Today, we mourn. Jennifer, 18. Tina Ezekwe, 16. Vera Omozuma, 22. Bello Barakat, 18. Four young women in their prime, young symbols of all women whose lives have been savagely truncated – not just by the individual perpetrators of rape and brutality, but by the common failure of society to protect those most vulnerable to marginalization, exploitation and outright aggression.
Sexual violence (including rape) and Police brutality are two evils that have continued to damage the core of our societal fabric. These abuses are among the world’s most horrific, persistent and widespread human rights violations, affecting as many as one in every three females, across the world. That means a neighbor. A co-passenger. A co-worker, a friend, a family member. Stigmatization, misconceptions, under-reporting and poor law enforcement only encourage impunity.
And all of this must change – now.
In dark times such as these, The UN Global Compact Network, Nigeria, is committed to ending all forms of violence against women and girls. We stand firmly with the families of those brutally raped and murdered, and cut short by police violence. We stand with all individuals and organizations pushing us to work harder to effectively combat these atrocities, and preserve the lives and health of all our women and children everywhere.
We strongly condemn the rapes and murders of Jennifer, Tina, Vera and Barakat, and denounce violence against women and children – and against all persons – in all its forms. We pledge to be part of the solution, to see where rape crisis support centers and the anti-rape movement are failing survivors, to ask ourselves hard questions, and to hear the hard truths that can set us all free.
More specifically, we call on governments, to enact new laws and amend current ones in furtherance of women’s rights, with a stronger emphasis on the prevention and punishment of sexual violence domestically and across all social institutions, including workplaces, schools, places of worship and local communities. We demand, also, that law enforcement officers be thoroughly sensitized against abuse of power and brutality towards citizens. And that offenders, in all cases, be investigated and made to face the full wrath of the law, regardless of status.
In accordance with our core principles on human rights, we also enjoin the private sector to increase its participation in the advocacy and prevention of violence against women, by treating it as a matter of occupational safety and health, raising awareness of the gravity of these issues among employees, and ensuring that all identified cases are fully and thoroughly handled by necessary legal means.
We call on civil societies to keep up the good work, and indeed up the ante, to ensure that government at all levels, as well as socioeconomic, socio-cultural and religious institutions are constantly on their toes in the fight to keep our women and children safe from all forms of harm.
And, finally, we implore all Nigerians, no matter who, or where, we are, to take a firm stand against sexual violence and misogyny both in public and in our private domains, as we seek to chart a common course to safety and sanity in this regard.
Today, we must do more than just mourn. We must show greater solidarity with survivors, and with advocates and defenders of women’s rights. And we must commit even more deeply, to promoting the rights and welfare of women and children.
Together, we can – we must – end rape, sexual assault, and brutality by law enforcement officials in all their ugly forms, by all proper means.
For the UN Global Compact Network Nigeria