The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has raised concern over the increasing cases of rape and gender violence in Niger State.
Addressing reporters on Thursday, NHRC Coordinator in Niger, Nuhu Mohammed, noted that at least 60 cases were reported to the commission annually.
Mohammed, who led a rally in Minna to mark this year’s 16 Days of Activism, stated that the figure could be higher if victims of rape and gender violence were reporting to relevant authorities.
He decried that despite the awareness in place, people still prefer to settle rape cases at home instead of seeking legal redress, a development which he said gave reason for perpetrators to continue to carry out the heinous crime.
“We have received a number of cases. The last submission we submitted to our national office was 20 cases of rape and domestic violence,” the NHRC coordinator said.
He added, “We don’t receive less than five cases on a monthly basis; those are the ones reported, some don’t like to report.
“But even those who report, by the time we want to take the necessary action before you know the victims would go behind the back door and ask for a withdrawal of their case. This is a major setback to the fight against rape and gender violence.”
Mohammed, however, gave an assurance that the NHRC would use the occasion to raise more awareness and pay advocacy visits to relevant bodies that would help in the fight against rape.
He explained that the march was organised to create more awareness for residents to see rape as a crime against the state and should not be settled at home.
“Families need to know that hiding a case of rape is an act of wickedness, especially to the victim who will continue to die in silence.
“But if the perpetrator is exposed and justice is sought for the victim, it will encourage more victims to speak up when they are violated,” the NHRC coordinator said.
On her part, the chairperson of the Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) in Niger, Christiana Barau, commended the Federal Government for signing into law the Violence Against Persons (VAP) Act.
She believes the VAP law will further strengthen the fight against rape and other gender violence offences and stressed the need for enforcement of all the relevant laws against rape.
Barau said, “The VAP law is a right step in the right direction. It has further expanded the issue of rape and gender violence to cover not just females but all persons.
“The VAP law has also expanded the definition of rape, which means that even penetration with finger and any object is recognised as rape.”
“So, the law is a welcome development as far as FIDA is concerned. We only hope that the VAP law and all the relevant laws that are in place to fight rape are adequately enforced and that offenders are handed due punishment to serve as a deterrent to the entire society,” she added.
The Director-General of the Niger State Child’s Rights Agency, Maryam Kolo, who represented the governor’s wife, Dr Amina Abubakar, and representatives of some civil society organisations in the state participated in the march.