The International Federation of Women Lawyers Nigeria (FIDA), in northcentral Plateau State, the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), and the Nigerian Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ) have urged the Plateau State House of Assembly to domesticate the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act (VAPPA).
The associations made the call on Thursday in Jos when they staged a sensitisation walk to the Plateau State House of Assembly on the rising cases of rape and domestic violence in the country.
Speaking at the occasion, the former vice chairperson of FIDA Plateau State, Barrister Christie Ezekwem, in her address, said it was very important for the assembly to domesticate and implement the VAPPA, adding that it would take care of a lot of gaps found in the Penal Code concerning rape and gender-based violence.
Ezekwem further said that VAPPA has specific sanctions for various crimes with regard to rape and gender-based violence rather than some sanctions in the Penal Code which, according to her, are not very specific.
She decried the rise in rape cases in the state since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic which led to the shutting down of courts and had stalled trials.
She said that the state had recorded 30 rape cases since the imposition of the COVID-19 lockdown.
Ezekwem who is currently the FIDA mentor in Plateau State, further called for speedy hearing of rape cases, emphasising that the law should be more stringent against the perpetrators.
She advocated for the adoption of the Sex Offence Registry in the state that would ensure the registration of every convicted rapist in the state.
Similarly, the Chairman of NUJ Plateau Council, Mr. Paul Jatau, said that the sensitisation walk was to re-emphasise that “rape is unethical, it’s wrong and it’s not what our society is known for”.
Jatau explained that the peaceful protest was to enlighten people on the evils of rape.
He said that the incidents of rape were under-reported, mainly because of stigmatization, saying family members often demanded the withdrawals of such as cases from the police.
The chairman also emphasised the need for parents to give their children sex education, saying that if they failed to educate their children, their children might be educated wrongly by their peers and others.
“We must educate our children as a family, so that when they go to the society they can know what act is wrong or right and they would also know how to control themselves outside,” he said.
Responding, the Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Mr Abok Ayuba, assured them that the assembly would step up the process to ensure that the VAPPA was domesticated and implemented.
The speaker, who was represented by Easter Dusu, legislator representing Jos North-West Constituency, said that as the only female member in the 9th assembly she was also advocating for a registry for rapists in addition to stiffer penalties being meted out to identified rapists.
Our correspondent reports that some of the members of the associations had various placards with inscriptions such as “Children are not sex objects,” “Do not die in silence”, “Protect women” and “Be warned you won’t escape”.