The COVID-19 pandemic led to an upsurge of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) cases worldwide. In Nigeria, the May 2020 UN brief revealed that reported domestic violence cases in three states under total lockdown – Lagos, Ogun, and the Federal Capital Territory (Abuja) – saw a 297% increase from 60 to 238 between March and April 2020. WFD, through the Commonwealth Equality Project (CEP), supported the Oyo State House of Assembly and the people of Oyo state to review and pass the Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Bill into law.
The VAPP act provides a legal framework for the protection of all citizens – including vulnerable people such as women, girls, children, youth, and persons with disabilities (PWDs). Seeking to strengthen the protection of Oyo state citizens from acts of violence, Hon. Bimbo Olawunmi Oladeji, representing Ogbomoso North State constituency, sponsored the domestication of the VAPP bill. The bill was proposed in response to increased cases of violence against women and girls in the state during the COVID-19 lockdown, some of which resulted in death.
According to Hon. Oladeji – the only female lawmaker in the 33-member 9th Oyo state assembly and the chairperson of the House Committee on Women Affairs and Community Development –
“The recent increase in the rate of child abuse, kidnapping, rape, domestic violence, gangsterism, hooliganism etc., gave me great concern. As the saying goes where there is no law, there is no sin, hence when there are laws in place, people are well guided.”
WFD supported the Oyo state women affairs and community development house committee to engage key stakeholders through a scoping mission in Ibadan, Oyo State between November 24th and 26th, 2020. Findings from the scoping mission pointed to the need for more awareness and participation of stakeholders like civil society groups working with women and girls in the review of the bill. This was important to avoid existing gaps in the Oyo State Violence Against Women Law (VAWL), which made it difficult to protect women and sanction offenders.
WFD also brought together legal experts and gender practitioners to review and plug gaps in the VAPP Bill. The outcome of this was a position paper containing various inputs from the stakeholders. The paper was presented to the Oyo State House of Assembly during a public hearing of the bill, which was the first of its kind with 89 participants in attendance. Two days later, on 18th December 2020, all 44 amended clauses of the VAPP bill, including stakeholders’ inputs, were adopted, and passed into law.
The Oyo State Government has already started implementing the VAPP Law. With the support of CEP, a media sensitization program tagged “Majiyagbe” (a Yoruba word for ‘Don’t suffer in vain’) was launched in the state. This program has provided victims of gender-based violence and other forms of violence an opportunity to speak up with the objective of getting justice. Through this weekly advocacy program, civil societies such as FIDA, law enforcement officers, and legal professionals have picked up new cases of GBV to ensure justice is served to victims.
Beyond intervention at the state level, WFD commissioned national research on the implementation of the VAPP act, and how it has protected women and girls across Nigerian states. The research – Impact of the VAPP Act in Nigeria – is the first national-level evaluation of VAPP Act; it will serve as a reference for decision-makers and advocates working against SGBV across Nigeria. WFD facilitated a briefing session with Nigerian Governors Wife Association against Gender Based Violence (NGWA-GBV), during which the findings of the research were presented. The participants discussed how to use the research recommendations to advance the efforts of NGWA-GBV against SGBV in the 36 states of Nigeria.
The VAPP act was first adopted and domesticated by the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, in 2015. Since then, 18 out of the 36 states in the West African country have domesticated it.