Stakeholders from Human rights and women groups in Rivers State have called for strict implementation of the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act VAPP Act among security agencies and prosecutors in the state.
The stakeholders during an Interactive Summit on Rivers State Violence Against Persons Prohibition Law organized by the Centre for Environment Human Rights and Development CEHRD called for more collaborations among Human Rights and women groups in the state.
The Chairperson of Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development CEHRD Constance Meju said full implementation of the VAPP Act will protect Nigerians from all forms of abuses.
Constance Meju during her opening speech noted that full implementation of the VAPP Act will be beneficial for the entire country.
She also said the group will meet with traditional rulers to discuss on ways to tackle gender-based violence in rural communities.
The Chairperson of CEHRD also proposes for an adequate media campaign to enlightened the public on the dangers of domestic violence and how it affects the victims of such abuses.
”But the thing is the application, enforcement. Remember we have the prohibition of genital mutilation. I don’t think that the Police have had any arrest on any parents trying to do genital mutilation on his daughter”.
”The essence of our being here today is to see that this VAPP does not go the way of other laws we have in the country” she said.
The Head of Human Rights Department Centre for Environment, Dr. David Vareba said the summit would enable the different groups to ascertain the challenges in implementing the VAPP Act and how to eliminate it.
David Vareba revealed that the summit would also seek ways to improve response to gender-based survivors or victims in the state.
He also appeals to victims and survivors of sexual and domestic abuses to always speak up by reporting to appropriate authorities.
Participants during the Interactive Summit
What is VAPP Act
VAPP Act is aimed at eliminating violence in private and public life, prohibit all forms of violence, including physical, sexual, psychological, domestic, harmful traditional practices; discrimination against persons, and providing maximum protection and effective remedies for victims and punishment of offenders.
The Act was signed into law in May 2015 by former President of Nigeria Goodluck Jonathan.
This Act commendably covers most of the prevalent forms of violence that could be categorized into: Physical violence; Psychological violence; Sexual violence; Harmful traditional practices; and Socioeconomic violence.
The following are offenses punishable under the Act: Rape, Inflicting Physical Injury on a Person, Female Circumcision or Genital Mutilation, Forceful Ejection from Home, Depriving a Person of His/Her Liberty, Forced Financial Dependence or Economic Abuse, Forced Isolation or Separation from Family and Friends, Emotional Verbal and Psychological Abuse, Harmful Widowhood Practices, Abandonment of Spouse, Children and Other Dependent without Sustenance, Spousal/Partner Battery, Indecent exposure, Harmful Traditional Practices, Political Violence, and Violence by State Actors.
Other innovations in the Act include the prohibition and punishment for stalking, substance attack, criminalizing incestuous conduct, protection order for victims and persons under threat of violence, and compensation for victims of violence. It provided for a register for convicted sexual offenders, which shall be maintained and accessible to the public.
What Speakers said at the summit
In her speech, the Head of Legal Team, Rivers State House of Assembly Felicia Nwoke asked security agencies to use VAPP Act to prosecute cases of domestic abuse and not the criminal code.
Felicia Nwoke said both Magistrate and High Courts can convict offenders of the VAPP Act stating that the Act protects the rights of every citizen.
The legal practitioner asked the Police to treat domestic violence as a criminal matter and not attend to it as a family affair.
She also called for more collaborations among Human Rights and women groups in the state.
Felicia Nwoke, however, blasts some Faith-Based Organizations for their insincerity in handling sexual and domestic violence among followers.
She appealed to leaders and elders of different religious organizations to always stand for truth and justice while handling such cases.
In her presentation, CSP Patience Adebayo of the Police Anti-trafficking Unit said children make-up cases of sexual violence in the state.
Patience Adebayo said most parents/guardians do not want the police to prosecute sexual offenders for fear of stigmatization.
She said that the trend has frustrated police efforts in getting justice for victims of sexual violence in the state
She also said that the Police lacks the necessary facilities to prosecute offenders of gender-based violence.
Adebayo also said that the rigorous court processes are another discouraging factor for victims of human rights abuses.
The police officer noted that many victims/survivors of sexual and domestic violence abandoned their cases in court due to the lengthy-time involve in prosecuting cases in court.
In his remark, the Programme Director of CEHRD Steve Obodoekwe said that all hands must be on deck to achieve the VAPP Act.
He said that VAPP Act is all-encompassing as it protects citizens’ rights.
Steve Obodoekwe noted that collaboration among non-governmental organizations will go a long way in getting justice for victims of human rights abuses.
Resolutions at the summit
- Opening of a sex offender registration.
- Civil society should engage the media for awareness of sexual and domestic abuses.
- Establishment of a one-stop resource center for victims of sexual and domestic violence.
- Engaging with traditional rulers and faith-based organizations to sensitize their subjects and followers on the dangers of domestic and sexual-based violence.
- Medical practitioners and security personnel should show empathy to victims of sexual and domestic violence.