Tallen decries slow justice system, says 972 GBV perpetrators in Courts

From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja

With 972 gender base violence cases in various courts in Nigeria, being prosecuted by the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, the minister, Pauline Tallen, has expressed displeasure with the slow justice system.

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She made her displeasure known at a joint press briefing to kick off the 2021 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence with the theme: “Orange the world, end violence against women now”, organised by her ministry, British Council, UNWomen and European Union in Abuja.

According to her, the latest realtime figures of abuses from six states of the federation showed that out of 5,204 cases of abuse reported, 3,125 women survivors are demanding for Justice.

She stated that available statistics from the National Situation Room and Dashboard set up in the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs under the UN/EU Spotlight initiative, targeting 6 States supported by UNDP was disturbing and demanded urgent action from all stakeholders.

Tallen said, “As at yesterday 24th November 2021, the total number of cases reported is 5,204 of which 3,125 survivors are demanding justice and only 33 perpetrators have so far been convicted, representing 0.51 percent.

“The fatal cases are 160, closed cases 231, while open cases (cases pending in court) are 972. This trend is unacceptable. And we will all intensify efforts with the Federal Minister of Justice to ensure justice for victims and survivors. Due to the effectiveness of this medium in providing real time data, we will upscale the project to cover the remaining states.”

Tallen who vowed that the Minister of Justice will not be allowed breathing space until all pending cases get justice said: “the Ministry of Justice is making efforts. We have initiated the process of establishing special courts for these vulnerable groups. In fact, I wanted this press conference to be held in the conference hall of the Ministry of Justice, to ensure that we make the justice system work. He would have been here but he sent his apologies because he is attending to another assignment.

“He is the chairman of the inter ministerial committee set up by Mr. President when I presented memo in Council last year. And we will not allow them have their breathing space on to the justice system become more proactive in addressing this huge number that is left in our courts. Justice delayed is justice denied, and that is unacceptable.”

The Minister noted that a new report from UN Women, based on data from 13 countries since the COVID-19 pandemic, show that two in three women reported that women who have known and experienced some form of violence are more likely to face food insecurity.

She condemned a situation where survivors do not speak out as the statistics revealed that “only 1 in 10 women who are victims would go to the police for help.”

“These figures are mirrored in Nigeria, with 30 per cent of girls and women aged between 15 and 49 reported to have experienced sexual abuse. Insurgency and protracted conflict have only served to worsen the occurrence of GBV in the North-East.

“Harmful practices such as child marriage are prevalent in Nigeria, with 43% of girls married before the age of 18; while 20% of women aged 15 to 49 have undergone FGM” Tallen stated

European Union Ambassador to Nigeria, Samuela Isopi, on her part said gender based violence was a global pandemic that must be reversed.

She stressed data was important in the fight against gender based violence and urged women to speak.

According to her, the new data showed that 87 percent of women suffer Gender-Based Violence online.

Isopi, added that part of EU’s effort to the challenge the Menander was to establish a Sexual Assault Referral Centre in the country.

According to her “The EU has supported the establishment of Sexual Assault Referral Centres (SARCs) across the country with over 1 billion naira since 2016.

“With the support of the European Union and other partners, the number of SARCs has grown to 32, spread across 19 states of the federation and the FCT. This is an important result.

“As at June 2021, the SARCs had assisted over 20,000 survivors of sexual assault. Over 70% of the clients are children under the age of 18 years.

“Justice is key to stop gender-based violence. Most of SGBV crimes remain unpunished. Very few convictions are secured, often after long and tortuous legal processes.

“Under a joint effort with the EU-RoLAC programme, the EU is stepping up efforts to fast-track prosecution of offenders.”

She said that a key highlight of this year’s 16 days of activism against SGBV is the coordinated advocacy for a special court for Sexual and Gender-Based Violence SGBV cases in Nigeria.”

On her part, the UNWomen Country Representative, Comfort Lamptey, commended the efforts Nigeria has made in domesticating the Violence Against Persons Proposition Law.

She said: “The past two years in Nigeria has recorded significant progress on domestication of the violence against persons proposition law, since it was passed in 2015, with a total of 30 states out of 36 states in Nigeria have now passed the law. This commendable feat was spurred by the declaration of a state of emergency on gender based violence by the Nigeria Governors Forum in 2020. And validates the importance of a multi sectoral and partnership approach to addressing this menace.

“The activism of youth and women’s groups, the lobbying of influential women’s networks, including the Nigeria governors wives forum, and the political will, of the government, which made it possible must be sustained going forward.

“And even beyond the enactment of this legislation, we need to ensure that both federal government and states which have adopted them ensure that gender based violence, survivors have full access to justice with reliable prosecution of perpetrators of violence, as we impart embarked on the 16 Days campaign, levers advocate, amongst others for these four things.

“First, let’s put women at the center of the responses, including the policy situation solutions. Second, let’s allocate resources and include evidence based measures to address violence against women and girls. Thirdly, let’s strengthen services including access to justice for women who experienced violence. And fourthly, let’s invest in prevention efforts to end violence against women and girls.”

The UNFPA a country representative, on her part reminded the audience that the aspiration is to see a world of full gender equality.

“That is the Africa we want by 2063 and this is what the Sustainable Development Goals promise to deliver by the year 2030. A world of gender equality, where a girl grows up, secure, safe in the knowledge that she may be confident and encouraged to fulfill her full potential. What gender based violence does is to undermine the dignity, the health, the security, and the autonomy of women and girls so effective. Yet it remains shrouded behind the curtain swept under the rug with this atmosphere of stigma for the victim to be silent, only adds to the crime.

“Yes, there are consequences to violence against women and girls, especially psychological mental health disturbances. Of course, consequences include health problems, unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions, leading to vaginal fistula, sexually transmitted infections, and even death.”

The UN-Resident Coordinator in Nigeria, Edward Kallon, also commended the federal and states governments efforts to domesticate the VAPP Act and the Child Rights Act which at the last count stood at 33 and 27 states respectively.

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