As Nigerian women marked the 2018 International Women’s Day (IWD) to #PressForProgress, the Network of Reproductive Health Journalists of Nigeria (NRHJN) has identified the pains inflicted by Global Gag Rule (GGR) on women’s reproductive Health as sufficient reason for States to adopt the Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Act 2015.
The Network commended the governments of Plateau, Imo, Ekiti, Lagos, Kogi, Anambra as well as FCT for leading in the adopting of the VAPP Law but challenged others to immediately follow suit.
The Reproductive Health Journalists in a statement to commemorate the IWD and signed by its National Secretary, Yinka Shokunbi and President, Roland Ogbonnaya respectively applauded Ogun State for recently joining the four states which hitherto had promulgated laws against all forms of sexual and domestic violence against women and persons in their domains.
According to the Network, “the lukewarm attitude of most of the state governments to issues of sexual and reproductive health and rights of all persons especially women and girls as not too good for the development of their total wellbeing”.
The group of Reproductive Health Journalists noted that violence though knows no gender, however, ” the global recognition points to the fact that women and girls suffer the most particularly, domestic violence and associated emotional trauma.
” Young boys, older citizens and persons with various form of disabilities are also victims of various degrees of Political and social violence in the society”, they observed.
The group also pointed out that the newly reinstated Expanded Global Gag Rule by President Donald Trump is expected to worsen the situation of Nigerian women especially as it concerns family planning, access to reproductive health services such as safe motherhood, maternal healthcare among others.
So far, the states which have domesticated the Act include Anambra, Oyo, Ogun and the FCT while Lagos and Ekiti have each passed laws against Violence Against Women.
Speaking on how the GGR will worsens the reproductive health situations of Nigerian women in the absence of laws protecting their sexual being, Country Director, Ipas, Nigeria, Hauwa Shekarau notes, “More than 22 million women every year—almost all in developing countries—will have an unsafe abortion because they lack access to safe, high-quality abortion care.
“It’s worse in Nigeria where the law criminalises abortion and women’s access to reproductive health services such as family planning contraception is dependent more on donors fund some of which have had their funds cut due to the GGR because of their involvement in providing abortion services in many countries around the world”, noted Shekarau.
Globally, the fact remains, there are 225 million women in developing countries who want to avoid pregnancy but lack access to modern contraception.
Despite these harrowing figures, President Donald Trump has reinstated and expanded the Global Gag Rule, a harmful U.S. policy that forces countries to choose between receiving U.S. foreign assistance funds and providing comprehensive—often lifesaving—care.
According to Shekarau, “The Global Gag Rule will not only hurt abortion access or access to contraception but other forms of health care as well.
“ In Nigeria today, women get reproductive health care at the same health centre they receive all other care. This expanded Global Gag Rule could hinder and possibly end the work of health-care providers who may be the only source for reproductive health care and a woman’s entry point for receiving a wide range of primary health services”, she aded.
For Ogun State which has one of the large burdens of domestic violence, incidences of reproductive health challenges such as teenage pregnancy, and child sexual abuse, the introduction of VAPP Law in the state, is a welcome development, states NRHJN.
The Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) -VAPP Act 2015 is a law that was borne out of the desire to address the very alarming incidences of gender based violence. The law addresses the gaps in current laws on violence in private and public spaces, addressing old as well as new forms of violence; establishing institutional mechanisms to prohibit violence and a regulatory body for administering the Act’s provisions.
In his opinion, chair of the Association of Advanced Family Planning, Nigeria, (AAFPN), Ejike Oji commended Governor Amosu and Ogun State for “the giant strides”.
He noted that the Law if well enforced will promote the good health of the people of Ogun State especially women and girls who ae often at the receiving end of domestic violence, harmful traditional practices and sexual abuses.
According to the executive director of the Women Advocacy Research and Development Centre, Dr. Abiola Akinyode- Afolabi, “Arguably, the tenets of Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act, will indeed bring relief and effective remedies to millions of victims who have suffered in silence without recourse to justice.
Abiola observes that even though several states have similar version of the act passed into law, a total of 23 states is needed to pass the VAPP ACT for it to become a national law in the country.
“The VAPP Act adequately addresses forms of violence against women and girls, which are more often than not, overlooked and condoned by society. The VAPP Act will be of immense benefits to prohibiting female circumcision or genital mutilation, forceful ejection from home and harmful widowhood practices. It also prohibits abandonment of spouse, children and other dependents without sustenance, battery, and harmful traditional practices. It also prohibits economic abuse, forced isolation, and separation from family and friends, substance attack, depriving persons of their liberty, incest, and indecent exposure, among others”, said Akinyode-Afolabi