Nigeria’s return to demographic governance in 1999 provided the context for renewed vigour around the demand for legal frameworks and mechanisms. This translated into several draft legislations in form of executive and private member Bills being articulated and presented to the National and in some cases State Houses of Assembly. In may 2002, the legislative Advocacy Coalition on Violence Against Women (LACVAW) with support from the International Human Rights Law Group now LAWGROUP, articulated and submitted to the National Assembly, a Bill titled the Violence Against Women (Prohibition) Bill, 2003 but the Bill was not passed during that legislative session. In 2008, concerned about the consistent failure to realize a legal framework to addressing the increasing prevalence of violence in Nigeria, and with support from DFID defunct security, Justice and Growth Programme, the Coalition coordinated by Women’s Rights Advancement and Protection Alternative (WRAPA) and International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) Nigeria; undertook an audit of Bills submitted to the National Assembly to extract and harmonize those that particularly bear relevance to the issues of violence against women. This was followed by intensive advocacy and campaign activities which were hyped during the 2009 international commemoration of 16 Days activism of violence Against Women. The campaign has been sustained by the media support it has generated and its endorsement by the citizens of Nigeria, most critically by key actors in the National Assembly, government, the judiciary, leaders of faith based and traditional institutions.
In April 2014, a group of passionate young Nigerian professionals led by Dr Laz Ude Eze known as #Choice4Life Advocates resolved to use social media to promote Women Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (WSRHR) including advocacy for the passage of #VAPPbill. The campaign has since gained momentum on social media.
Full Title of the Bill
A bill for an act to eliminate violence in private and public life, prohibit all forms of violence in private and public life, prohibit all forms of violence including physical, sexual, psychological, domestic, harmful, traditional practices, discrimination against persons, and provide maximum protection and effective remedies for victims and punishments of offenders.
What is it about?
The Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Bill 2011is a proposed legislation which defines violence, seeks to eliminate violence in private and public life, prohibits all forms of violence, sexual, psychological, domestic, Harmful traditional practices (HTP), discrimination against persons and provides all round protection and effective remedies for victims as well as punishment of offenders.
What the Bill Seeks to Do
It seeks to eliminate or reduce to a minimum the occurrence of gender based violence in the Nigerian society especially in homes, public spaces or even in conflict situations. It therefore protects the Right of Nigerians against violence especially violence against women. It aims at addressing the gaps in current laws on violence in private and public spaces. Specifically, it is aimed at responding to old and emerging forms of violence in particular, gender based violence.
Legal and Social implication of the Bill
it criminalises violence against ALL persons, providing matching penalties for offences in order to halt the high level of impunity of offenders in private spaces, especially domestic violence in all its ramifications.
What makes the Bill Acceptable?
It is a gender neutral thus affirming the fact that all persons suffer some forms of violence and thereby responds to concerns raised on the focus of women only.
It identifies and defines all forms of violence in line with the reality and experiences in Nigeria and the county’s obligations under international and regional treaties especially CEDAW, the African Union Protocol on the Rights of Women and Rome Statue.
It consolidates and realigns the provision of the Penal Code/Criminal code/Evidence Act etc to respond to current forms of violations in all circumstances.
It provides for institutional arrangements to facilitate and enhance access to justice and support for survivors of violence
It clearly allots specialized roles for the institutions such as social welfare departments, hospitals, religious institutions, the police and other law enforcement agencies.
Partners and Supporters of the Bill
Members of the Senate and House of the Representatives relevant Committees massively supported by other members of the two Chambers, the Ministry of Women Affairs, Developments partners especially the DFID, UNFPA, UNICEF, UN Women, Ipas, and ActionAid, the National Human Rights Commission , the Nigeria Police Force, national and private owned print and electronic media, the entire membership of LACVAW, WRAPA Raising Her Voice Project Partners and indeed all Civil Society Organizations and individual working on women’s human rights.
Status of the Bill
The Bill was passed by the House of Representatives in March 2013. It passed 2nd Reading at the Senate on October 16, 2014 and went through a successful public Hearing at the Senate in March 2015. It is awaiting 3rd (final) Reading at the Senate and transmission to the President for assent.
Structure and Scope of the Bill
The Bill is laid in 7 parts including its schedules while it has about 318 provisions in 51 major sections, it is a product of an inclusive and consultative process and presents a harmonized legislation that incorporates 9 other Bills presented before the National Assembly of Nigeria from 1999 to 2008
Summary Provisions of the Bill
Section 1 6
Defines and punishes the offences of rape, willfully inflicting physical injury on another by means of any weapon, substance or object, coercion, willfully placing another in fear of physical injury, compelling another to engage in any conduct or act detrimental to the physical or psychological well-being of the person and Female Genital Mutilation.
Section 7 8
Punishes act of frustrating investigation and prosecution of offenders under the Act and wilfully making false statements with the aim of initiating investigation or criminal proceedings under this Act.
Concerns forcefully evicting a marriage partner from his/her home or denies access except pursuant to a court order, confining or depriving a person of his/her liberty, causing mischief or destruction or damage to property with intent to cause or knowing that it is likely to cause distress or annoyance, forced financial dependence or economic abuse, force isolation or separation from family and friends, emotional verbal and psychological abuse.
Section 15 16
Punishes harmful widowhood practice, abandonment of spouse, children and other dependent without sustenance
Section 17 18
Punishes stalking and intimidation of another
Concerns spousal/partner battery, harmful traditional practice, substance attack and administering substance to stupefy or overpower another.
Punishes political violence and violence by state actors
Punishes incent and indecent exposure of genital organs
Provides for offenses under the act
Concerns the jurisdiction of courts and issuance of protection order
Calls for the registration and defines the powers of service providers and protection officers, provides for the appointment of coordinator for prevention of domestic violence and defines dangerous sexual offenders.
Provides for the establishment of regulatory Body to be known as Agency on violence Against Persons while expanding the mandate of National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons and other related matters (NAPTIP) to act as interim regulatory body pending the setting up of the Agency.
Deals with consequential amendment to review obsolete and discriminatory laws by its general savings and repeal
Deals with interpretation of terms and concepts as used in the Act
Credit to: #Choice4Life; LACVAW