Programmes, like the UNFPA’s mediation program, are trying to change this picture, they reached “more than 2.6 million” with sensitisation on gender-based violence, sexual health and rights training or family planning sessions. The numbers don’t add up. 2.6 million reached with help, 80 million suffering. And each day more young women become survivors. 28% of Nigerian ladies aged 25-29 had encountered some form of gender-based violence since they were 15. 15% of these reported having experienced abuse within a year of the survey.
In this context marriage is seen as some protection against abuse, 44% of separated, isolated or bereft women encountered violence, while 25% of married or partnered women reported the same. Sex based viciousness cuts across ethnicities, racialities, and economic classes. It knows no borders. Universally, an one in every three women worldwide has been beaten, forced into sex, or physically mistreated in the course of her life. In addition, women and girls with disabilities are more likely to endure physical and sexual maltreatment.
As well as the shocking moral and personal cost of these practices, it is estimated that gender-based violence accounts for the loss of anywhere between 1.2% to 3.7% of Gross domestic product. In Nigeria, that is some 1.1 to 3.4 trillion naira. Sex based violence also encourages the spread of HIV by restricting women’s capacity to arrange safe sexual practices and by decreasing testing and self reporting due to fear of retaliation.
Creating waves of change
We must recognise that gender-based violence is not an isolated occurrence, it is at root a manifestation and reinforcement of the low status of women and girls in the world. Women liberated from violence are women empowered to take part in business, access medical care and influence politics, lift up their families, their networks, and their countries.
The solution cannot come from one level, it requires partnerships and actions from the worldwide network, governments, multilateral associations, private sector organisations, and grassroots activists. It will require engaging women to support themselves and teaching men and boys to make some noise, stand up and leverage their privilege for their female counterparts.
Outlawing gender-based violence
Ultimately we must build satisfactory legal and social systems that guarantee freedom from violence. Numerous countries have passed laws around gender-based violence. In Nigeria female genital mutilation is now illegal, and all types of violence against people in both private and public life are officially outlawed.
However there’s still legal measures that oppress women. Legal advisors Narrative, a magazine for African attorneys notes that the Nigerian constitution doesn’t permit an foreign spouse of a Nigerian woman to become a Nigerian resident. And in Northern Nigeria spousal battery is seen as acceptable rebuke “if shocking damage isn’t prosecuted.” Other disadvantaged groups such as sex workers are put in danger, and prevented from reporting incidences of abuse due to criminilisation. These are careless authorisations of brutality against women.
Regardless of whether it happens in our own homes and neighbourhoods, or over the world, gender-based violence is not welcome in our general public. Ending it demands activity from each and every one of us.
Abideen Olasupo is the founder and executive director of Brain Builders International. He also championed the translation of the SDGs into local languages and is currently mobilising community campaigners to meet stakeholders across all the 774 LGAs in a bid to help in the localisation, and most importantly, the achievement of the SDGs.