By Ndidi Chukwu
IPAS country representative in Nigeria, Hauwa Shekarau has advised the Nigerian Government to declare state of emergency on sexual assault to protect female girls, women and aged women in the nation. Her comment came amidst high rate of reports of sexual assault the country has had in the last five years. Apart from the traumatising experience of a person being sexually assaulted, Shekarau said most of the women who are assaulted end up with life threatening diseases, and the girls often fall prey to infertility challenges.
Shekarau who is also the President of International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) in Nigeria, said Nigeria needs to strengthen its sexual assault referral centers to be able to curb the spate of carnal abuse on women.
“The Nigerian government owes the citizens the responsibility to set up sexual assault referral center in all the states of the federation; this is not just the role of the state alone but in conjunction with the federal government. Crime is on the nation’s concurrent list both federal and state governments are responsible so I would encourage the government to come up with modalities of how to set up sexual assault referral centers”
“Rape is on the increase, sexual assault is on the increase on a daily basis. It is happening against young children and adults, and even old women. If you ask me sexual assault should be declared an emergency. There must be a state of emergency on issues around sexual assault. One very good way of achieving this in Nigeria is by setting up sexual assault referral centers, where cancelling is done, investigation and punishment of perpetrators is also done”. Shekaru told Health Reporters in Abuja.
Female girls below the age of 18 have the highest reported cases of sexual assault in Nigeria, but not much is done to protect the girls and punish perpetrators, but Shekaru believes the recently passed law “the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act” VAPP is the only applicable law in Nigeria that could curb this menace.
According to her, “The Violent against persons prohibition Act, has dealt with these issues, unfortunately for Nigeria, due to the federal system of government run in Nigeria, and crime being on the concurrent list, it is expected that every state will pass the VAPP law. As it is, VAPP law is only applicable in the Federal capital territory”
“We want to see all the states of the federation pass the VAPP law. There is a case of an 8 month old baby that was sexually assaulted by a young man, he didn’t not use his sexual organ he used his finger to sexually assault the 8 month old baby by reason of the penal code, that is not rape it is sexual assault, and the way sexual assault is captured in the law book it is a very menial punishment but the VAPP Act has criminalised and made sure that there are stiffer punishment for such acts. The VAPP act is the way to go and I want to see all the states of the federation adopt it as a law in their states” she emphasised.