By Chioma Umeha
It is estimated that almost half of all homicides in which women were the victims in 2012 were committed by intimate partners or family members.
Worldwide, more than 700 million women today were married as children (below 18 years) and of this number, more than one in three were married before age.
Similarly, Nigerian women and girls are subjected to violence in their homes, the place expected to provide protection from harm and violence.
The statistics are scary as one in three women has experienced either physical and/ or sexual violence worldwide.
Perhaps more daunting is that over 133 million girls and women have experience one form of female genital mutilation (FGM) in 29 African countries.
Sadly, civil society organisations have discovered that the heinous and dastardly acts are under-reported in the media which ineptly and inadvertently causing their efforts to have little or no change in the society, especially among the perpetuators of these crimes.
The issue formed the focus of discussion during a two-day training for media practitioners in Lagos, recently.
The training was organised by Women’s Rights and Health Project (WRAHP) an innovative nongovernmental initiative which promotes reproductive health, rights and general development for women, young girls and communities.
Addressing the participants, Bose Ironsi, Executive Director, and WRAHP regretted that media have become trumpet blowers without the necessary follow up to make a change in the society. “We are looking at your role, the consideration to give in your report. Sometimes media blow trumpet about violence and there is no follow up. Apart from few newspapers that have dedicated pages to talk about issues of violence others are not.
She said that gender-based violence cuts cross issues affecting the lives of victims to a diversity of issues including, health, economy, culture, psychology, education and politics. Therefore, the objective of the workshop is to provide information on gender-based issues, especially, gender-based violence and stimulate the development of initiatives geared towards eradicating gender-based violence.
She spoke passionately on language use by media in reporting gender-based violence. Ironsi also stressed that gender-based issues are under-reported.
“There is plenty of GBV, but nobody is telling us what they should. How do we mitigate this issue of violence, beyond reporting it how do we do follow-up?
Among the issues treated in the two-day workshop include rights, human rights, sexual and reproductive health rights, meaning of gender and gender-based violence.
The rest are system of law, the overview of Lagos State 2007, role of youths, guidelines for responding to violence against women and Family Support Unit in the Nigerian police which handle issues on family, women and children.
Chibogu Obinwa, a Gender Development Consultant who facilitated the human rights and gender session focused on issues around rights, human rights, gender and sex, thereby disabusing the journalists’ minds on the misconception about gender and sex.
She said that “sex is a fact of human biology, meaning that as human beings we were born to be ‘male’ or ‘female.’
However, Obinwa said gender relates to the socially constructed roles based on what we perceive to be rightly meant for either a ‘male’ or ‘female.’
She dismissed some misconception about sex and gender.
Beyond mere reporting, journalists were charged to assist the victims by letting them know where they should go to get help when they are involved in domestic violence as well as the CSOs that address cases of violence against women.
They can do so through their programmes on radio and television as well as write ups in the print media.
“There are specific units in police such as Family Support Unit/ Juvenile Welfare Centres (JWC) that attends to issues of violence against women including sexual and physical abuse of women and children,” the Gender Development Consultant said.
On the legal perspective, Mrs. Grace Ketefe, a legal practitioner explained the systems of law under the Nigerian context which centre on domestic violence.
Ketefe urged victims to seek justice legally, reiterating that Lagos state has since 2007 passed a law that provides protection against domestic violence, but a lot of people are still ignorant of this.
Inspector Kenneth Okafor, an DFID certified trainer from Police Family Support Unit, spoke from police perspective.
Erroneously, police’s role has been misinterpreted by many as far as the issue of reporting domestic violence is concerned, Okafor said.
He explained their in handling sexual and gender-based and domestic violence, saying that the Police have upgraded their approach of reporting these issues from Juvenile Welfare Centres to Family Support Units after their training.
Inspector Okafor also said that there are seven stations in Lagos in addition to three centers where their JWC centers have been upgraded to internationally accepted Family Support Unit in the State.
“There are seven police stations in Lagos that their JWC section have been upgraded in Lagos police command and they are Ketu, Ikorodu, Badagry, Ajah, Surulere, Ikotun, and Festac in addition to Adeniji Adeleke, Isokoko and Ilupeju which were the three police stations that we started with as a pilot state to test run the training,” Inspector Okafor said.
Speaking from media point view, TVC director of programmes, Morayo Afolabi-Brown, one of the facilitators while speaking said reporters must be equipped with the right knowledge; the right exposures because you can’t give what you don’t have.
“So the information we have gotten from various speakers, how do we make use of it? Afolabi-Brown asked rhetorically.
“We can appeal to people’s emotions through programmes that will change their orientation towards girl child education and the benefits thereof. We can change their orientation by writing stories to expose what they are doing wrong,” Afolabi-Brown said.
Corroborating, Dr. Princess Olufemi Kayode, founder of Mediacom who also spoke on combating gender based violence using media stressed on the gap in reporting issues concerning domestic violence.
She said that media should go beyond mere reporting. “You should always understand the cause of the violence and the issues around it. Media persons should work on the language use and people’s belief system. The media need to know the current terminologies of gender-based violence; be good enough to follow up any report,” she advised.