No More Excuses for Gender-Based Violence
Updated: May 19
As I gaze upon a fourteen-year-old girl holding her two-year-old child, I weep internally at what might become of her. Abandoned to care for a baby because her family is bent on hiding the identity of the child’s father. She is stigmatized and scandalized. She is believed to have a track record of 'promiscuity'. She is a victim of Gender-based Violence.
Gender-Based Violence, often referred to as GBV, is violence directed at a person based on his or her sex (male or female) or gender identity. Although GBV is mostly perpetrated against the female gender, the male gender also experiences it. If a man is sexually harassed, no one speaks about it. If he is beaten, he is a weakling. There are hardly any reports on rape cases against men. For a country like Nigeria, it could be alluded to the fact that the criminal codes limit the definition of rape to a “crime against women and girls”. There is also a belief that men are seen as physically stronger than women. To some men, it would be emasculating to speak of physical abuse by a woman, or a man. Beyond the law, society and popular culture do not make this assumption any better, cue that controversial Bridgerton scene.
According to UNICEF, between 2005 and 2020, at least 14,200 children were raped, forcibly married, sexually exploited, and other grave forms of sexual violence were committed against them. This sexual violence disproportionately affects girls, who were 97 per cent of cases from 2016 to 2020.
Gender-Based Violence could be sexual violence, sexual harassment, economic violence, physical violence, harmful traditional practices, child marriage, female genital mutilation, and emotional or psychological violence.
Basically, when a person is assaulted, raped, molested, touched inappropriately, sexted without consent, deprived of proper compensation for work done, deprived of job opportunities or appointments, controlled, restricted from achieving what they can achieve, verbally abused, humiliated because of their gender, that is Gender-Based Violence. A husband demanding sexual relations from his wife when she does not want to engage is GBV. These constitute an infringement on their right to dignity and equality and in some of these instances, is a crime.
Survivors of gender-based violence suffer devastating short and long-term consequences to their physical and mental health. Women and girls may experience severe physical injuries, such as fistula, unwanted pregnancies and exposure to sexually transmitted infections or diseases. Depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the limited ability to complete daily tasks, and suicidal thoughts are also very common.
Many survivors are subjected to victim-blaming or ostracized from their families and communities due to social norms. This puts them at significant risk of poverty, isolation, and further violence. Some survivors are even forced to marry their perpetrators. Others face retaliation for reporting their experiences or seeking support – including at the hands of family members. At its worst, gender-based violence can result in death, like in situations of ‘honour killings’.
Remember the young girl I spoke about earlier?
From a young age, she was molested by her step-father and her uncle. At 12 years old, she got pregnant. When her family found out, she was withdrawn from school and hidden at home. 2 years later, she lacks a basic education. After the birth of her child, her womb was tied. She has become a mother with no idea of how to perform her duties. Imagine a child caring for a child. Meanwhile, to ensure that the identity of the father of her child was protected (because he is a close relative), a false narrative was passed around to ruin the reputation of the little girl. The issue is not being addressed; thus, the perpetrator is not punished, no corrective measures are taken, the society is made to believe that such acts are acceptable, and the girl is not given the necessary medical attention she needs. Acts like this give room to excuse the wrong committed.
There is a trend in the world that when a woman is harassed, she is believed to have caused it. It is so easy to blame the survivor and excuse and exonerate the perpetrator.
Survivors of GBV struggle with feelings of worthlessness, truncating what a person can achieve. Innocent children are left to carry on parental responsibilities they cannot handle. Victims are left emotionally traumatized and physically scared. The economy is left bereft of great talents that can make it better. The results of Gender Based Violence are too damning to be excused or undermined. When we make excuses for GBV, it is no longer seen as a wrong. When we make excuses, no measures are taken to address the problem. So, no more excuses for GBV.
To address Gender Based Violence, we need to listen when cases of it are reported. Reports on rape and domestic violence, should be treated with strict confidentiality. Investigations should be carried out and then the necessary legal action should be taken.
Educate yourself and share that knowledge. Check out our Read More prompts above to learn more.
Stop victim blaming
Stop stereotyping the roles of men and women
Always call out abuse and discrimination
Share the global database on violence against women which lists services in different countries for survivors of GBV
WRITTEN BY Lizzy Okah
Lizzy Okah is a Legal Practitioner. She believes that the Maritime Industry in Nigeria is a gold mine and is not underdeveloped as it has been tagged. If we all have good intentions and work together to enforce the SDG and ESG goals as it relates to the Maritime Industry, the industry can reach its full potential. Lizzy has a passion for assisting the survivors of sexual abuse, particularly, the girl child, to reach their full potential. She enjoys, researching, reading, listening to music, vlogs and podcasts and enjoying the soft things of life.
EDITED BY Chizulu Uwolloh.
'Zulu is a writer, self-proclaimed bibliophile, lawyer, and international development passionate about social impact and showing people how they can create change in their communities. Zulu Uwolloh is a lawyer and international development professional. She is also the founder of Kurerie, a digital platform, and community that amplifies the voices of youth making an impact in their communities. Kurerie educates young people on how they can become active stakeholders in the achievement of the SDGs. She is passionate about showing young people that they can change the world with the smallest actions.
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