The Network of Reproductive Health Journalists of Nigeria (NRHJN), has called on state that are yet to domesticate the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act (VAPP), to do so, so as to save women and girls from all forms of abuse.
In a statement signed by the president of the network, Mr Roland Ogbonnaya, he said as the world celebrates the International Women’s Day on March 8, 2018, the lukewarm attitude of most state governments to issues of sexual and reproductive health and rights of all persons especially women and girls, was good for the development of their total wellbeing.
Since its introduction in 2015, by the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan, only few states have domesticated the Act which include Anambra, Oyo, Ogun and the FCT while Lagos and Ekiti have each passed laws against violence against women.
Ogbonnaya thanked Governor Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State for assenting to the bill into law on February 6 2018 bringing the number of states to four, adding that the network recognises that though violence knows no gender, it is a global fact that women and girls suffer the most particularly, domestic violence and associated emotional trauma.
“Young boys, older citizens and persons with various form of disabilities are also victims of various degrees of Political and social violence in the society. The extent of the effect of the non-passage of the VAPP Act to Nigerian women will be worsen by the consequences of the reinstated expanded Global Gag Rule of President Donald Trump of the United States in 2017,” he observed.
Speaking on the consequences of the Global Gag Rule on the sexual and reproductive health of women, Country Director, Ipas Nigeria, Hauwa Shekarau noted that, “more than 22 million women every year almost all in developing countries will have an unsafe abortion because they lack access to safe, high-quality abortion care.
“It’s worse in Nigeria where the law criminalises abortion and women’s access to reproductive health services such as family planning contraception is dependent more on donors fund some of which have had their funds cut due to the GAG Rule because of their involvement in providing abortion services in many countries around the world.”
Shekarau added that “the fact remains, there are 225 million women in developing countries who want to avoid pregnancy but lack access to modern contraception. Despite these harrowing figures, President Donald Trump has reinstated and expanded the Global Gag Rule, a harmful U.S. policy that forces countries to choose between receiving U.S. foreign assistance funds and providing comprehensive—often lifesaving—care.
“The Global Gag Rule will not only hurt abortion access or access to contraception but other forms of health care as well, ” In Nigeria today, women get reproductive health care at the same health centre they receive all other care. This expanded Global Gag Rule could hinder and possibly end the work of health-care providers who may be the only source for reproductive health care and a woman’s entry point for receiving a wide range of primary health services.”
In remarks, chair of the Association of Advanced Family Planning, Nigeria (AAFPN), Ejike Oji, commended Governor Amosu and Ogun State for “the giant strides”, and noted that the law, if well enforced, will promote the good health of the people of Ogun State especially women and girls who are often at the receiving end of domestic violence and harmful practices.
According to the executive director of the Women Advocacy Research and Development Centre, Dr. Abiola Akinyode- Afolabi, “arguably, the tenets of VAPP Act, will indeed bring relief and effective remedies to millions of victims who have suffered in silence without recourse to justice.”
The Network urges the immediate domestication of the VAPP Act in all the other states which are yet to do so to give women and girls some sense of social justice and security from violent and abusive tendencies.
The VAPP provides for comprehensive medical, psychological and sociological as well as legal assistance by accredited service providers and state agencies with the protection of identities of the victims during court trials.