Sexual violence: NLC wants Nigeria to ratify ILO’s Convention 190

Following recent incessant cases of sexual abuse in the country, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), has called on the Federal government to ratify the International Labour Organisation (ILO’s) Convention 190, on Sexual Violence and Harassment at workplaces.

Its president, Mr Ayuba Wabba made the call in a statement to commemorate the 2020 International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence, and made available to Newsdiaryonline on Friday.

The theme of this year’s commemoration is, “The Impact of COVID-19 on Survivors of Conflict-related Sexual Violence in Conflict”.

According to Wabba, the ratification was imperative, because COVID-19 pandemic had worsened the incidence of sexual violence in across the country.

“Owing to the restrictions in movement, many victims of sexual violence have been confined almost permanently with their abusers thus creating opportunities for repeats of abuses.

“The dread of infection with COVID-19 and limited access to healthcare facilities and social support mean that victims of sexual violence are forced to live for prolonged period with the hurt, scare and scars of their experience.”

He said that the United Nations General Assembly designated June 19 of every year as the date for the commemoration of the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict.

He said that the aim of the commemoration was to raise awareness on the need to put an end to conflict-related sexual violence, to honour the victims and survivors of sexual violence around the world.

He said that the aim was also to pay tribute to all those who have courageously devoted their lives to the eradication of sexual crimes and in some cases paid the supreme sacrifice for doing so.

The NLC president said that the UN Security Council further acknowledged sexual violence as a tactic for terrorism and affirms that victims of trafficking and sexual violence by terrorist groups are eligible for official redress as victims of terrorism.

He noted that the ILO, the first specialised agency of the United Nation during its ILO centenary in June 2019, adopted Convention 190 on Violence and Harassment in the World of Work.

He added that the Convention was expected to come into force in June 2020, upon ratification by at least two countries.

He also said that the NLC and its allies in civil society commemorates the day in solidarity with the victims of sexual violence in Nigeria, the African continent and all over the world.

Wabba said that available statistics, showed that majority of the victims of sexual crimes are females.

“According to official statistics from the United Nations Women, 35 per cent of women all over the world have experienced physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner or sexual violence by a non-intimate partner.

“It is estimated that 137 women lose their lives on daily basis as a result of violence mainly in the hands of family members.

“Out of the total number of trafficked persons globally, 72 per cent of them are women and girls.

“In Africa South of the Sahara, one out of every four girls are most likely to be married out before their 18th birthday.

“It is the persuasion of the Nigeria Labour Congress that the best gift that the Federal Government can give to the Nigerian people, especially our women at the commemoration of the Day, is to ratify ILO’s Convention 190 on Violence and Harassment.

“We urge that the ratification of this important centenary Convention of the ILO, be done with the same zeal with which the Federal Government ratified Convention 185 on Seafarer’s Identity Documents Convention (Revised), 2003, as amended.

“Uruguay has beat Nigeria and the rest of the world to the pole position as the first country to ratify Convention 190.

“Yet, there is no gainsaying the fact that, it will still be great if Nigeria becomes the second country to ratify this convention and bring it into force globally.”

The NLC president said that this would not only bolster the advocacy against sexual violence by organised labour and other like-minded civil society organisations, it would also demonstrate to the world how seriously Nigeria take sexual crimes, violence and harassment.

Wabba also said that the annual celebration was to draw attention to the need for urgent action in addressing increased risks and dangers faced by victims of sexual violence.

“Recent studies suggest a proliferation of sexual violence in conflict in Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps.

“There is need to de-escalate the abominable pressure on girls and women whose material conditions make them highly at risk of being objectified, commoditised and targeted by sexual predators.

“The overlooking of ladies’ sanitary needs in IDP camps forces women to walk far from their tents to toilets, thus, increasing their exposure to sex trophy hunters.

“The hunters in this case, sometimes, include fellow IDPs and even caregivers and security personnel.

“Organised labour in Nigeria will remain committed to the elimination of all forms of sexual crimes and violence especially those perpetrated against vulnerable persons and groups, girls, women, youth, aged and those living with disabilities.”

The NLC president therefore reiterated call on the National Assembly to expedite action on the anti-sexual violence bills before it.

He also called for the deconstruction of the prevailing narrative that stigmatises and puts a padlock on the lips of victims of sexual crimes.

“We called on the relevant institutions of government especially the Police and Social Welfare Services, to improve on their capacity to investigate, document and prosecute cases of sexual violence against our people especially women and girls.

“We also made the point that every society would be judged by how it treats its weakest and most vulnerable groups.”

Wabba however commended President Muhammadu Buhari, Attorney General and Minister of Justice, the Minister of Women Affairs as well as the Minister of Labour and Employment, for the inauguration of a Gender-Based Violence Management Committee.

He urged the Federal Government to take decisive and diligent measures to ameliorate the fears and shame of victims of sexual violence.

He noted that such actions should include but not limited to the tackling of stigma, reducing the low awareness of access to sexual offences protection services including enlistment of perpetrators of sexual crimes in an offenders’ register.

He said that others include access to medical and psychosocial support services, honouring survivors of sexual offences and successful prosecution of sexual misconducts.

“These measures will help uproot the impunity of sexual misconduct and restore the sanity, dignity and confidence of our people especially girls and women”.