VAPP Law: Alternative settling of SGBV cases subverts justice — Group

A Civil Society Organisation (CSO), Stand to End Rape Initiative, has called for full implementation of the Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Law in states to ensure justice for survivors.

The CSOs Lead Facilitator, Dr Sam Ogwuch, made the call at a two- day workshop on implementation of the VAPP Law to eradicate Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) in Cross River, which ended on Friday in Calabar.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the workshop was supported by the African Women Development Fund (AWOF).

The VAPP Act 2015 (also known as VAPP Act), is a law enacted by the National Assembly and was assented to become a law.

The main thrust of the law is to eliminate violence in private and public life, prohibit all forms of violence against persons to provide maximum protection and effective remedies for victims and punishment of offenders and other related matters.

State governments are expected to domesticate and implement same, so as to protect victims of violence and punish perpetrators.

Ogwuche, therefore, said the use of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) to settle SGBV cases could subvert justice for survivors, and insisted that the VAPP Law, which has been domesticated in most states of the federation be fully implemented.

He said that the objective of the workshop was to take  participants through the dangers of SGBV and to design an advocacy plan toward full implementation of the VAPP Law in Cross River.

According to Ogwuche, who is a Research Fellow at the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies, “the challenge of SGBV is biting hard on society, which was why Cross River legislature enacted the VAPP Law in 2021.

“What the state needs now is full implementation of the VAPP Law and not ADR because the use of ADR for SGBV cases negates the theories of punishment.

“It is time to abandon ADR in SGBV cases and allow justice to take its cause in accordance with the provisions of the VAPP Law in the interest of a safe and just society.”

On her part, Mrs Enyoanwan Otu, Wife of the Governor of Cross River, said the battle against SGBV in the nation had been tough, adding that many hide under culture and tradition to perpetuate evil.

Otu, who was represented by Dr Comfort Oko, the Senior Special Adviser, Administration in the office of the wife of the governor, said the culture of silence, stigmatisation, threats, lack of political will, among others, weakened the fight against SGBV.

She appealed to stakeholders and agencies responsible for the  implementation of the VAPP Law to collaborate with agencies saddled with the responsibility of poverty alleviation to ensure economic power for survivors.

Similarly, Superintendent Philomena Modor, Officer in charge of Gender Unit,  Police Command in Cross River, said stakeholders in the state might be aware of the law but the public knew nothing about it.

She called for copies of the law to be made available to public.

Another participant,  Ms Ann Awa, Chairperson, Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), Cross River chapter, said “the VAPP Law is not meant to be in the shelves but with people even in rural areas where SGBV is constantly committed and perpetuators go scot-free.”

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