COVID-19 lockdown worsened gender-based violence –Buhari

Olalekan Adetayo, Abuja

The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), on Tuesday, said while the issues of sexual and gender-based violence have been recurring in Nigeria, the lockdown measures introduced to curtail further spread of COVID-19 worsened the situation.

Buhari disclosed this in his message to mark this year’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

The day is commemorated on November 25 of every year.

The President’s goodwill message was made available to journalists by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu.

Buhari said, “The subject of Sexual and Gender-Based violence in all its forms has been recurrent especially considering the alarming statistics of violence against vulnerable persons recorded in Nigeria, particularly women and girls.

“I am indeed aware of the unfortunate situation from records and reports of incidences in the country.

“The COVID-19 pandemic and attendant responses by our government to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly lock-down measures similarly adopted by other countries worldwide, further exacerbated the already dire situation of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in Nigeria.”

Buhari said Nigeria has long been facing a gender-based violence crisis, with 30% of women and girls aged 15-49 having experienced sexual abuse.

He said the International Day of Eliminating Violence against Women, therefore, offered an opportunity to highlight actions taken by the government to address violence against women and girls.

He said the Ministry of Women Affairs in collaboration with the United Nations Development Program under the Joint EU-UN Spotlight Initiative and other critical stakeholders developed the National Tool for Gender-based Violence Data Management in Nigeria.

The tool, according to him, is expected to serve as a consolidated database to record and assess the occurrence of GBV during the COVID-19 period and beyond.

The President said the tool would also document all forms of violence against women and girls in Nigeria using a single, harmonised data collection tool.

“Over time, the tool will undergo revisions to accommodate wider reporting indices beyond the COVID-19 period,” he said.

Buhari also recalled that on July 23, 2020, his regime inaugurated an inter-ministerial committee on eradication of sexual and gender-based violence in response to worsening cases of sexual and gender-based violence in the country arising from the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown measures that were imposed to curb the spread of the virus.

As part of its mandate, he said the committee is expected to conduct a review of all the existing laws and policy instruments touching on offences of rape, child defilement and gender-based violence and develop for adoption, national prevention of sexual abuse/violence strategy for the period of 2021- 2025.

He added, “Clear indications were made of an absence of gender-focused responses during emergencies such as the COVID-19.

“This gap has been addressed through the development of Policy Guidelines for Emergency Response, facilitated under the Joint EU-UN Spotlight Initiative by the UN Women and Implementing Partners in the Spotlight States particularly the Federal Capital Territory, Sokoto and Ebonyi States.

“These policies when implemented, ensure that vulnerable persons, particularly women and children are not left behind in emergencies such as COVID-19.”

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