The Abuja chapter of the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) has slammed the Nigerian Constitution over what it terms ‘failure to protect the Nigerian girl-child’.
According to the group, “the Supreme Law of Nigeria which should protect the girl child fails her.”
FIDA made this known during a press conference, to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. The theme of the Day focuses on rape.
Speaking in Abuja during a press conference, to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, the chairperson of FIDA, Mrs. Rachael Adejo-Andrew, averred that due to the culture of silence, several cases of rape, defilement and violence go unreported.
She lamented that among other factors, stigmatisation of survivors, fear of intimidation and many more stand as a barrier.
This challenge, according to Adejo-Andrew has become even more exacerbated when the Nigerian Constitution fails to protect young girls from all forms of sexual violence.
She noted that: “Section 29 (4) (b) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended states that: any woman who is married shall be deemed to be of full age.
“This is recognition that a girl below the age of 18 years becomes a woman once she is married. This is unfortunate as the Supreme Law of Nigeria which should protect the girl child fails her and rather entrenches the trivializing of the place of women in Nigeria.
“We have received reports of rape of girls of two months old, three years old, 10 years old, 13 years old and 16 years old. This is not inclusive of adult women who have also been victims of rape who have come to us for help,” she said.
She noted that the VAPP Act is a landmark legislation on the prohibition of all forms of violence against persons, especially the marginalised in Nigeria. “It is a great improvement on the Criminal and Penal Codes which are operational in Southern and Northern Nigeria respectively.”
The FIDA Abuja Chair further called for an overhaul and repeal of all laws that discriminate against women and girls adding: “there is no better place to start than by repealing Sections 29 (4) (b) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended.
“The Federal Government should put in place necessary and appropriate mechanisms, facilities and processes to ensure safe spaces for victims and survivors of Gender Based Violence, particularly victims of rape.
“Quick proactive steps must be taken in the reform of our criminal justice system to ensure speedy investigation and prosecution of offenders.
“The different States of the Federation must fast track processes to adopt and implement the administration of Criminal justice act (ACJA) (2015) to ensure speedy dispensation of criminal trials…
Meanwhile, FIDA in conjunction with Media & Teens Network (M&T) an NGO as well as Law & Society Magazine engaged in a 16-day campaign urging teenagers and preteens in Abuja to speak out against rape and other violent behaviours.
They admonished them never to assume that the word ‘NO’ means another thing, and re-orientated on the values of positively impacting their society.
The groups which had a session with students of Stella Maris International School, Abuja at their morning school assembly, drew their attention to key provisions of the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) (VAPP)Act, 2015 and its likely impact on violators.
Leading the school children to resounding chants of “No means no!”, Co-ordinator of the organisation, Lillian Okenwa and some representatives of FIDA, Obianuju Peter and Sokoajirin Aleku tasked the students to maximise every opportunity to make a difference in their lives and their environment.
Okenwa who is also Editor in Chief of Law & Society Magazine donated copies of the magazine and VAPP Act, 2015 to the school.