The wife of the Vice-President, Mrs. Dolapo Osinbajo, has called for stiffer penalties against perpetrators of Gender-Based Violence (GBV) and harmful practices.
Speaking at a plenary session of the UNFPA, at the 37th Scientific Conference of the Association of Public Health Physicians (APHAN) held at the weekend in Abuja, Osinbajo who condemned all forms of violence and abuse against women and girls called for the strengthening of the nation’s healthcare system to meet the needs of survivors of the act.
She solicited the cooperation of all Nigerians to curb GBV, noting that lessons learnt from the COVID-19 pandemic seek to address issues relating to better access to GBV services.
In his remarks, outgoing Chairman of APHAN, Prof. Benjamin Uzochukwu, called on all the states of the federation to institute a sex offenders‘ register to name and shame perpetrators of GBV to end the impunity.
Also, he implored all the states yet to adopt the Violence against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Act and Child Rights Act (CRA) to do so without further delay, to protect women and girls, adding that beyond the adoption of the laws, the Federal Government needs to strengthen law enforcement and awareness of the law around GBV.
Meanwhile, Uzochukwu lamented that as health care professionals, APHAN members witness the negative consequences of GBV.
He noted that GBV is the longest-lasting pandemic in the world, adding that in Nigeria, GBV is widespread, as 30 per cent of women aged 15 to 49 years have reported experiences of sexual abuse while the COVID-19 pandemic compounded the problem.
He said, “Everyone should understand that violence against women and girls is unacceptable and will no longer be tolerated. We call on every state government to establish and fund, at least, one GBV response centre and shelter with government-paid staff deployed and with effective linkages to other support services that survivors may need.”
Also, he urged the government to establish at least one forensic lab in each geopolitical zone in the country to support the prosecution of GBV.
“We call on the National Council on Health to declare free medical care for survivors of gender-based violence and assign a focal point for GBV in each health facility in Nigeria to help survivors navigate through health facilities promptly. We recognise that as health care professionals, we are central to the response to gender-based violence. Health care workers are often the earliest point of contact for GBV survivors.”
Also, Country Representative UNFPA, Ms. Ulla Mueller, emphasised the need for the engagement of medical practitioners in meeting the needs of GBV survivors.
Mueller, represented by Deputy Country Representative, UNFPA, Ms. Erica Goldson, tasked public health physicians to champion the war against GBV, describing it as a threat to national development and an impediment to women and girls’ growth.