OrderPaperToday – The National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) has informed that the period of COVID-19 lockdown saw an increase in the number of sexual and gender based violence cases in Nigeria.

Tolu Odugbesan, head of sexual and gender based unit, who represented the Director General of NAPTIP, Julie Okah Donli, disclosed this at a programme organised by Christabel Initiative in collaboration with the National Assembly joint committees on Drugs and Narcotics on Tuesday.

United Nations Population Fund revealed that for every 3 months the lockdown continues an additional 15 million cases of gender-based violence are expected.

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The Lagos State Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Team equally confirmed this adding that before the lockdown they received 8 cases of domestic abuse daily but the number has increased by 50%.

Corroborating, NAPTIP said: “The statistics of gender and rape cases we have in the agency since 2015 is about 414 but during the pandemic, because people were not allowed to go out, the rate at which rape cases were been reported to the agency was overwhelming.

“They had nowhere else to go. They had no one else to go and express what they were feeling and as of date, we have 38 convictions in our sexual and offender register but this is just a fraction”, Odugbesan said.

She noted that rape is rooted in patriarchal belief of power and control as a result of deep gender inequality and attitudes about gender and sexualities.

According to NAPTIP, the factors fueling rape cases include: “culture of silence, patriarchal nature of the society which supports female subjugation, exposure to pornography, lack of gender balance in home training, mishandling of rape cases, non existence of violence against persons in some states, delayed justice in some cases, abuse of drugs.”

Odugbesan listed the achievements of NAPTIP to include: “Creation of a sexual and gender based violence unit, establishment of rapid response squad to rescue victims and perpetuators, launch of a national sex offence and service provider register.

“Establishment and training of task forces against human trafficking and sexual and gender based violence in 14 states of the federation., creation of a CANS UNSUB App for reports cases of SBV in Nigerian universities, intense advocacy and sensitization”.

Proffering solutions, she highlighted how the country can reduce it’s number of sexual and gender based violence.

She advocated for the adoption of the VAPP act yet to be done by 22 states.

The low rate of adoption by state governments, she noted is as result of “obnoxious cultural practises and violence against women such as female genital mutilation, spousal battery, abandonment, rape, denial of inheritance rights, early marriage, lack of opportunities,

“Gender bias, inadequate mainstreams opportunities trigger depression and mental illness with suicidal consequences which the victims self-medicate with drugs of abuse thereby increasing the risk of drug addiction.”

She requested for more sensitization and advocacy against sexual and gender based violence and illicit drug abuse will end impunity at all levels of society.

Odugbesan called for the promotion of the national sex offenders register domiciled in NAPTIP.

She urged for increased and more continuous reorientations of parents on the need for gender balancing the socialisation process.

Proper handling of rape cases and breaking the culture of silence will also contribute, she stated.

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