Maimuna Maibe: Why You Should Support the Law that Reduces Gender-Based Violence in Nigeria

Nigeria is one of the least safe places in the world for women. This is why the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act (VAPP), passed in 2015 is an extremely important legal tool that can help prevent gender-based violence and make the country a safer place.

The VAPP law is designed to tackle “all forms of violence against persons in private and public life” and provide “maximum protection and effective remedies for victims and punishment of offenders.” Since 2015 the law has been adopted in varying forms by 30 of Nigeria’s 36 states, however, it urgently now needs to be adopted and implemented in all our states to combat the rising trend in violence against women.

Roadmap to 36

Two weeks ago, Global Citizen, the international advocacy organisation, released an impactful short film highlighting the call to action to combat gender-based violence across Nigeria, and urging these remaining states to immediately implement the act.

The film highlights the harrowing stories of gender-based violence survivors, set against the backdrop of Ekiti state, one of the first to domesticate the VAPP Act of 2015; Abuja in the Federal Capital Territory, where the Act was first passed federally; and Kano state, where the VAPP Act has not been adopted yet.

Survivors retell their personal stories of extreme hardships, including the difficulties in reporting a sexual offence and seeking justice as victims, prior to the domestication of the VAPP Act.

The film aims to stop the culture of silence that surrounds the reporting of sexual crimes and violence, while outlining measures through which sexual crime reporting can be effectively conducted by victims. It also tracks the implementation and impact of the VAPP Act upon domestication and encourages states, yet to domesticate the VAPP Act, by amplifying the benefits of the Act’s increased safety and security of women and girls across the country.

What does the VAPP Act work to achieve?

The Act covers various forms of violence but particularly hones in on gender and sexual-based violence. It also redefines rape and is the first Nigerian law to recognize that rape can involve male victims.

Because Nigeria is home to many cultural practices that are particularly harmful to women and girls such as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and circumcision, denial of inheritance and succession rights, and forced marriage, the VAPP law aims to provide a legal framework that protects the victims of these practices.

Ultimately, the VAPP law’s purpose is to reduce the equality gap between men and women in Nigeria as well as cut down the country’s very high incidence of GBV which disproportionately affects women and girls.

Who is involved?

There are many people and organisations involved in the passage, signing and domestication of the VAPP law across Nigeria. From government officials and policymakers to activists and non-profit advocacy organisations like Global Citizen partners – Stand To End Rape Initiative (STER) and Women At Risk International Foundation (WARIF), it has truly been a collective effort to first get the law passed at the federal level and work is still ongoing to domesticate the VAPP law beyond the 30 states that have adopted it so far.

How does it work?

Although the VAPP law was only applicable in the FCT in the form it was passed, it also allows for states to domesticate the law and prescribes minimum sentences for the crimes it tackles. It also makes a provision for the creation of a sex offenders register which has already been created by the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) which is also empowered by the law to enforce its provisions.

How can Global Citizens help?

Global Citizen, with the support from the Ford Foundation and other partners, is leading public campaigns and advocacy efforts to encourage global citizens to take action and lend their support calling for strengthening gender-based violence laws in West Africa, for the adoption of the Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Bill and holding the national and local governments accountable for full implementation and resourcing of the bill.

Nigerian women and girls would be protected from all forms of violence and abuse; survivors would be entitled to legal, health, and social services; and perpetrators would be punished to the fullest extent if Nigerian leaders commit to enforcing the VAPP law across all states.

Global Citizens and all Nigerians can take action by calling on Nigeria’s leaders to commit to safeguarding the lives of women and girls, by approving and enforcing the VAPP law here.

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