By Kemi Yesufu
Stakeholders drawn from the media, CSOs, law enforcement, United Nations agencies and donor countries have called on states which have not domesticated the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act (VAPP), to do so.
Stakeholders took turns to speak on the importance of the law in fighting Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) in Nigeria at the ‘What Was She Wearing’ art exhibition hosted by NGO, Education As A Vaccine in collaboration with Frontline AIDS on Tuesday, March 30.
At the well-attended exhibition, clothes won by rape survivors the day they were molested were displayed as paintings and portraits. A look at the accompanying stories of the survivors ranging from as young as four to24 years, showed why experts and more people are saying dressing is no excuse for sexual assault of any kind. The ‘What Was She Wearing’ Campaign is gaining traction across different countries, with the goal of raising awareness on the faultiness of the long held thinking of blaming the survivor.
For Nigeria’s campaign, survivors shared their stories as part of a research conducted by Education As A Vaccine in Gombe , Benue, Kaduna and Nasarawa State.
Just before attendees went round the exhibition, there were goodwill messages. For veteran Gender Activist, Ene Ede, she stressed the need for states which haven’t domesticated the VAPP Act signed into law at the federal level in 2015, to emulate the 20 states which have. She further urged that states which have enacted the law to provide structures to make it effective. According to her, government and non-governmental stakeholders should be held accountable with regard to localizing and giving VAPP bite at the state level especially. On her part, representative of UNWOMEN, Angela Muruli, described the exhibition as timely, even as she expressed delight that the project is driven by young women. She opined that an event such as an art exhibition based on the stories of survivors was another opportunity for stakeholders to galvanize key players in government on the importance and usefulness of the VAPP Act. Representative of the Canadian High Commission, Demilade Kosemani, expressed the support of Canada towards the fight against SGBV in Nigeria, hence the country’s support for the ‘What Was She Wearing’ campaign. Representative of the Nigerian Police, ASP Mensah Ufot, of the FIB Gender Unit, as well as the representative of the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA) also shared the backing of their agencies for the protection of women and girls.
Executive Director of Education As A Vaccine, Olabukunola Williams in her short address at the event said the NGO was glad to implement the global campaign in Nigeria, adding that the ‘What Was She Wearing’ is needed in Nigeria as many still think sexual violators must be provoked into action.
“The point of this project is to show what survivors were wearing when it (rape) happened. A lot of people still think that as much as violence is bad, you must have done something to bring it upon yourself, that violence is not something that is entrenched in our society. So for me, it is important that we showcase that these survivors were going about their normal lives, they thought they could trust a friend and yet they were not protected”, Williams said.
The VAPP Act was passed into law in 2015 to eliminate all forms of violence in public and private sector. The law prohibits physical violence, sexual violence, domestic violence, psychological violence and harmful traditional practices.
Scroll bellow for pictures from the exhibition: