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PHOTO:Mrs. Maratha Udom Emmanuel-led Akwa Ibom women protesting against rape

COMMUNIQUE ISSUED BY THE AKWA IBOM STATE WOMEN LEADERS AND STAKEHOLDERS ON THE INCREASING NUMBERS IN SEXUAL AND OTHER GENDER BASED VIOLENCE IN THE STATE ON WEDNESDAY 10TH JUNE, 2020

PREAMBLE:

We cannot pretend to be oblivious of the recent spike in cases of sexual and other gender based violence in the Nation and indeed our dear State. These vicious crimes became more glaring during the lockdown occasioned by the Covid-19 Pandemic.

From the 30th of March when the lockdown began officially in the state till date, there have been over 58 reports of rape mostly of girls below 16 years of age. Their fathers, uncles, grandfathers, caregivers, intimate partners, etc perpetuate a quarter of these cases. These numbers are only those that are reported as many sexual offences remain unreported.

The women having taken cognizance of the above facts have come together and with one voice say ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.

The women have also pledged and agreed to support government and other stakeholders in the fight against this menace.

Consequently, the women hereby make the following recommendations to further enhance the capacity of government and other stakeholders to generate and implement laws and policies to increase conviction rates and provide comprehensive and appropriate support services to ensure that survivors of sexual offences are not subjected to further trauma.

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RECOMMENDATIONS

  1. For the government to declare a state of emergency on gender based violence so it can be tackled forthwith, most efficiently and effectively across the State. One of the actions being NO BAIL!
  2. The establishment of sexual referral Centers in Uyo and Ikot Ekpene Senatorial Districts to compliment the Agape Center situated in Eket Senatorial District for survivors of sexual offences to curb further trauma. This Centre will be like a one-stop shop for sexual offences where we will have well trained medical personnel, law enforcement and legal officers who will attend to the survivor. This will cure the apathy that survivors and their families have in pursuing justice. The many bureaucratic bottlenecks that survivors have to go through to report and get treatment are too onerous and it takes tenacity and determination to follow through.
  3. Treatment for sexual offences and ‘opening of files’ at the police stations should be free. Payment by victims for the arrests of suspects should be abolished at our police stations. It is too demoralizing and is the first cause of victims wanting to opt out of seeking justice.
  4. The Police Force should strengthen the gender desks in all the police stations. Funding as well as training of personnel to man these desks is very important. Training should include the collection and preservation of evidence to ground convictions. Most times we lose evidence because of improper investigations and evidence gathering.
  5. The Chief Judge should designate a special fast-track court to handle gender based violence matters; while also issuing practice direction on GBV cases and children related matters to ensure the expedition of the prosecution of such matters in court.
  6. Protection and support for survivors of Sexual and other Gender based violence should be adopted. Support should also be given to organizations who offer these services.
  7. The Hon. Attorney General to graciously grant FIDA and other law inclined organizations fiats to prosecute GBV cases directly. A specialized unit should also be set up in the Ministry of Justice for this purpose too.
  8. More advocacy and sensitization in our communities so each individual will take responsibility to prevent and report incidences of rape/ gender based violence.
  9. Religious/Traditional rulers should take responsibility for protecting every citizen in their domain. They should seek out and hand over perpetrators of crime to law enforcement agencies. Traditional rulers do not have the jurisdiction to try criminal cases. Any traditional ruler found to compromise criminal cases should be stripped of his office and prosecuted as an accomplice.
  10. All sexual and other gender based violence offences must be reported to law enforcement agencies, the Ministry of Women Affairs and FEYReP.
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11.The Ministry of Women Affairs and other non-governmental organizations engaged in the fight against Rape and GBV e.g International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), Family Empowerment and Youth Reorientation Path Initiative (FEYReP), Medical
Women Association of Nigeria (MWAN), Nigeria Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ) amongst others.

CONCLUSION

The women understand that they need each other to ensure the effective and effectual eradication of rape in our State. The partnership and or collaboration of every women group are therefore vital.

Let us hold each other’s hand and help our women and children!

Dr. (Mrs.) Martha Emmanuel
Wife of the Executive Governor
On behalf of Akwa Ibom Women Leaders/Stakeholders