The British Council and the European Union have lamented the low incidence of reported rape cases in the country, canvassing for the establishment of special courts for Sexual and Gender Based Violence(SGBV) across the country.
Addressing a press conference in commemoration of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence 2021, Programme Officer, Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption (RoLAC) Programme of the British Council, funded by the European Union, Mrs. Hannatu Essien, said though reported cases against rapes and other gender based violence have increased, but there is room for improvement.
She said: “Since the establishment of the first Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) in Nigeria in 2013 and the establishment of the 31 SARCs that have followed, the SARCs have continued to provide free immediate emergency medical treatment, counselling and follow up support to survivors of rape and sexual assault, including support for their engagement with the legal system. In just 8 years, the SARC Network has grown from a single SARC in Lagos to 32 SARCs across 19 states in Nigeria; assisting 23,207 survivors of sexual assault combined, between July 2013 and September 2021. Over 70% of whom have been children under the age of 18 years.”
She however said: “In spite of the remarkable expansion and spread of the SARC initiative in Nigeria and stronger focus nationwide on the provision of comprehensive medical and counselling services for survivors, the number of Sexual and Gender Based Violence(SGBV) cases reported to SARCs is still a poor representation of the scale of sexual assault in Nigeria.
“The number of SGBV cases that are prosecuted are very few compared to the number of reports.”
She noted that for many years, there has been a steady call for the establishment of specialised courts for SGBV in Nigeria to address delays in the justice process.
She acknowledged that most recently, this call was echoed by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister for Justice, Abubakar Malami, whose call followed the inauguration in 2020 by the President, of an Inter-Ministerial Management Committee on Eradication of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence, a demonstration of the government’s renewed commitment to comprehensively address SGBV and protect victims.
She said the Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption (RoLAC) Programme is supporting the call and effort to establish special courts for SGBV and is collaborating with the FCT Judiciary, the Federal Ministry of Justice and the National Agency for Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) on the occasion of the 16 Days of Activism 2021, to sensitize and mobilise relevant actors and stakeholders around the imperative and applicability of special courts for SGBV, in the context of Nigeria’s legislative and social policy environment.
She disclosed that the aim is to explore relevant policy options, guidelines and recommendations for establishing or designating special courts for SGBV across Nigeria.
Michael Olugbode in Abuja