LIFE creates awareness on improving access to justice for survivors of ‘Gender Based Violence’ in a one-day dialogue session in Lagos

By Onome Naomi

The one-day dialogue session created by Leadership Initiative For Youth Empowerment ( LIFE) on Improving access to justice for vulnerable survivors of Gender Based Violence (GBV) in Lagos state took place on 26th March, 2024 in Ikeja.

The interactive session which attracted several ministries in collaboration with LIFE to render valuable services to victims of sexual and gender based violence is aimed at creating awareness by curbing the menace caused to disorient the mental state of victims/survivors and the best approach to apprehend perpetrators without prejudice.

In attendance is; The ministry of women affairs and poverty alleviation representatives, Ministry of Local Government and Community Affairs representatives and WRAHP representative, Mirabel Centre representative, DSVA representative, LASCOTA Isolo, Oshodi and Ejigbo branches, The Nigeria Police Officers Alalusa, Nigeria Neighborhood safety Agency,  pressmen, others….

The dialogue session commenced with an introduction of LIFE from the monitoring and evaluation officer, Mokwe Oluwatoyin Esther who expatiate on the aims and objectives of the NGO. In addition, she stated that the issue of Gender based violence stemmed from the inability of a survivor/victim to voice out sexual abuses for fear of a reprimand as instilled by the perpetrator. The need to break all bounds by creating awareness with the slogan ‘See something, say something and do something immediately ‘ could spur victims morale to eliminate the fear of the unknown by reporting abuses.

A facilitator who spoke extensively on GBV during the dialogue session, Efundunni Sowemimo from the Lagos state domestic and sexual violence agency noted that Lagos state has its local policies towards GBV and offers free services to victims including children and adults. She mentioned that services provided includes; Advocacy, counselling, empowerment and rescue for all GBV/sexual violence cases, convictions of perpetrators and civil cases on behalf of potential clients.

Sowemimo said the office of GBV/ Sexual and domestic violence cases was created in September 2021 and has recorded some success stories so far. She said, a case can last as long as it is yet to be resolved due to court injunctions/judgements depending on the time frame for investigation which could include visiting of crime scene to provide evidences, the access to full report on the day to day process of rehabilitation, to ensure that nobody gets blamed for whatever experiences as a result of another persons mismanagement or emotions. Advocates from the office gives a listening ear and untamed support, there’s also a free toll line 08000333333 to report GBV and other sexual offence cases,she added.

The center manager, Mirabel center with speciality in creating sexual and gender awareness Joy Shokoye mentioned that Mirabel center provides support services to survivors of gender and sexual based violence by providing medical check , treatments, social support and counselling to help them overcome the trauma of sexual abuses. She said all services provided are free including feeding and transport for survivors; the support given gives rise to hope of having more survivors than victims as there is need to subdue what has happened. We don’t blame our survivors for someone else bad decisions, we do not encourage covering up GBV because of shame and fear, we encourage survivors to surmount their situations, she noted.

Shokoye further said:

“A victim/survivor can have access to justice by reporting cases of abuse instead of calling family members and pastors. Mirabel center can be contacted especially on sexual and gender based violence on to get guidance on how to get justice. If you are afraid to report you cannot get justice so you have to summon courage, there is a safe space as well as group support for rehabilitation process.”

Oladele Olabusayo Ajoke from Ministry of Women Affairs gave a solid input by urging the public to work on prevention rather than the occurrence. She said the government is doing a lot to train workers, boys, men and women on handling GBV. The need to avoid certain situations of GBV/ Sexual and domestic violence by giving parental care with proper sensitization should be done by means of a direct approach especially when sensitizing youngsters on genitals and its uses, make them understand rights from wrongs. She also mentioned that there are many International organisation funding the creation of foundations to curb and create awareness on gender and sexual based violence. Oladele urges people in distress to dial 760, says If there is no access to call, victims or family of victims should approach a nearby police station or agencies nearby who tackles GBV cases. Let parents do the needful to complement the efforts of government, she asserted.

Ogechi Jessica Steven, the program officer  of LIFE NGO also sensitized the audience on the need to create awareness in GBV cases, how people see the dangers faced by vulnerable survivors in accessing justice and ways to help prevent being a victim. She gave instances of situations arising from silence by intimidation from perpetrators and its damaging effect on victims leading to irrational behaviours. She also emphasized on the need to report rape cases to the appropriate authority not Clerics or family members who would rather keep it a secret than making a report. She said offenders should face the full wrath of the law if found culpable, in other words, victims must not hold back when fighting for justice regardless of whom perpetrated or initiated the abuse.

Ogechi also discouraged the idea of apportioning blames on victims of abuse as this could be detrimental to their mental health but rather advocates should focus on giving moral and psychological support to the victims while the fight for justice is sustained. She declined on the motive behind why perpetrators are attracted to their victims which includes dress mode amongst other attractions, says there is no excuse for an abuser to commit sexual or violent offences.

Read Also:Human rights advocate says Lagos govt should focus on dissolving agreement, commission, caution fee rather than implement monthly rent charge.

Naomi Sophy Blog observed that during the dialogue session, some questions, concerns as well as input on GBV cases was raised by audience in attendance and was treated accordingly. The dialogue session gave an extensive insight in addressing the global concern affecting justice and ways to undo the irregularities of abuse cases. More importantly, that victims should not tamper with evidences at the scene of crime to aid investigation and prosecution of perpetrators.

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