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Experts advocate special courts for speedy trial of SGBV cases

Posted By Godwin Onyemaechi

About 443 sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) reported in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) are hanging in the various courts in the city.

The Desk Officer, FCT Sexual and Gender-Based Violence Response Team, Ngozi Ike, disclosed that out of 444 SGBV cases reported in the city, only one conviction has been secured.

The desk officer, who blamed the development on slow trials, advocated special courts that will preside over sexual and domestic violence cases.

She spoke during a workshop on Ethical Reporting and Advocacy to Eliminate Violence Against Women and Girls for reporters in Abuja.

The dialogue was organised by Spotlight Initiative Nigeria, in collaboration with the European Union, National Orientation Agency (NOA) and the Child Right Information Bureau of the ministry of information and culture.

The desk officer said the special courts it will go a long way in dispensing justice to survivors.

While noting that a multi-sectoral approach was usually adopted in addressing cases of SGBV, she stressed that the establishment of special courts would hasten trials of suspected perpetrators and urge more survivals to break their silence.

She said: “We lack special courts in Nigeria to hear such delicate cases. When you take these cases to the regular courts, they linger for a long period of time and this is not good at all.

“If we can push for the establishment of special courts that will preside over sexual and domestic violence cases, it will give long way in according justice to survivors.”

The Child Protection Officer, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Tochukwu Odele, noted that the lockdown occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic worsened the indices of sexual violence in the country.

Odele said about 30 per cent of women and girls between the ages of 15-49 experience different forms of sexual abuse.

She said six per cent of women experience violence during pregnancy, while one in four women and girls have experienced some form of sexual violence.

She said women and girls with disabilities are twice as likely to experience violence of any form.

Odele said Nigeria’s political structure was limiting the implementation of legal and policy frameworks for gender laws.

She said the majority of children in a survey conducted had experienced violence at home, adding that girls and women were at an increased risk of sexual violence, even as children who grow up in violent environments are at risk of perpetrating violence against the opposite gender when they grow up.

According to Odele, violence against women and girls usually occur in most trusted environments- mostly by family members, caregivers and people who society hold in very high esteem.
“It is important to note that violence is rarely an isolated case and the majority of children experience violence in their homes and familiar environments,” she said.
Chief, Child Protection Section of UNICEF, Ibrahim Sessay reiterated UNICEF’s commitment to protecting women and girls.

He said the media remained a strategic partner in advocating, mitigating and responding to issues surrounding women and girls.

He said: “To move and ascertain those results we have committed some funds globally to mitigate issues on violence against women and girls.

“The voice of the media is powerful but it has to be ethical in nature, preserve the privacy of survivors and make sure we don’t expose images of survivors that will be embarrassing to avoid stigmatisation of the survivors or revictimise them.”

In her remarks, FCT Director of the NOA, Mary Tanko, called for collective action to expose perpetrators of Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) in the country.

Tanko said VAWG has been on the rise in recent times due to the COVID-19 pandemic ravaging the world.

She noted that poor commitment of security agencies to residents, as well as stigmatisation against survivors, pose a major threat to curbing the rise of SGBV in the country.
Tanko said: “We have (a) few police presence in some communities, the poor commitment of security agencies and stigmatisation of survivors has been a big challenge to our fight against gender-based violence.

“The rise of violence against women and girls calls for action, a collective action to ensure that the cases are reduced.”

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