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How To Identify Abusive Partner – Josephine Effah-Chukwuma

TThe Executive Director, Project Alert on Violence Against Women, Josephine Effah-Chukwuma, says more women die from intimate partner violence and abuse than from all other ailments and diseases combined together.

Josephine Effah-Chukwuma’s Project Alert on VAW authored a 2017 report on sexual violence in Nigeria, which stated that 70 per cent of sexual abuse victims are children from ages zero to 17 / Photo credit: Effah-Chukwuma
Josephine Effah-Chukwuma’s Project Alert on VAW authored a 2017 report on sexual violence in Nigeria, which stated that 70 per cent of sexual abuse victims are children from ages zero to 17 / Photo credit: Effah-Chukwuma

Between November 25 and December 10, the world had the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence Campaign. To mark these 16 days, we had a chat with Josephine Effah-Chukwuma, the executive director Project Alert on Violence Against women, who has been on the frontline of this activism for about two decades...

The UN just issued a report that said that out of the estimated 87,000 women killed last year about 50,000 - or 58 per cent - were killed by partners or family members; that’s quite alarming and I’m wondering if the situation in Nigeria is also like this ; what do you think?

It is a known fact globally that more women die from intimate partner violence and abuse than from all other ailments and diseases combined together. Most of these cases don’t get publicised in the media, but studies and quantitative/qualitative researches have brought this out.

Nigeria is no exception. If we are to enquire into the cause of death of every woman in Nigeria, be it in marriage, cohabitation, single girls in relationships, etc, we would be shock by what our findings will be in this regard.

Do you have any idea of the prevalence gender-based violence in Nigeria? What are the changes that you believe will best address the problem?

The prevalence rate of GBV in Nigeria was established in a report by the British Council in 2012, where it stated that 1in 5 Nigerian woman has experienced one form of GBV or the other. Also Project Alert on Violence Against Women in a 2017 report on sexual violence in Nigeria, reported that 70% of sexual abuse victims are children from ages zero to 17.

It is a known fact globally that more women die from intimate partner violence and abuse than from all other ailments and diseases combined together.

What are most forms of gender-based violence women and girls in Nigeria encounter?

The most prevalent forms of GBV in Nigeria are domestic and sexual violence.

Is it really possible for women to get legal protection in Nigeria?

Of course it is possible; and there are legal protections for women in Nigeria. The major problem is the enforcement of these legal protections. Years of advocacy work on women’s human rights have resulted in the enactment of several laws at the state and national levels protecting women and girls from domestic violence, sexual abuse, female genital mutilation; and harmful traditional widowhood rites and rights.

What needs to be done is enforcement of these laws to the letter. Impunity must not be allowed to continue. The Criminal Justice System, starting from the police, to the courts and then the prisons, must be sensitised, trained and resourced to effectively respond to and tackle reported cases in a professional and timely manner.

If we are to enquire into the cause of death of every woman in Nigeria, be it in marriage, cohabitation, single girls in relationships, etc, we would be shock by what our findings will be in this regard.

The theme of this year’s celebration was ‘Hear Me Too’; what can we do to make women and girls speak out and on time too?

If we want women and girls to not only speak out, but speak out on time about their victimisation, then we need to improve our response system and procedures. Delayed and unprofessional response to reported cases of GBV is tantamount to secondary victimisation.

Survivors of GBV and their families would be encouraged to speak out, if they are sure that prompt and professional action would be taken.

Are there ways women can identify an abusive partner before he acts?

Definitely. The signs are always there. A woman can identify an abusive partner from his controlling and possessive behaviour. He always wants to know who she is with; where she is; who she relates or socialises with etc.

An abusive partner would isolate or attempt to isolate you from friends and relatives. He will make you feel guilty for being too close to them than to him.

Violence against women is also informed by some ill-conceived religious and cultural beliefs or their interpretations, how do we overcome this as a society?

It’s very true that the manipulation and misinterpretation of religion and religious books; and cultural practices lead to abuse. People hide under the cloak of culture and tradition to commit acts of violence against women and girls. This can be overcome through mass sensitisation engagement of these institutions.

If we want women and girls to not only speak out, but speak out on time about their victimisation, then we need to improve our response system and procedures. Delayed and unprofessional response to reported cases of GBV is tantamount to secondary victimisation.

How did Project Alert mark this year’s celebration?

Project Alert marked this year’s celebration by launching a social media campaign on child sexual abuse called #WeAreAllOchanya, after the 13-year-old FGGC Gboko girl who died as a result of complications that arose from years of vaginal and anal sex by her uncle and cousin.

Second, we marked 16 Days this year by commencing sensitisation and advocacy on the Lagos State Domestic Violence Law of 2007 for officers of the Lagos State Police Command. The advocacy commenced with an advocacy visit to the Commissioner of Police. Then we met with the 14 Area Commanders and ALL DPOS; before moving on to do step down sensitisation at all 14 Area Commands.

You have been at this for more than two decades now; do you see a silver lining out there?

Of course I see silver linings in everything. We have made some important progress, but there is still a lot to be done. Where we are now in terms of GBV advocacy and response is not where we were two decades ago.

What are your last words to Nigerian women?

They should have zero tolerance for all forms of GBV, and not die in silence. They should leave to live.

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