Being the Text of The Press Statement issued by Lagos State Gender Advocacy Team (LASGAT) on the occasion of the Week of Action against Domestic Violence in Lagos State -October 13-17, 2014
Gentleman of the Press,
I welcome you all to this important occasion of the week of action against domestic violence that will be celebrated throughout Lagos state this week, 13-17th of October, 2014. This is the first of its kind in Nigeria, where collectively as Civil society, government and the private sector we are working to achieve the common goal of ensuring lasting cohesion and peace in our homes, communities, state and nation.
The week of action is very timely; it is coinciding with the celebration of the international day of the girl child whose theme “ending the circle of violence against the girl child” connects with the focus of the week of action. This succinctly calls to mind the criminal abduction of the Chibok girls and the general state of insecurity which pervades our land as a result of violent attacks unleashed by Boko Haram. The abduction of chibok girls is akin to crime against humanity of which domestic violence is no less.
The impacts of domestic violence and sexual assault on girls, women, youths, people with disabilities and other vulnerable groups is a cause for concern. It is commendable that the state has responded as far back as 2007 to enact the Protection against Domestic Violence Law to protect everyone regardless of sex, age or marital status. This is a signal that government and all stakeholders can no longer accept the adornment of domestic violence in the garb of “family affair” but an offence punishable under the law.
This week of action is aimed at raising awareness about the criminal aspect of domestic violence, providing information about support services and encouraging citizens to break the culture of silence by reporting cases of violations and pursuing criminal litigation to punish offenders.
The Lagos state domestic violence law though did not criminalize domestic violence in absolute terms but it made adequate provisions for the granting of protection orders to prevent and protect victims from violence. Notwithstanding the existence of the law, low level of awareness about the law and the culture of condoning domestic violence as family affair not deserving to be reported as a crime, limits the enforcement of the law on perpetrators.
Overcoming the challenge of enforcing the law on perpetrators will mean commitment to massive awareness and working with the populace to break the mind-set that nurtures the culture of silence. Therefore, the challenge of changing mind-sets and encouraging survivors to take domestic violence as a criminal offence rest on our shoulders as game changers and agents of change. It is our collective responsibility to let the populace know that silence in the face of domestic violence or any form of violence at all is not accepted as virtue in any civilised society rather it is a vice which must be discouraged.
In the same vein, it must be recognized that the power in speaking out and changing mind-sets can only be realised when survivors are aware of preventive measures and accessible support services that are in place to protect them.
We commend the innovative approaches which Lagos state has so far adopted in addressing the issues of domestic violence, especially the training of policemen in handling cases of domestic violence and sexual assault, the setting up of the model police stations and family support unit; and the recent establishment of the Domestic Violence and sexual Assault response team. These are laudable initiatives that can strengthen the effective enforcement of the law and give victims the confidence to report violations.
While we acknowledge the enormous work that has already been done by Lagos state, a lot still needs to be done in sharing information to the public especially about the new approach in handling domestic violent cases at the family support unit now in existence in Adeniji Adele, Isokoko, Ilupeju and Panti Police stations. Of equal importance are the services of Mirabel centre in providing forensic tests required in substantiating criminal cases.
On the part of LASGAT and its partners, we will be raising awareness and encouraging the people of Lagos during this week of action to take full advantage of the law and support services provided by government and other stakeholders to prevent and protect people against domestic violence. Significantly, we will be unveiling our awareness stickers for the week and the Directory of institutions and organizations rendering support services on domestic violence in Lagos state.
We will continue to reiterate the responsibility of the state to fulfil the rights of citizens to life and bodily integrity and ensure that their rights are not violated by calling on the government to step up action to strengthen the enforcement of domestic violence Law through;
-Adopting and passing into law the sexual offences bill which is currently before the National Assembly. The sexual offences bill criminalizes all forms of violence including domestic violence in absolute terms. The bill is comprehensive, detailed and responds to almost all issues relating to sexual offences and domestic violence.
-Gathering data to enable the quantification of the economic and non- economic cost of domestic violence in the state to enable budgetary allocation needed to fight the scourge. We must not allow the damaging impacts of domestic violence to impede the ability of the resourceful population of Lagos state to contribute to the economic growth of the state.
-Developing policy guidelines that will ensure zero tolerance for trivializing the offence and letting perpetrators go free.
-Giving legal backing to the week of action against domestic violence as annual event to be celebrated throughout Lagos state.
We use this occasion to remember our chibok girls who are still suffering all manner of violence in the hands of their captors. We call on Nigerian government to step up action to get them released and reunited with their families.
We appreciate the support of our partners in making this week of action a reality. We particularly appreciate the continued support of the Department of International Development / State Accountability and voice Initiative (DFID/SAVI), Ministry of women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation (WAPA), Office of the Attorney General of Lagos state, Iyaolojo General of Nigeria Mrs Folashade Tinubu Ojo, office of the Public Defender (OPD), SOS Children Villages, Save the children, Lagos state Civil Society Partnership (LASCOP),Laudable support for Women, Youth and community, The Canopy Organization, The group of 8 on violence against women comprising of; Partnership for Justice, Baobab for women’s Right, Women’s Right and Health Project (WP), Women Consortium of Nigeria (WOCON)., our media partners; Leadership Newspapers, Traffic Radio, LTV , Eko FM , Metro FM, UnilagFM, The News, Asha Initiative, Simonateba.com and of course the dynamic members of LASGAT.
Thank you for your support. Eko oni baje o!
Titilope Ngozi Akosa
Centre for 21st Century Issues (C21st) and
Coordinator, Lagos State Gender Advocacy Team