Following the signing of the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act (VAPP), there was a sense of hope that gender-based violence in Nigeria would finally be addressed structurally within the country’s legal system. Unfortunately, this hope would soon flicker away as states continued to drag their feet on the domestication of the act, the last step required to make the law operative in the different territories in the country.
Gender-based violence (GBV) is a pervasive and widespread problem in Nigeria that impacts almost every aspect of life. GBV by definition means violence against a person solely
because of their gender. However, GBV as a phenomenon disproportionately affects women
and girls. GBV is systemic, and deeply entrenched in institutions, cultures, and traditions. The cultural and religious justifications that gender-based violence enjoys in our society makes it difficult to address as its negative effects are often minimized or dismissed.
In this article, we explore what GBV is, the forms of GBV being perpetrated and the state of GBV in Nigeria, particularly in Kwara State. To tie all these together, this article looked at the foremost law on GBV in Nigeria, the Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Act 2015.
What is Gender-Based Violence (GBV)?
GBV is defined in different forms but stands as a generic term used to identify any act of violence that occurs as a result of the deep belief and expectations associated with each gender leading to unequal power distribution and marginalisation of a group of people or persons in a society.
What are the Types of Gender-based Violence (GBV)?
Violence against women and girls (VAWG) Violence against women and girls is defined by the United Nations Declaration against the Elimination of Violence Against Women as any act of gender-based violence that results in,
or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.
Violence against LGBTQIA people
This type of GBV is often experienced by people who are seen to not conform to their
assigned gender in the case of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and/or intersex people. This
is violence directed towards sexuality, gender identity, and gender expression.
Intimate Partner Violence (IPV)
This is the most prominent type of gender-based violence. It includes physical, sexual, and emotional abuse and controlling behaviours. It can be perpetrated by a current or former intimate partner or spouse, and can occur in heterosexual or same-sex relationships.
Domestic Violence (DV)
This is carried out by partners or family members and can also include IPV and violence against children or other family members especially widows.
Sexual Violence (SV)
This is any sexual act, or any attempt to obtain sexual knowledge, unwanted sexual comments or advances, or acts to traffic, or otherwise directed, against a person’s sexuality using threat, force or coercion by any person regardless of their relationship to the victim. Sexual violence can occur in any setting including but not limited to the home, religious
places, and workplaces.
Indirect (structural) Violence
This is the unequal distribution of power leading to unequal distribution of opportunities among people or persons of different gender. Structural violence exists in every society when certain groups, classes, genders or nationalities have privileged access to goods, resources and opportunities over others. This will lead to unequal advantage built into the social,
political and economic systems that govern the lives of the people in that society.
Having examined the different types of gender-based violence, we shall be narrowing the
scope of this article to Violence against women and girls (VAWG) in Nigeria. This type of
GBV could take the following form:
Physical Violence: this includes beating, punching, kicking, biting, burning, maiming or killing, with or without weapons; often in combinations with other forms of sexual and gender-based violence.
Emotional and Psychological Violence: Abuse/Humiliation, Non-sexual verbal abuse that is insulting, degrading, demeaning; compelling the victim/survivor to engage in humiliating acts, whether in public or private)
Economical Violence: Deprived from making income, and basic needs, cheating at work, not being provided for, not allowed to take care of self, not being provided for etc.
Spiritual Violence: Forcing beliefs, traditions and culture on a person
Gender Based Violence in Nigeria
A society where gender-based violence does not exist is non-existent and Nigeria is no exception. The current global reality is one where gender-based violence continues to thrive. Gender-based violence in Nigeria, although mostly underreported, remains overwhelmingly high. Factors such as a lack of updated database on GBV cases, victim’s reluctance to seek institutional or legal redress, tacit religious and cultural approval of certain acts of violence are responsible for this. Nevertheless, it is easy to see just how much of an issue GBV is in Nigeria. 3 in 10 Nigerian women have experienced physical violence by age 15 . The Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development and the United Nations Population Fund with support from the Norwegian government reports that 28% of Nigerian women aged 25 to 29 have experienced physical violence since 15. The National demographic and Health survey (2018) reveal that 30% of women and girls between 15 and 49 have been subjected to sexual abuse.
Gender-based violence in its many different forms remains a grave social, cultural, economic, and even public health issue. An article published by Premium Times NG shared an article titled “measure the shadow”, researched the prevalence of GBV during the COVID-19 in 13 countries which showed 48% of Nigerian women experienced GBV during the COVID-19 pandemic. The result also shared that
● 45% of women have been exposed directly or indirectly to at least one form of
● 23% reported verbal abuse and denial of basic resources since the pandemic began;
● 21% faced denial of communication Similarly,
● 16% reported sexual harassment and
● 15 percent reported physical abuse.
On the global database on violence against women, the UN report on Nigeria shows these numbers
● Lifetime Physical and/or Sexual Intimate Partner Violence: 22.3%
● Physical and/or Sexual Intimate Partner Violence in the last 12 months: 13.8%
● Lifetime Non-Partner Sexual Violence: Official National Statistics Not Available
● Child Marriage :43.4%
● Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting :19.5%
Population-based surveys show very high levels of intimate partner violence (IPV) and non- partner sexual violence (SV) in particular, with IPV being the most common form of violence against women.
Violence Against Women And Girls (VAWG) and Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV)
The expectations associated with different genders vary from society to society and over time.
Patriarchal power structures dominate in many societies, in which male leadership is seen as the norm, and men hold the majority of power. In such a social and political system that treats men as superior to women, women cannot protect their bodies, meet their basic needs, and participate fully in society. Violence against women is one of the crucial social mechanisms
by which women are forced into a subordinate position in the society. Many of such violence arise as a sense of entitlement, superiority, misogyny or a violent nature especially against women.
Ways To Address GBV In Nigeria
- Gender equity and social inclusion.
- Popularization of the VAPP Act
Gender equity and social inclusion known as (GESI) addresses the unequal power distribution that is being experienced by people on the ground of Gender, wealth, ability, location, ethnicity, languages and personal agency. Many times, it is a combination of all of these points coming together to perpetrate Gender-based violence especially against women and girls.
With the GESI approach to stamping out Gender-based violence, we will be focusing on rebalancing the distribution of power which will ensure rights, opportunities and respect is given to all. Gender equity is taking care of rebalancing power that reduces poverty by increasing socio-economic development, Empowerment and peace perspectives. Social inclusion looks to balance the distribution of power across board to make a more stable
The key foundation to building a system that promotes GESI is Education. Education is taking things from the button up and instilling the kind of attitude that promotes stamping out GBV while creating attitudes we will like the society to move forward with.
Popularization of the VAPP Act
Many cases of GBV are met with impunity leaving the perpetrator to going scot-free while empowering them to commit more heinous acts. We want a healthy society where women and girls feel safe but not without the help of the law. The Violence Against Person Prohibition (VAPP) Act is a tool of the law seeking to punish perpetrators of Gender-based violence at whatever level. It addresses all offences of Gender-based violence and appropriate
punishment in both fine and imprisonment.
The VAPP act was enacted by the federal house of assembly in 2015 bit is yet to be Accepted by all the 36 states of the country. Currently taking a stand in states like Lagos and, Ekiti, the kwara state government in its bid to Stamp out Gender-based violence has brought into law the VAPP Act. The need to domesticate and popularize the VAPP Act is critical in eliminating Gender-based:
● Let it be known to all and sundry
● Let it be domesticated by all states
● Let it be translated into various languages
● Let it be discussed on various platforms and programs
● Let it be used as a training guide to everyone and anyone across offices.
This article is written by Balqees Hamzat and Yusuf Aishat, for Rising Child Foundation