The Abiodun Essiet Initiative for Girls, has urged religious and traditional rulers to mainstream the issues of domestic, sexual, and gender-based violence (SGV) into sermons and teachings.
Mrs Abiodun Essiet, Executive Director of the group said this at a one-day training themed; “Strengthening traditional justice system of FCT original inhabitants to combat sexual and gender-based violence”.
Essiet said that the roles of religious and traditional leaders in marriage, and in settling issues of domestic, sexual, and gender-based violence in the family could not be overemphasised.
“We are in Kwali Area Council in the FCT to sensitise traditional rulers on issues of sexual and gender-based violence.
“We are enlightening them also against the Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Act, the Alternative Dispute Resolution Mechanism, and the Child Right Act.
“This is for them to be able to handle disputes in a more organized and confidential way within the community in order to discourage stigmatisation of victims.
“We believe that the roles of both traditional and religious leaders are key elements in breaking the culture of silence,” she said.
She said that with the recent reports on the circumstances that led to the death of popular Nigerian gospel artist, Minister Osinachi, no victim of domestic, sexual, or gender-based violence should remain silent.
According to her, it was necessary, especially for religious leaders to mainstream the issues in their sermons and encourage those in troubled homes and marriages to seek help regardless of societal opinion.
“Once those currently in such situation know that their church or mosque, or their places of work would not judge them and that there is a safe space for them in the society, they will begin to speak up and take actions against those abusing them.
“The government also needs to create more safe space for these victims for their rescue and rehabilitation.
“It is the government’s responsibility to provide these services of sensitising against SGV, rescuing victims, and rehabilitating them,” she said.
She however appealed to relevant institutions and agencies involved in providing shelters, safe homes, welfare, and legal services to collaborate to ensure that no life was lost due to SGV.
Mr Victor Obasero, Phase 2 Ward District Head, Kwali, commended the group for the initiative to train and sensitize traditional leaders on sexual and gender-based violence and its consequences.
Obasero, however, said that one of the major challenges faced in handling issues of domestic violence and SGV was the delay in response and inaction when reported to the appropriate authorities.
He said that cases of rape, when reported to the police or social welfare department did not get a prompt response, and in most cases, victims were re-victimised while seeking justice.
“One of the reasons why most people in the community do not report cases of rape and other domestic violence is due to the manner in which the authorities address the issue.
“The victims are mostly re-victimised, and that is why these issues are settled in the homes and the victims do not get justice because the culprits always get away with their actions.
“But now that we have been sensitised and trained on the necessary steps to take, and who and where to report such cases, we would break the culture of silence.
“We now know that a victim of rape should not bathe before reporting the case to the police, and further to the nearest health center for medical assessment,” he said.
He promised to step down the knowledge gained at the training to his followers.
A total of 71 traditional leaders from Kwali and Abaji Area Council were present at the training.