The Lagos State Government has reiterated its pledge to curb the high rate of sexual and gender-based violence against children.
The Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr Moyosore Onigbanjo (SAN), stated this during a webinar organised by the State Directorate of Citizens’ Rights (DCR) with the theme: “Protecting the Rights of Children, Putting an End to Defilement and other types of Abuse”.
Onigbanjo, represented by the Solicitor-General and Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Justice, Ms. Titilayo Shitta-bey, noted that children are the leaders of tomorrow and society has a duty to nurture and protect them from vices and abuse of any kind, either physically, emotionally and psychologically.
He revealed that the State Directorate for Citizens’ Rights has been saddled with the task of ensuring the protection and enforcement of the fundamental human rights of Lagos State residents, stressing that the ‘One-Stop Child Justice Centre’ initiative of the Directorate handles all child-related matters in collaboration with other MDAs, thereby protecting the rights of children as provided under the Child Rights Law of Lagos State, 2015.
The Commissioner emphasised that the webinar will serve as a wake-up call to all stakeholders and the general public on Child Protection laws and invariably curb the menace of abuse, violence, exploitation and neglect of children.
An Associate Professor, Department of Public Law, Faculty of Law, UNILAG, Dr. Iyabode Ogunniran stated that violence against women and girls is one of the most prevalent human rights violations in the world as it knows no social, economic or national boundaries.
Delivering a paper titled: “Defilement: Prevention, Legal Framework and Institutional Mechanism in Lagos State”, Dr. Ogunniran stressed that one in four girls and one in 10 boys experience all forms of sexual violence before the age of 18.
She added that some of the adverse effects of sexual violence include shock, fear, anxiety, functional impairment, depression, distrust in others, social isolation and behavioural problems, amongst others.
In another presentation titled “Strategies of the Lagos State Government in Curbing Defilement and Way Forward”, the Director, Office of Public Defender, Dr. Babajide Martins stated that likely perpetrators of sexual violence are usually family members, religious leaders, neighbours and, rarely, strangers.
He averred that the State Government has zero-tolerance for gender-based violence and offenders must be reported to relevant authorities, adding that failure to report has civil and criminal liabilities.
Martins said that Section 370 of the ACJL 2021 mandates the State to establish a crime data register, also known as the Lagos Criminal Information System, which will contain information of suspects and offenders either convicted or awaiting trial, stressing that the register will also serve as a database, wherein organisations and employers in the State may apply to obtain criminal records in order to forestall employing a sex offender into an organisation.
The Executive Secretary, Lagos State Domestic and Sexual Violence Agency (DSVA), Mrs. Titilola Vivour-Adeniyi, commended the ‘One-Child Justice Centre’ initiative of the Directorate of Citizens Rights.
Mrs. Vivour-Adeniyi noted that the agency, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, frequently embarks on sensitising the girl-child, including boys, on Sexual and Gender-Based Violence programmes across the State.
While thanking the guest speakers and participants at the event, Mrs. Oluwatoyin Odunsanya, Director, Directorate of Citizens’ Rights, appreciated the guest speakers, Permanent Secretaries and other participants, especially the Chief Judge of Lagos State, represented by Hon. Justice Oshodi, for taking part in the webinar.
She also urged parents, teachers and caregivers to engage their wards in sex education, adding that ignorance is a basic tool that perpetrators use to abuse children.