Today is the International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women. It is a day the United Nations has set apart, to help raise awareness around the prevalence of gender-based violence particularly as it affects women. The UN issued this day in December 1993 and while it is exciting to look back on the progress women have made in raising awareness and fighting against gender-based violence through various forms of advocacy throughout the years, it is devastating to come to terms with how much still needs to be done. Especially in Nigeria.
The theme for this year is “Orange The World: Generation Equality Stands Against Rape” and includes 16 days of activism, which will round off on December 10. With many Nigerian human rights organizations, initiatives and individual advocates speaking out and protesting against the wide-reaching menace that is gender-based violence, this year’s event seems to be getting off on a good start. And at this time, this is just what we need.
In the past few years, conversations around the various forms of violence faced by Nigerian women and girls have grown, flowered and taken centre stage in our most topical issues. Yet, this hasn’t prompted enough legislative action needed to tackle the problem. The level of education around consent, the sexual rights of women and the bodily autonomy removed from women, still needs to be addressed. Informed people are often capable of making better decisions. Our government needs to actively invest in this education, in making as many people aware of the various pockets of gender-based violence, so that they have the right language to conceive and approach it, as against banishing it as a taboo subject.
Abusers have to come to realize the psychological, physical and often eternal harm they cause their victims, and this can be made known to them when there are stronger measures to punish and call them to order.
An institutionalised system would not only encourage more women to speak out and have their voices and stories validated but would engineer a much-needed reeducation around the subject itself.
In Nigeria 1 in 3 women are likely to have been violated and still face the risk of violation every single day and it needs to be taken more seriously. Not just because they are our sisters, friends, wives or people we know in some way, but because they are humans who deserve the right to live without fear of having their agency continually stripped away from them, unprovoked.