Advancing women’s rights requires addressing gender-based violence

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    On November 25th, the global community observed the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, thereby acknowledging the ongoing struggle that women face. In this piece Our correspondent, *Ere-ebi Agedah Imisi*, highlights the need for government to address, tackle and eradicate all forms of GBV as a top priority in advancing women’s rights in the society and join the ongoing 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence.

    In the pursuit of gender equality and the protection of women’s rights, addressing gender-based violence, GBV stands out as an imperative and non-negotiable priority. GBV is a pervasive and deep-rooted issue that transcends geographical, cultural, and socio-economic boundaries, affecting millions of women worldwide. This form of violence manifests in various ways from physical, sexual, psychological, and economic abuse.

    Recognizing the urgency of this matter is not only a moral obligation but a strategic imperative for fostering a society that values the dignity and well-being of all its members.

    Efforts to combat gender-based violence go beyond individual suffering, extending to the very fabric of societal structures. It undermines the fundamental principles of equality, perpetuates power imbalances, and reinforces harmful stereotypes that further entrench discrimination.

    Against this backdrop, we can say that aaddressing GBV is not only about responding to its aftermath but requires a comprehensive approach that involves prevention, intervention, and the creation of a supportive environment for survivors.

    Only recently the news of the mother of ‘mummy be calming down’ Mrs Toluige Olokoobi, made headlines on that she had committed suicide. Recall Mrs Olokoobi and her son, Oreofeoluwa Lawal-Babalola, caught the attention of Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu after the boy’s video begging his mum saying “mummy be calming down” went viral in 2020.

    This report sent sad waves among Nigerians as everyone itched to ascertain what would have made a mother 3 kids put a stop to her life and ending it all.

    Media reports said ‘‘The X user, who said he was at the scene of the incident on Monday afternoon tweeted, the woman in the viral Mummy Calm down video has just committed suicide here in Benin.

    “She refused to speak to anyone about her problems. She left three kids for her husband including the popular Mummy Calm Down boy. One of the residents of the area also confirmed her death saying the deceased committed suicide in front of her one-year-old son.
    ‘‘Meanwhile, the spokesperson for the Edo State Police Command, Chidi Nwabuzor, told BBC Pidgin that the deceased’s husband has been arrested and detained for questioning.
    “He came home from the market when he saw his wife hanging with rope on her neck’’

    The question now begging for answers is why or was there a case of GBV? Only time will tell. The bitter truth remains that there remains an alarming rate of ongoing GBV, hence the need for government urgent intervention.

    Afrobarometer, a pan-African, non-partisan survey research network has conducted a recent survey and respondents across 39 countries rank gender-based violence, GBV, as the most important women’s-rights issues that Africans want their government and society to address. The findings reveals a complex landscape of perceptions and disparities.

    The findings also show Africans’ perspectives on whether or not domestic violence should be considered a private or criminal matter.

    Josephine Appiah-Nyamekye Sanny, Afrobarometer’s communications and knowledge manager, highlights the deviant perspective on GBV. While a majority of Africans assert that men should never resort to physical force against their spouses, opinions diverge on whether domestic violence should be treated as a criminal matter requiring law enforcement intervention or as a private issue to be resolved within the family.

    Furthermore, trust in the police’s commitment to addressing reported GBV cases is tempered by concerns that women who report such incidents may encounter criticism, harassment, or shaming from their communities. The findings underscore the wide-ranging nature of Africans’ perceptions of GBV, suggesting that a woman’s right to safety is influenced, in part, by her location and circumstances.

    Key findings from the survey include:
    GBV Tops Priority List: Over 31% of respondents across the continent identify GBV as the most crucial women’s rights-related issue, surpassing concerns such as the scarcity of women in positions of power (20%), educational inequalities (17%), and workplace disparities (16%).

    Diverse Priorities by Country: The survey indicates a wide range of perceptions regarding GBV as a priority, varying from 5% in Mauritania to a staggering 69% in Cabo Verde.

    Prevalence in Communities: Almost four in 10 citizens (38%) across the surveyed nations consider GBV as “somewhat common” or “very common” in their communities. Notably, in nine countries, at least half of the respondents, including Angola (62%) and Namibia (57%), highlight the alarming prevalence of violence against women.

    Justification of Force: While 69% of Africans assert that using physical force to discipline a wife is “never” justified, 31% believe it is “sometimes” or “always” justified, particularly prevalent in eight of the surveyed countries, with higher endorsement among poor and uneducated citizens.

    Debate on Criminalization: The survey reveals a split opinion on whether domestic violence should be treated as a criminal matter (50%) or a private matter (48%) to be resolved within the family.

    Concerns for Reporting Victims: More than half, 52% express concerns that victims reporting GBV to the police are “somewhat likely” or “very likely” to face criticism, harassment, or shaming from their communities. However, an overwhelming 81% believe that the police are “somewhat likely” or “very likely” to take reported GBV cases seriously.

    These survey results call for a collective and targeted effort to combat GBV and safeguard the fundamental rights and safety of women across the diverse landscapes of Africa.

    After all said, it is pertinent to note that ggovernments play a pivotal role in shaping societal norms and enforcing laws that protect women. By actively confronting and combating gender-based violence, governments can create an environment conducive to women’s empowerment. Eradicating this pervasive menace not only upholds human rights but also fosters social and economic progress.

    Additionally, a commitment to eliminating gender-based violence demonstrates a dedication to creating a just and equitable society where women can thrive without fear. Governments, as key stakeholders, must lead the charge in advancing women’s rights by addressing the root causes of gender-based violence.

    By placing the eradication of gender-based violence at the forefront of the women’s rights agenda, we not only empower individuals but also contribute to dismantling systemic barriers that perpetuate inequality.