Ipas Nigeria, an international non-governmental organisation, NGO, has urged Houses of Assembly in Nigeria, which have yet to domesticate the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act, 2015, to urgently do so in the overall interest of the society.
The immediate past Country Director of the organisation, Mrs Hauwa Shekarau, made the call on Thursday in Owerri, during the ongoing four-day training of journalists on “Women’s sexual reproductive health and rights”, organised by the group.
Shekarau said that only 10 states, including Lagos, Edo, Kaduna, Benue and Anambra, had so far domesticated the Act.
She therefore urged the remaining states to follow suit and initiate the legislative process of domesticating the Act.
She opined that domesticating the Act in all the states of the federation would help to equip the media with the legal tool to drive the advocacy for safe abortion.
Shekarau, who also spoke on “International Commitments”, regretted that although Nigeria was signatory to various conventions and treaties, successive administrations could not implement them due to the lack of political will.
She argued that the international commitments alone could not improve women’s sexual reproductive health and rights without government’s political will to implement them.
Also, one of the facilitators, Mrs Doris Ikpeze, who spoke on “abortion and the law”, expressed the need for urgent review and expansion of the nation’s Penal and Criminal Codes.
Ikpeze said that the provisions of both the criminal and penal codes were inadequate, ambiguous and obsolete to address the issue of unsafe abortion.
She further contended that the two laws did not protect the victims of sexual violence, including rape and incest.
According to her, “the criminal and penal codes are based on a law, which was passed almost 150 years ago and is no longer responsive to the magnitude of unsafe abortion and its application.”
She expressed happiness that Lagos state had expanded the Criminal Law to be able to address the increasing cases of unsafe abortion and the resultant loss of lives of many girls.
A veteran broadcaster, Godwin Odemijie, who delivered a lecture on “reporting WSRHR for impact”, called for a paradigm shift by journalists in the country from conventional to civic journalism.
Odemijie said that the media could only make the desired impact in the advocacy for safe abortion, when journalists redirect their focus from policy makers to the people. (NAN)