By Patrick Obia
The violence against persons prohibition (VAPP) and disability right laws of Cross River State may become mere legislation with no impact if people don’t know about their existence said stakeholders at a one day public education forum, Thursday in Calabar.
The need for improved advocacy and sensitization was the basis of the forum which featured talks from Mrs. Ndodeye Bassey-Obongha, head of programs at the Girl’s Power Initiative (GPI) and Barr. Florence Agbiji, the director of civil rights at the State’s ministry of justice.
The duo posited that the lack of awareness of the two pieces of legislation could spell more trouble for people and charged everyone with the responsibility of sensitizing the public on the two laws which were assented to, by Governor Ben Ayade on December 31st, 2021.
“We have a lot of laws and sometimes people don’t know they exist and implementation becomes even zero,” Ndodeye said while noting that lack of awareness had fueled certain practices, and norms that promote sexual and gender based violence.
“So, on the VAPP as well as the disability rights laws, we felt there should be a change and so, right from 31 December, 2021 when it was signed into law by the governor we have done a series of advocacies, awareness sessions with different categories of persons,” she said.
Ndodeye who centered her talk on “understanding issues surrounding GBV – social norms as the leading factor,” further stressed that the forum was, “basically to create awareness of the existence of the laws as well as the contents of the laws so that people can utilize it because if you don’t know about something, no how you can use it.
“This is also the month of International Women’s Day and the Violence Against Persons Prohibition law also speaks to the issue of violence against girls and women. For us, it is apt to use this time to also advocate around issues about ending violence against girls and women.
“Basically, we are asking them (women and the general public) to advocate for the law, they should also pass the message down, whatever meetings they are holding and they find themselves, they should talk about these contents so that people can be aware and seek redress when they are violated or could even create awareness to prevent it; we even prefer prevention than dealing with the response,” she implored.
The forum, organized by GPI in partnership with CUSO International and Global Affairs Canada, drew attendees from the Nigerian Police Force, Nigerian Immigration Service, Nigerian Navy, Federal Road Safety Corps, legal practitioners, the media, traditional and religious leaders, as well as nongovernmental organizations.
And, while highlighting the provisions and content of the laws, Mrs. Agbiji averred that the laws show there is hope for everyone – women, girls and boys.
She described the laws as, “significant,” especially as they frown against female genital mutilation (FGM), categorize various forms of abuses, redefines rape among others. She noted that, section 1, subsection 2 and 3 of VAPP, spells out offences of rape as we as compensation to victims.
She enjoined participants to speak up whenever their rights are violated.
The event which was highly interactive, also saw the public unveiling of the VAPP and Disability Rights laws of Cross River State.
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