“We’ve seen a lot, we’ve had cases of a survivor who was raped by her father, we’ve had cases of the father having to subject her to several abortions, resulting from the situation of abuse, we’ve seen a lot” says Chichi Ogbonaya; project manager under the organization’s community service pillar.
It’s a description of the GBV situation recounted by one of the advocacy groups fighting to change the narrative in Nigeria, in the documentary “On the Frontline” by Babatunde Okunlola.
In Nigeria, there has been a growing reportage and widespread rage following hash tags and shocking cases involving GBV against women and children. It’s a situation that has since taken on a higher urgency since the COVID19 pandemic began, especially at the height of the lockdown period.
15 new cases were being reported daily, during the April peak period when there was a total lockdown by the DSVRT. April saw 273 cases reported, In May 189 cases were reported, In June, 264 cases were reported. In July, 304 cases were reported; the highest since the establishment of the DSVRT.
The Domestic Sexual Violence response team office was inaugurated in 2014 to increase victim safety and offender responsibility by providing a cross jurisdictional responsibility which is uniform in approach and manner in which incidents of rape, domestic violence, and child abuse in the state are handled reported.
The coordinator Mrs Vivour Adeniji says: “During the lockdown, we were very curious to know, if there would be an increase. We sort of anticipated it, but we obviously did not know the magnitude of what we were about to deal with.”
At the height of the lockdown, Halimat a single mother, left all alone to take care of her 2 kids, 8 and 11, economically disadvantaged, had to resort to begging on the streets of Lagos to survive. In the middle of a lockdown, in an attempt to keep her kids from harm’s way, she put them up with strangers (a couple who lived close to the stall where she slept outside at night). It happened twice.
“The same guy went in to my daughter again. Because I was helpless, there was no place to go to. The same guy!”
Thanks to a responder agency; WARDC one of the key organizations working on the frontline of ending. GBV in the country, the perpetrator has since been locked up, awaiting judgment. Halimat’s daughter’s case is one of many cases documented during the lockdown period in Lagos, Nigeria. Chidinma (not her real name) 26, and a single mother, mother of 2 kids also shares her story in the documentary. She was neglected and experienced some domestic violence which led to a miscarriage.
While large metropolitan cities have been affected, small conservative ones have not been spared. The documentary “On the frontline” also documents incidents in more conservative societies.
Less than 400 miles away from Lagos, is Kwara state, Nigeria, with a population of about 2.5 million people, the dynamics of GBV is slightly different. SP Okasanmi; the Police public relations officer for the state police command speaks of an increase during the lockdown period.
“Between February and September we had about 19 documented cases of rape in the courts, here in Kwara state i.e during the lockdown period and this moment. The irony of it is that you see elderly men of say 69 or 70, raping girls of 6-7 year olds”.
The ministry of Women affairs and social development in Kwara state is saddled with looking into such affairs and interfacing with key organizations in the state. All efforts to speak with the ministry via calls and letters met with dead ends.
This dynamic of a high reportage of cases involving minors as pointed out by the SP is also echoed by Chichi Ogbonnaya; the project manager under the organization’s community service pillar. The Women at risk international foundation (WARIF), provides such services amongst others. Founded in 2016, the organisation has seen over 1,000 cases of walk-in- clients and callers, who have reported rape or GBV.
Other factors highlighted in the documentary by frontline activists and workers working hard to end GBV in the country, include the complacence of society in most cases of GBV; which is one of the challenges faced and the failure to get convictions is a major setback on the fight against GBV.
Mrs Abiola Akiyode Afolabi, the director of the Women advocate research and documentation centre Lagos; a women’s rights organization in Nigeria, which provides pro bono legal services for women victims of gender-based violence and other women’s rights abuse while speaking about community acquisance.
“Convictions have been a challenge. So you find out that majority of these cases start off, but the complainant refuses to go to court again. There’s a limit to what we can do, in terms of trying to get convictions. Because of all these other nuances there are low conviction rates”.
In June 2020, Nigeria declared a state of emergency on rape and sexual violence in all 36 Nigerian states.
Despite this new state of emergency, a culture of impunity persists, making it difficult for victims to hold their abusers accountable, and these challenges as well as proffered solutions are put forward by Nigeria’s key organizations looking to end GBV in Nigeria.
The documentary “On the frontline” produced by Babatunde Okunlola is a sequel to the documentary. “Pursuing Justice” which tells a gripping tale of three women, who have dared to break the code of silence, by speaking up and attempting to pursue justice. The documentary “On the frontline” is supported by the Civic hive; an initiative of the Budgit foundation, Nigeria.
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