On Monday the world ended the 16 days activism against gender-based violence.
The 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence is an annual international campaign that came from the first Women’s Global Leadership Institute sponsored by the Centre for Women’s Global Leadership in 1991.
The 16 days from November 25 – International Day against Violence against Women – and December 10 – International Human Rights Day – were carefully chosen in order to symbolically link violence against women to human rights.
The hope is that by doing this, the world would continue to identify and also highlight such acts of violence as human rights violations.
This year’s celebration in Nigeria came bearing bountiful gifts; the country was literally painted Orange all through.
First was the launch of the first ever National Sex Offenders Register on Day 2 of the 16 days.
The register, as we’ve been told, will contain the names of all those prosecuted for sexual violence since 2015, and of course, going forward.
The register which is domiciled with the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), will have three categories.
The first will include cases reported in the newspaper or social media. However, this list will not be open to the public.
Ultimately, the effect of this laudable step will be nuanced by the quality of the different aspects of our lives, including our criminal justice, our penchant for victim blaming, under reporting of rape cases due to stigma and many others
The second category will deal with those offenders who have been arraigned and tried and this also will not be open to the public. However, it can be used for background checks.
The third will be for convicted sexual offenders. This level of data will be made open to the public even for first-time offenders.
You see, only a Nigerian ostrich will still doubt that the rate of sexual violence in Nigeria hasn’t got to that point of the government declaring a state of emergency, to say the very least.
It seems that an open season has been declared on our women and girls and every man with a dangling stick in between his two legs could rape his way through just anyone, and still get away with it.
For a while now, we’ve been hotly pursuing India – the rape capital of the world – perhaps to collect this ignominious crown from them too.
There can’t be an effective register, if victims do not report and their reports followed through without judging what they were wearing and also where they were when the rape occurred
So, the launch of the Sex Offenders at this time couldn’t have come at a more desired period in our lives. Before now, only two states – Lagos and Ekiti – in the entire country had been courageous enough to tread this path.
However, we should also remember that just as Nigeria has never necessarily lacked good laws, it isn’t just enough to open a sex offenders register and think that all will now be well with the world.
Ultimately, the effect of this laudable step will be nuanced by the quality of the different aspects of our lives, including our criminal justice, our penchant for victim blaming, under reporting of rape cases due to stigma and many others.
There can’t be an effective register, if victims do not report and their reports followed through without judging what they were wearing and also where they were when the rape occurred.
Victims would not report if they sensed that would be blamed in anyway or suffer humiliation at the hands of our law enforcement agents.
Likewise, cases charged to courts will invariably suffer setbacks when post rape medical examinations are ignored or not professionally handled.
We have all already seen how far the so called home-grown democracy have taken us, and so let’s everyone quickly banish any thoughts of repeating that model with the Nigerian Sex Offenders Register.
Having a database for sex offenders is just one part of a total package. Ignore or down play the roles of the other parts and we might just end up with a register that would be utterly useless.
We should look at the countries that have successfully used this kind of register to hold sexual deviants accountable and make ours count.
Another juicy fruit of the just concluded 16 days of activism is the European Union in Nigeria’s campaign against Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) in partnership with the British Council.
With what happened to Basketmouth a strong and irrevocable message has been sent to every clown parading as comedian in Nigeria; Rape is not a joke. You can’t make a living out of others painful and horrible realities and get away with it
A famous Nigerian comedian, Bright Okpocha, popularly known as Basketmouth was unveiled with some other Nigerian celebrities as an advocate against SGBV.
But because the Internet doesn’t forget, the digital uproar that followed didn’t allow the EU hear anything else until it withdrew the offending list and released an updated one with Basketmouth’s name and image conspicuously absent.
That has now forced the comedian to face an issue he should have addressed five years when many Nigerians called him out over a distasteful rape joke he shared on his Facebook page.
With what happened to Basketmouth a strong and irrevocable message has been sent to every clown parading as comedian in Nigeria; Rape is not a joke.
You can’t make a living out of others painful and horrible realities and get away with it.
As we continue take our baby steps towards eradicating or at least, drastically reducing sexual violence in Nigeria, some of the takeaways from this year’s celebration of the 16 Days Activism against Gender-based Violence, will for me remain major milestones.