Stakeholders have advocated the adoption of community responses to reduce cases of rape and other forms of sexual and gender based violence in the society.
They made the call in Akure at a roundtable organised by the Faculty of Law, University of Lagos in collaboration with Women Advocates Research and Development Centre and supported by Ford Foundation.
The stakeholders included traditional rulers, religious leaders, women representatives, community heads, youth representatives, people living with disabilities and non governmental organisations.
They lamented that gender based violence continued in the society at an alarming rate, especially rape and domestic violence.
The Onisan Of Isan Ekiti and Chairman, Ekiti State Council of Traditional Rulers, Oba Gabriel Adejuwon emphasised the important role of monarchs, stating that community sanctions had proven to be very effective and prompt, especially in rural areas, noting that such would go a long way in making the society safer for all.
Oba Adejuwon therefore advocated that monarchs be constitutionally empowered to perform this role.
“We are the custodians of culture and tradition and we are close to the people, we need to be empowered to further deal with these matters ” Oba Adejuwon posited.
Supporting the monarch’s position, a woman representative and Yeyelobun of Atosin Idanre, Chief Beatrice Aroloye pointed out that rape and other forms of gender based violence deserved home grown sanctions.
According to Aroloye “the best thing is to empower monarchs to sanction sexual and gender based violence perpetrators, this would bring shame to such persons and also caution others when they see that the perpetrators have been shamed the traditional way”
An Islamic scholar, Dr Afolabi Bakare stated that Islam was against gender based violence and that measures were also being taken in Islam to address what he tagged inhumanity to both women and men.
The immediate past Chairman, Christian Association of Nigeria, Ondo State, Rev John Oladapo opined that sexual and gender based violence should not only be handled spiritually, but the law should be allowed to take its course to serve as deterrent to others.
According to Oladapo,“When the crime is committed, the offender should be made to face the consequence under the law, what the church can only do is to counsel against it , the Bible also supports the fact that sinners would be made to face the consequences of their sins”.
This was view was complemented by the President, Ekiti Conference of Seventh Day Adventist Church, Pastor Dr Femi Alofe who highlighted the preventive approaches through regular targeted awareness programmes by faith based organizations and other communities.
He gave the example of an annual advocacy campaign titled EndItNow, through which attention is called to the dimensions of gender violence and its damaging effects on society.
The Nigerian Bar Association Women’s Forum , State Lead for Ekiti State, Dr Bolanle Eniola and her Ondo State counterpart,Mrs Adeyemi Aderosoye,who were represented at the roundtable, also made useful interventions.
The Dean of the Faculty of Law, University of Lagos, Professor Ige Bolodeoku said the roundtable, which attracted participants from Ekiti and Ondo states was the first in a series designed to cover the six states in the South West Geopolitical Zone and to explore the responses of traditional, religious and other community leaders to the menace of sexual and gender violence in a society where the abuse of women , men and the girl child was daily becoming worrisome and rampant.
The head of the research team and Professor of Law, University of Lagos, Adejoke Oyewunmi, said the roundtable was basically to interrogate how our communities handle the issue of sexual and gender based violence
” It is important that we all collectively say no to this menace in its various forms”Oyewumi said
Professor Oyewunmi gave an assurance that the outcome of the roundtable would be forwarded to the appropriate quarters for consideration and implementation.