Health 36% married women experience gender based violence in Nigeria...

36% married women experience gender based violence in Nigeria – UNICEF

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By Ijeoma Ukazu |

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), has said at least 36 percent of women who have ever been married have experienced one form of violence from their spouse or the other.

UNICEF’s Child Protection specialist, Dr. Olasunbo Odebode made this known while delivering a keynote during a webinar with the theme ‘Role of Media in Promoting Accountability for Ending Violence Against Women and Girls,’ organised by the Spotlight Initiative Nigeria.

Odebode further revealed that women and girls were circumcised before the age of 5 in some parts of the country, bringing the national prevalence to about 20 percent, adding that 19 percent of girls in Nigeria were married before the age of 15.

According to her, perpetrators of violence against children were usually people known to them such as their parents, caregiver, teacher, or neighbours, while perpetrators of violence against women remains their spouses and intimate partners.

In her words, “31 percent of women aged 15 and 49 has experienced physical violence, nine percent of women have experienced sexual violence, women and girls with disability are twice as exposed to experience violations of any form.

“36 percent of ever married women have experienced physical, sexual or emotional violence in the hands of their spouses, six percent of women have experienced physical violence during pregnancy and one in four girls have experienced sexual violence.”

Odebode further listed the drivers of violence against women and girls to include; negative socio cultural norms, low status of women and children especially girls, harmful practices, culture of silence, taboo and shame, low educational and economic status.

United Nations Resident Coordinator, Mr. Edward Kallon who raised concerns over the massive increase of violence against women and girls at he height of the COVID-19 pandemic, urged media practitioners and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), to continuously work towards breaking the culture of violence against women and girls in Nigeria.

“Its a menace we cannot understand but there are intricate issues we need to better understand; Issues of mental health, poverty and socio cultural settings that needs to be addressed.

“The media plays a significant role in shaping public discourse to shape the narrative around violence against women and girls. Take the lead in educating the realities of gender based violence implications and responsibilities therein.”

UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, Peter Hawkins who charged Nigerian media to spotlight the role of men in ending violence against women and girls in the country, called on women to break the silence, tell their own stories stressing that they were the victims and not the problem.

“The shocking statistics and stories has to ignite us to do something very important and special to change the statuesque. We need to spotlight the issues against violence against women and girls, break this culture of silence that prevails in households, communities, village and right across the country.

“There is no forum where men can discuss these issues of sexual abuse. they hid it in their houses and black areas of their villages. The media can highlight the debate and the behavioural change that is required, hold men to account and encourage men to discuss the issues and bring it out to the open.

“There is need for women to feel confident to tell their stories, to know they are not the only ones and they are the victims and not the problem and bring what is happening to the open.”

Garba Shehu, Senior special adviser media and publicity to President Muhammadu Buhari who called on Nigerian media to sensitise men and boys on the effects and consequences of violence against women and girls in the country, appealed to the UN to support Nigeria with deployment of necessary technology and jurisprudence to address and end the menace of violence against the female gender once and for all.

While noting that deploying the strategy of naming and shaming perpetrators of such acts would deter many from indulging in such activities, he frowned at the pervasive use of internet to live stream cases of child abuse and violence, even as he noted that content that threatens national security, bullies, harasses or affect the safety of women and children and vulnerable was unacceptable.

“If the media choose to bring the spotlight to bear on the violators of women and girls a lot of changes will be made. The fear of exposure is even more effective than even the jail term as witnessed in some places. The media can help by bringing the spotlight on the victims who must be protected but on the violators who must be named and shamed.

“We have a lot of laws and legislations to this regard but a lot of these laws have also not gone far enough and they have not been very consistent to keep Nigerian girls, children and minority safe. Organisations such as the UN will do a lot of good to help us improve and strengthen our jurisprudence on the law and most importantly, deployment of technology as part of the solutions.”

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