OrderPaperToday – Several years after the passage of the Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) law, there appears to be little or no commensurate impact of the law on citizens given the increasing cases of violence in the country today.

The law was promulgated with the intention of preventing and protecting all persons from varying forms of violence, including, rape, female genital mutation, intimate partner violence, sexual assault, harmful traditional practices and other forms of violence is yet to take full effect.

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On the other hand, perpetrators of this violent act do not face the music due to certain constraints. 

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The VAPP law was enacted in 2015 to ‘eliminate violence in public or private life, prohibit all forms of violence against persons and to provide maximum protection and effective remedies for victims and to dish out punishment for offenders and for related matters.’

However, out of 36 States including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), only 33 States have domesticated this law; with a few States like Sokoto, Taraba, Yobe, and Zamfara yet to key in.

Another fundamental reason for the non-effectiveness of the VAPP law has to do with structures, funding, and logistics. Presently, only 19 States have desks designated for referrals of violent cases.

The discussion around VAPP law continues to headline conversations as many stakeholders continue to sensitise citizens on the dangers of all forms of violence as people lose their loved ones during such acts.

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It is on this premise that the Youth Alive Foundation (YAF), Legislative Advocacy on Coalition of Violence Against Women Initiative (LACVAW), and other Civil Society Organisations (NGOs) came together to chart the way forward on gender-based violence and to create awareness on the VAPP Act.

The meeting took place on Thursday, 27th April 2022 in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and the theme for the town hall meeting was: ‘Utilising The VAPP Law For Protection Against Gender-Based Violence Issues  And Challenges.’

Declaring the event open, the Chairman of the Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC), Abdullahi Adamu stated that the only way forward would be to ensure that offenders were duly punished according to the existing laws.

“We can not continue to treat cases of violence with kid gloves, offenders must be punished. Marriage is to be enjoyed not to be endured.”

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In her address, Dr. Udi Akpan, Executive Director, of Youth Alive Foundation (YAF) said with the support of the CommonWealth, they decided to bring together government stakeholders to ensure the implementation of the VAPP Act.

“Abuja is the key implementer of the VAPP Act, they had to set the example for the rest of the country to follow; although Lagos is already leading but Abuja is doing very well.

We are already advocating, we are talking with the Finance Minister to put the implementation of the VAPP Act into the budget and the Finance Minister has assured us.

As you well know, AMAC is the stronghold when they start to advocate for something, the rest of Abuja follows. So we felt like AMAC here should invite all the other Area Councils so that we can share with others what we want to do.”

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She equally appreciated the Chairman of the Municipal Council who she described as a ‘He-for-She’ for graciously throwing his weight behind the initiative.

“We have a VAPP law here which we are trying to implement but what are the issues and challenges. For instance look at the issue surrounding Osinachi’s death; of course VAPP law would not help her because she never spoke up.

VAPP law will not go to someone’s house and force them to speak out. So we are trying to say there other issues that need to be addressed for the VAPP Act to be effective.

For instance, how can we help women to stop that culture of silence, how can we help women to ensure that society stops the culture of stigmatisation of women that have been abused? Although, not only women are victims of abuse, men have also been abused. The other day a woman castrated her husband yet people are not talking about it.

There are several issues that limit the implementation and effectiveness of the VAPP law. So that is the essence of this town hall meeting. How do we connect the law to the average man and woman on the street and that is what we are here to brainstorm over today,” Akpan noted.

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The Executive Secretary of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Anthony Ojukwu who was represented. also corroborated the position of the Chairman of AMAC.

According to him, “we need to deal decisively with offenders. we are in support of whatever has been said here.

If we have the will to implement VAPP law, we must have solved half or completed most of these violence issues. If you place the obligation on people that witness this violence and refuse to report then we have to criminalise it.

Criminalising the VAPP law to protect victims: for example, widows and other vulnerable persons. Why is it not known or utilised since it was enacted in 2016?”

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However, the National Human Rights Commission also advocated for counselling and dialogue as part of measures in resolving issues of violence against persons.

“It is not the number of persons that have been sent to prison, we should rather look at the protection of victims. Rule 67 of the Standing Laws of our Commission talks about dialogue and protection of victims.

Most times, when we have a low level of conviction, we think that we are not doing enough but that is not true; a lot has also been achieved through dialogue.

The commission since its inception has dealt with 1.7 million cases of human rights violations. 800, 000 has to do with women and children. 

We have to reconfigure the measuring indicator. We should use an administrative system instead of a local system. We need to expand the scope of bases of abuses,” he stressed.

READ ALSO: Female Genital Mutilation: ‘Sensitise the public to discourage practice’ – Reps tell FG

Similarly, other Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) that were present also criticised the slow pace of prosecution. Noting that the successful prosecution of 17 cases only; since the enactment of the VAPP law was too low regarding the menace of gender-based violence in the country. 

Meanwhile, they further expressed worry over the low number of referral Centres; 32 in 19 States, and that even the FCT has just one centre located in the Bwari Local Council Area which is not enough considering the number of cases in Abuja.

In its submission, the representative of the Federacion Internationalé De Abogadas (FIDA) whose primary responsibility is to protect and preserve the rights of women and children emphasised the importance of Special Courts to deal with issues of violence so as to hasten the justice system.

“Advocacy for special courts which have been granted to us, but the issue of evidence is another issue entirely. Establishing forensic structures to preserve evidence. We should have special courts in all states to prosecute offenders. 

They also advocated for funding, “We must stop the suppression of gender violence. we must give people the opportunity to speak. Funds must be earmarked to enable an elaborate campaign. There are no structures in place to tackle domestic violence.

Clients discontinue cases because of stigma. Parents need to play their roles. There’s the issue of logistics and risk. Funds are very key in implementing the VAPP law.”

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