Enugu: Group advocates use of VAPP law to prosecute gender-based violence perpetrators


By Sylvia Udegbunam 

Sexual and Gender Based Violence Justice Network(SJN), Enugu, has advocated the use of the VAPP Law to prosecute the sexual and Gender based Violence perpetrators in Enugu State.

This was disclosed during a share learning program which took place at Bridge Waters Hotel, Okpara Avenue Enugu with theme “Consolidating Advocacy for effective Justice delivery for survivors of SGBV in Nigeria”.

Speaking at the end of the programme with newsmen, a legal practitioner and National Director of Programs, League of Women Voters in Nigeria, Barr Nnenna Anozie, emphasized that the VAPP law is one that has a lot of content,. insisting that it would make for a violence-free society when implemented in Enugu State.

Anozie noted that crimes enshrined in VAPP law are crimes against humanity and it is a survivor-best approach to avoid victims of sexual gender-based violence committing suicide or agonizing while perpetrators of crimes like rape, pedophile, wife beater, husband beater working free without adequate punishment. 

“It is a law that should be welcomed and Enugu State has done well by domesticating it as one of the laws, but from what we have seen so far, nobody has been charged to court with that VAPP law. Some of these service providers like the magistrates do not have enough jurisdiction to try the offenders.

“Judges that have the jurisdiction are not much because we have limited number of them. Some people too are also used to this old laws, the criminal code and the penal code. We learnt that police still charge offenders under criminal code. Therefore coming out to launch this change that VAPP law brings makes it difficult task for them, that is the essence of this program. To ensure that there is free acceleration of VAPP implementation”. 

She went further to highlight the challenges and hindrances that is bedeviling the implementation of VAPP law in Enugu State which includes, cultural beliefs like female genital mutilation which has been made a crime and some people believe it is their right to circumcise their girl child.

“Religion or traditional belief, like political violence, verbal abuse, emotional abuse where women have lesser value than men. As a woman you cannot complain that your husband told you what you don’t want to hear or that he abused you verbally. 

“Finally lack of funds. We have seen that there should be a trust fund where some of the people implementing law should have access to fund but it is not readily available”. she therefore advocate that the ministry of Justice and police should make it mandatory that every matter on SGBV should be charged under VAPP law.

She further advised that Police Officers should be senstised on the need to start making use of VAPP law, adding that the jurisdiction of the magistrates should be expanded from only remanding offenders and waiting for the high court to take over from them.

Earlier in her welcome address, the Coordinator, Sexual and Gender Based Violence Justice Network (SJN) Enugu, Margaret Obiegue emphasized that, the reason for the shared learning is to breach the gap between the VAPP law and ACJ Law in Enugu State and how best it will be implemented.

She said that the clusters and the two committees which include, Administrative of Criminal Justice monitoring Committee and the State Committee for Gender based Welfare Victim Support and Care were brought together to see how they could effectively work and leverage on their various skills to make sure there is speedy Justice for SGBV victims in the State.

In addition, Obiegue noted that the program will further help to track down the loopholes, challenges that are hindering the implementation of VAPP law and also set out the way forward. 

A lawyer with ministry of justice and member of Enugu State reform team, Nnenna Nwomeh while Fielding questions from journalists noted that the administration of criminal Justice law and the violence against persons prohibition law (VAPP) are basically two laws that deal with gender based violence.

According to her, the administration of Criminal Justice law has made a lot of innovation in the practice of criminal prosecution, especially when it comes to gender based Violence, like rape and related matters. 

“I can speak for the administration of criminal Justice law and say that the law has made provisions for speedy trial, adjournment of cases from day to day, provision of what we call case management system, that allows every person who is involved in the prosecution of criminal cases to do what they ought to do and at the time they ought to do it”.

She noted that some of these laws are being implemented, while some are yet to be implemented to their full capacity, and that it is expected with laws all over the world.

“The most important thing is that there is a legal frame work and that moves are been made for the implementation”. 

“Enugu State Justice Reform team is working really hard to ensure that these provisions, which are close to us as organization are been implemented. Making suggestions for review, amendment and implementation”, she said.

The Executive Director Heroine women foundation and State Chairman, subcommittee for gender based welfare Victim Support and care, Onyinye Mama in her speech said that VAPP complained that the Police officers on duty usually prosecute offenders with criminal code thereby restraining the judges from using the VAPP law.

She urged the police officers to start using VAPP law to make it easier for lawyers to use it in prosecuting offenders. 

She added that the greatest form of providing intervention for speedy trials is the use of VAPP law stressing that if perpetrators knew that they would be apprehended, prosecuted and sentenced as a result of the VAPP law, they would constrain themselves in any gender based violent act. She called on people to start speaking out for the use of VAPP law.

Chinemerem Anyi, a lead director with organization based on Child and mental health care and women empowerment stated that with implementation of VAPP law that a lot of children will have the right to acquire education and also be free from any forms of violence.

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