By Anne Nwakalor
In recent times, there has been an alarming increase in Sexual & Gender Based Violence (SGBV); this is worsened by the COVID pandemic. According to the UN, globally it is estimated that one in three women experience sexual violence in their lifetime with 30% of girls and women aged between 15 and 49 are reported to have experienced sexual abuse, not to mention the countless number of young girls under the age of 15 who have also been molested. These attacks are mostly carried out by perpetrators within close circle, either a family member, gate man, neighbour, family friend, house help, or a teacher.
Despite these alarming figures organisations and charities are devising innovative ways to fight this shadow pandemic. Individuals must also play a role to prevent these attacks against our girls (and boys).
Many cases of SGBV are carried out in a household where children are supposed to feel safe and secure, however, home for many children is far from safe. With minors being constantly abused right under their parents/guardians’ noses, carers must become sensitive and conscious to the needs of these children to ensure their safety and protect them from possible attacks.
How many parents teach their children about body parts and sensitivity? It is quite shocking that not many parents take time out to educate their children on the different parts of the body and the ‘no no’ areas that should not be touched by anyone. Many children who are survivors of SGBV are often unaware of what is going on. A simple conversation from a parent or a guardian, teaching the child about ‘good touching’ and ‘bad touching’ and the importance of reporting bad touching regardless of who did it, will certainly help to prevent further situations of abuse.
Another taboo subject which parents/ guardians do not like to delve into is the topic of sex. Sex is a necessary topic of discussion, with all that is happening, it would be an injustice if parents or guardian cannot educate their wards of the concept of sex. Being able to have a discussion on this topic and the importance of consent can help individuals know what to do if they find themselves in a situation where sex is forced upon them against their will. Not only is it important to teach women about the need to protect themselves and be cautious, it is also essential to teach men from a young age that women are not a commodity to be abused and maltreated. It is imperative that young men are taught about the importance of respecting women, their bodies and their ‘no’.
Another unfortunate cause for many SGBV cases is poverty, with families not being able to afford childcare, this at times pushes them to leave their children with anyone, even people with bad intentions who end up harming the child/children under their care. There are also cases of young girls being required to go out ‘hawking’ (For instance, selling produce at points of traffic to drivers) in order to generate an income for their families. This again leaves room for perpetrators to target these young girls and carry out their attacks on them in exchange for buying whatever they are selling.
Intentional parenting is imperative to keeping your child safe. You can never be too cautious or careful. Being diligent of the people that you leave your children with or the whereabouts of your child is essential to helping to keep your child out of harm’s way. Unfortunately, we live in an unsafe world, with abuse even being carried out against children and young adults in educational institutions by teachers/ lecturers and workplaces. In cases such as these, it is imperative that the survivor is encouraged to speak about the abuse, with the belief that they will be vindicated and not judged. Victim blaming and apathy towards survivors of SGBV is something that is common in various communities making it virtually impossible for victims of SGBV to speak out, which unfortunately leads to a cycle of other people also being attacked.
Although everything mentioned here may not offer a definite solution to fighting this shadow pandemic, what it does however, is reduce the amount SGBV attacks carried out due to an awareness of prevention. It is important that we all do our part to reduce SGBV cases not only in Nigeria, but around the world at large.