Authorities and stakeholders in Borno State, Northeastern Nigeria, have taken a step towards domestication of the VAPP Act, a crucial legislation against abuse and violence.
On Thursday, Oct. 14, a public hearing was held on the legislation against sexual and gender-based violence.
The VAPP Act was passed into law by the Nigerian National Assembly in 2015, following stakeholders activism and demands for the government to strengthen the protection of women and girls against different forms of gender-based violence in the country. However, few states have domesticated it.
The Act aims to prohibit all forms of violence against persons in private and public life, while providing maximum protection and remedies for victims, and punishment for offenders. It provides protection against offences that affect women disproportionately, such as female genital mutilation, emotional, verbal and psychological abuse, and spousal battery among others.
The public hearing organised by the Borno State House of Assembly was part of stages the VAPP Act would pass through before the legislation is implemented and signed into law to tackle the scourge of sexual and gender-based violence in the state where the 12-year-old Boko Haram insurgency has increased violence and risk against women and girls.
“As Boko Haram continue their relentless cycle of killings, abductions and looting, they are also subjecting women and girls to rape and other sexual violence during their attacks. These atrocities are war crimes,” Osai Ojigho, Director of Amnesty International Nigeria, said in March.
In 2019, #NorthNormal rallies were carried out online and physically across several states including Borno and Nigeria’s capital Abuja, calling for the domestication of the VAPP Act. The campaign was an offshoot of a social activism movement known as #ArewaMetoo, coordinated by young women campaigning to break the silence around sexual violence, and the need for a multisectoral effort to eliminate violence against women.
Hassana Maina, a gender advocate and coordinator of North Normal advocacy for the domestication of VAPP Act in Borno, told HumAngle that the bill is a very important legislation. She says it is surprising that it took so long for the legislation to start getting traction since its passage by the National Assembly in 2015.
“Violence is something that we see around us all the time but when it comes to legislation, the debate becomes interesting because it looks like we are all against violence but we are finding it difficult to criminalise violence,” Maina said.
She is hopeful and positive about the bill, describing it as a significant legislation against rape and all kinds of abuse. According to her, the broader definition of rape has been included in it.
The bill will move for a vote at the State Assembly after the public hearing and collection and incorporation of the opinions of stockholders, following which it will be transmitted to the State Governor for signing into law.
HumAngle reported recently that the rape of minors had spiked in Borno, with Police revealing that the crime constitutes at least 10 per cent of crimes committed in the state.
Sexual violence, exploitation, and abuse are also perpetrated by officials at IDP camps as a condition to receive services like food and medical supplies.
In April 2019, an investigation by Amnesty International disclosed that children and women are exposed to sexual violence by security agents and inmates at two high-security prison facilities in Borno.
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