The Minister of Women Affairs, Mrs Pauline Tallen, has called on religious leaders to support the fight against Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) in the country.
Tallen made the call on Tuesday in Abuja at the opening of a three-day workshop for Christian stakeholders on skills and mechanisms for the elimination of SGBV in Nigeria.
The workshop was organised by Lux Terra Leadership Foundation, and was supported by Ford Foundation.
She said that religious leaders were influential and skillful with their platform to speak out against SGBV to their congregation, adding that it would help to eliminate the menace.
According to her, the menace of SGBV is also embedded in some religious and cultural practices, ceremonies, rites and rituals, and that these practices view violence against SGBV from a positive perspective.
The minister also called on community leaders and security agencies to declare state of emergency on negative norms and customs which promoted SGBV in the society.
She said that community leaders and security agencies must play a key role in providing a safe and supportive environment for women and girls who were most vulnerable.
Tallen said that to curtail the menace, the ministry had been involved in nationwide advocacy and sensitisation to all relevant stakeholders on the implementation of 2015 Violence Against Person’s Prohibition (VAPP) Act.
She said that the ministry had also organised different programmes meant to build the capacity of women and men, and had taken step further in her HeForShe programme to make men speak for women’s rights.
“I am happy to inform you that almost all the states in Nigeria have domesticated the VAPP Act and we believe that sooner or later, perpetrators will be brought to justice.
“This training workshop is organised at a critical time in the life of Nigeria men and women who have taken bold step to advocate for the enthronement of gender equality.
“This gender equality is one of the sure ways to eliminate SGBV, I believe that religious and community leaders and other stakeholders that would be trained, would be able to speak out and support this noble cause.
“I like to appreciate in a special way the Lux Terra Leadership Foundation for this laudable initiative as the outcome of this workshop would go a long way in complementing the effort of the ministry.
“There is the need for all hands to be on deck, we must all stand together in the fight against injustice by ensuring appropriate action against this menace to put and end to it ,” she stressed.
The Executive Director of the foundation, Fr. George Ehusani, earlier in his welcome address, stated that the objective of the workshop was to create awareness on activities of SGBV on stakeholders in the Christian religious organization.
He said the objective was also to bring awareness about SGBV activities in communities across Nigeria and raise awareness for intervention and critical attitudinal and behavioral change.
According to him, this workshop is to bring up policy advocacy mechanism to respond urgently and fittingly to the alarming degree of SGBV in Nigeria society.
“Today in our country, many women, girls and an increasing number of vulnerable men and boys, are sexually violated, by the use of force in varying degrees, by psychological intimidation, blackmail, threats, physical harm and others.
“The demand for sex in exchange for employment, for grades in school, or for some other favours is become alarming.
“In some cases, persons that are incapable of giving consent on account of age or mental incapacity, and even physically challenged persons are sexually violated with devastating consequences.
“Thousands of underaged and poor vulnerable girls are regularly trafficked, lured into the booming local and international sex trade or modern slavery by unscrupulous merchants.
“The victims are sometimes put through unimaginable psychological trauma, such that they are often damaged for the rest of their lives,” he said.
He explained that the act of SGBV often prevented victims from enjoying their fundamental human rights and freedom, which have significant impact on the physical, emotional and psychological health and wellbeing of the victims.
According to him, it is widely acknowledged that religion is a major driver of human behaviour, and that about 95 per cent of Nigerians profess to that, and 50 per cent of these are said to be Christians.
He said that no less than 80 per cent of this Christian population attended regular religious service, and that there was need to eliminate SGBV in our society if the Christian religion play its role.