By Hassan Zaggi
In order to reduce the rising cases of violence against women and other vulnerable persons, the Federal Government has been advised to make funds available for the implementation of the Violence Against Persons Prohibition,( VAPP) Act.
The Chairperson, Legislative Advocacy Coalition on Violence Against Women Initiative (LACVAW), Dr. Charmaine Pereira, made the call at the National Stakeholders Workshop on the effective implementation of the VAPP Act organized by International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), in Abuja, recently.
The VAPP Acts was signed into law since 2014, but is yet to be fully implemented.
The objectives of the workshop included to identify the bottlenecks hindering the effective implementation of the VAPP Act/law and proffer solutions to overcome the issues identified; draw out innovative strategies from lessons from select states on the effective implementation of the VAPP Act and bring to the fore the roles of stakeholders and stimulate stakeholders action towards the effective implementation of the VAPP Act/law.
According to Dr. Charmaine Pereira: “For that to work, all the arms of government including the judiciary, executive and legislature and various agencies have to work together.
“Money has to be appropriated in order for the law to be implemented and all its aspirations working. The government needs to put aside money available for that.
“For example, the National Health Act (NHA) is supposed to have one per cent of the Consolidated Revenue Funds which will go towards the implementation of that Act.
“ We envisage that out of this one percent which is a huge sum of money, there should be fund set aside for the implementation of the VAPP Act in relation to health and the remedies survivors will need to get on with their lives,” she said.
Dr. Charmaine further charged relevant government agencies and stakeholders to work together towards ensuring the full implementation of the Act.
She, however, expressed optimism that: “Things are changing, the fact that the law actually exist now, it provides the basis for working towards implementation, which we know has always been a problem regarding law in Nigeria, but also in regards to changing societal norms.
“It is now no longer acceptable that women can be treated in ways that have been taught acceptable in the past whether in the home, marriages, in schools, in educational institutions- violence in all its forms, physical emotional, sexual, psychological and so on..”
In a communiqué at the end of the workshop, FIDA noted that the effective implementation of the VAAP Act will be impeded if issues relating to poor funding; need for a shelter for survivors of the violence envisaged by the Act; need for increased sensitisation of stakeholders and citizens on the innovative provisions of the Act are not addressed.
Other issues that need to be urgently address, the group said, include the issue of the Act not capturing the peculiar position of persons living with disabilities; limited adoption of the act by the states; stigmatization and the culture of silence, the general culture of delay and inadequate infrastructure.
The communique therefore recommended that the definition of the word ‘victim’ in the Act be streamlined to persons who did not survive the violent act and ‘survivors’ be used for persons who survived the acts of violence; the Act should be interpreted to accommodate survivors and shelters should include all necessary facilities and experts available such as psychologist, medical doctors, lawyers, etc. so as to provide maximum protection for the survivors of violence.
Other recommendations put forward by the communiqué include the importance of ensuring the ‘accessibility’ of these shelters was also stressed by the participants from the Disability Rights organizations; the need to step up the advocacy campaigns to the State Houses of the Assembly towards the adoption of the VAPP Act and intensify efforts to educate the state legislators on the provisions of the Act and the benefits therein.
The communiqué insisted that NAPTIP which has been designated as the regulatory body of the Act must also be financially equipped to carry out their duties.