witnessed countless times, where families of victims hinder justice from being served by asking the Police to stop Investigation. He reiterated that the willingness of the victims to cooperate with the Police is key to investigation and prosecution the perpetrator.

ACP Ogunlowo also enlightened participants of the introduction of the Sexual Offenders Register in Lagos State and that everyone has the right to walk into any police station and lay a complain. He also shared hotlines that work 24 hours, which can be reached in times of distress. He assured those in attendance of the Police’s commitment to the fight against GBV and encouraged all to report cases of GBV or any criminality to the nearest police station or area command and they will be attended to.

Other vital points from the dialogue include

  • Survivors of violence should be aware that evidence is key, and should report immediately with the cloths they were wearing and do not take their bath as evidence is vital in investigation and persecution of violators.
  • If there is a threat of violence, it is safer to begin to take steps towards ensuring the situation does not degenerate into the threatened act, report immediately to the Police.

The event came to a close with details of key recommendations and follow up actions to ensure the campaign to stop GBV does not end after the 16 days of activism.