In 2020, in the heat of the pandemic, 22-year-old University of Benin student, Uwa Omozuwa, was raped to death inside the Ikpoba Hill branch of Redeemed Christian Church of God, in Benin City, Edo State. Justice is yet to be served to the perpetrators of this heinous crime.


Just last year, the same fate met 11-year-old Favour Okechukwu, a vibrant and brilliant young girl who was sent on an errand by her mother. Again, the perpetrators are yet to be found and punished.

What is gender-based violence?

Gender-based violence is violence against a person that results in or is likely to result in, physical, sexual, or mental harm or suffering to the person, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.

However, women and girls are usually the prime victims. Somewhere; in an uncompleted building, in a place they call home, in an office, in a war-stricken and violence-ridden demographics – a woman or girl is being violated.

Violence against women and girls can be seen in different forms. It could be sexual harassment by her boss, verbal and/or physical violence from an intimate partner, rape by a partner or non-partner, female genital mutilation in some cultures, early marriage in some religions, sex slavery by insurgents in the North East, and any other act that can result in physical, sexual or psychological harm.

Violence against women and girls is a global public health problem and violation of women’s human rights that affects 1 in 3 women in their lifetime. According to NDHS IN 2013, nearly 3 in 10 Nigerian women have experienced physical violence by age 15. Following the 2020 lockdown in Nigeria, rape cases went through the roof with recorded cases of about 11,200 in Nigeria alone.

The health implications of gender-based violence

Gender-based violence can cause serious short- and long-term physical, mental, sexual and reproductive health problems for women. Sexualised gender-based violence could lead to unintended pregnancies, induced abortions, gynaecological problems, sexually transmitted infections, or ultimately untimely death of victims as seen in the cases cited above. The psychological trauma and the stigmatization victims suffer can result in mental or emotional disorders such as isolation, depression, even suicide.

A WHO 2013 study shows that intimate partner violence during pregnancy is the leading cause of cases of miscarriage (16% likelihood) and pre-term delivery (41% of likelihood). Children who experienced sexual abuse are more likely to engage in delinquent behaviours like promiscuity, prostitution, substance use, and unorthodox sexual tendencies.

Why don’t women speak up against gender-based violence?

The long history of gender inequality and the oppression of women disempowers women from speaking up against gender-based violence. Women are advised, coerced or threatened to keep mute about their experience.

Stigmatisation is another reason why women don’t speak up. Society sees victims as people broken, messed up and emotionally deranged; this hampers their economic progress and social integration. As such, victims and even their loved ones would rather keep quiet about their experience than face the contemptuous gaze of people.

Despite the prevalence of gender-based violence, there is not enough information about how victims and their families could get help, treatment and justice. During my stint in a law firm, I witnessed firsthand the level of ignorance young girls had, especially in rape cases. I saw young girls who were raped but didn’t tell anyone about it till the legal time to file a valid case had elapsed. It is that bad.

However, the most despicable of reasons is the lack of trust in the authorities and institutions that are supposed to seek justice for victims. Victims do not stress themselves to report to authorities because they are either not taken seriously, blamed, or extorted. Out of the numerous cases of rapes reported, it is disheartening that perpetrators are either not found at all, or they buy their way out of jail. Inadvertently, this emboldens culprits to continue their evil without fear of the law.


Even more disheartening is the fact only 16 out of 36 states have adopted the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Bill; legislation expected to empower governments at the state level to prosecute perpetrators with a modern framework that proffers quick identification of defaulters. This illuminates the priorities of our dear government.

What can be done?

Gender-based violence is fundamentally a mindset/orientation problem that should be dealt with from the grassroots. It entails deploying initiatives that address root causes, underlying risk factors for violence, including social norms regarding gender roles and the acceptability of violence at family, community, religion, institution and national levels.

The girl-child should be taught different forms of Gender-based violence and enlightened on how to identify a potential danger, how to protect themselves, and ultimately what to do if they fall victim. They should be educated on and encouraged to make complaints to designated authorities when such occurs.

Prosecuting institutions should be transparent and swift in passing judgment on Gender-Based Violence and perpetrators should be publicly punished to serve as a deterrent to prospective and intending defaulters.

And of course, proper and special healthcare should be provided to victims for treatment, therapy, rehabilitation and reintegration into society.

The Never Again GBV project by DO is a one-day awareness workshop to increase the knowledge and understanding of gender, sexuality, rights and gender-based violence. Here at DO-Take Action, our Grassroots Development Champions (GDCs) carry out workshops in their respective communities to reorient their people on the grave consequences of gender-based violence on women, their families, and society at large well as, advocate for the rights of women and girls.

Are you going to sit on the sidelines and keep watching this wickedness or will you rise to the occasion and raise your voice in solidarity? The next victim could be someone you know.

Become a Grassroots Development Champion today and take action against Gender-based violence in your community.

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