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One in four girls experience sexual abuse before age 18-Expert

An Associate Professor Public Law, Dr. Iyabode Ogunniran has made a shocking revelation that one out of every four girls experiences sexual violence before 18 years of age.

This is as Lagos State Government raised alarm on the rate of sexual and gender violence against children in the state, saying that government will do everything prevent and curb the ugly development.

Dr Ogunniran of the Department of Public Law, University of Lagos made the revelation on Tuesday at a webinar organized by the state Directorate of Citizens’ Rights, Ministry of Justice titles ‘Protecting the Rights of Children, Putting an end to defilement and other types of abuse”.

Dr Ogunniran said that violence against women and girls is one of the most prevalent human rights violation in the world as it knows no social, economic or national boundaries.

Delivering her paper, titled “Defilement: Prevention, Legal Framework and Institutional Mechanism in Lagos State”, she stressed that one in four girls and one in ten boys experience all forms of sexual violence before the age of 18.

The professor stated that some of the adverse effects of Sexual Violence includes shock, fear, anxiety, functional impairment, depression, distrust in others, social isolation, behavioral problems amongst others.

Speaking further, Dr. Ogunniran said that preventive measures can be taken through collaboration and joint efforts of Community Heads, Religious Organizations, Community Groups and Educational Institutions whereby a code of conduct that prohibits Sexual and Gender Based Violence is adopted.

The Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr Moyosore Onigbanjo (SAN) said that the state will do everything within the law to eradicate sexual violence against children in the state.

Onigbanjo ably represented by the Solicitor General and Permanent Secretary, Ms Titilayo Shitta -Bey during the welcome address stated that children are the leaders of tomorrow and it is the right of the society to nurture and protect them from vices and abuse of any kind, either physically, emotionally and psychologically.

He revealed that the Directorate for Citizens’ Rights through its statutory functions ensures 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) in Lagos State, thereby protecting the rights of children as provided under the Child Rights Law of Lagos State, 2015.

Onigbanjo said that the seminar will serve as a wakeup 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.

The Director of the Office of Public Defender, Dr. Babajide Martins during his presentation titled “Strategies of the Lagos State Government in Curbing Defilement and Way Forward” stated that likely perpetrators are usually family members, religious leaders, neighbors and rarely strangers.

“Lagos State Government has zero tolerance for Gender Based Violence especially when it involves children, hence the legal framework that has been put in place to prevent, curb and prosecute offenders which includes a policy to make it mandatory for everyone who has contact with a child is to report any suspected child abuse or violence against a child through the Attorney General of the State and failure to report has its consequences as they may be subject to civil and criminal liabilities”.

Dr Martins said that the section 370 of the ACJL 2021, mandates the State to establish a crime data register also known as the Lagos Criminal Information System. .He said that the register contains information of suspects and offenders either convicted or awaiting trial and would also serve as criminal record database, wherein, organizations and employers in the State may apply to obtain criminal records in order to forestall employing a sex offender into an organization.

In addition, he listed the Domestic and Violence Agency (DSVA), Nigeria Police Force (NPF), Office of the Public Defender (OPD) and Medical/Health Care Centers as first responders of Sexual and Gender based Violence in the State.

The Executive Secretary DSVA, Mrs. Titilola Vivour-Adeniyi, commended the ‘One Child Justice Centre’ initiative of the Directorate of Citizens Rights.

She said that the collated results on the research made on convicted inmates revealed that violent sexual act were mostly perpetrated while under influence of alcohol, hard drugs and online pornography.
“80.9 percent of the inmates said they were sexually abused and became sexually active before turning 18”, she revealed

Vivor -Adeniyi added that the agency in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, frequently embark on sensitizing the girl-child including boys, on Sexual and Gender Based Violence programs across the State.

Children Human Rights Expert and Social Development Attorney, Mr. Taiwo Akinlami, during the virtual program, stated that children who are sexually abused show sudden changes in behavior or School performance, inappropriately seductive, have sophisticated knowledge or interested in sexual activity , perpetrate sexual activity with another child, particularly a younger or more vulnerable child.

“Physical indicators of a child defiled or molested by family members or guardian includes; difficulty walking or sitting, sudden weight change, frequent stomach complaints, headache, sudden refusal to change clothes at the gym or to participate in physical activities, frequent urinary or yeast infections not explained by medical condition or treatment, getting pregnant or contacting a venereal disease”.

Akinlami said that indicators for adolescents may include; self-destruction, promiscuity, drug or alcohol abuse, self mutilation or suicide attempts, eating disorder and possibly become a runaway.

Mrs. Oluwatoyin Odunsanya, Director of Citizens’ Rights in her closing remarks, appreciated the guest speakers and participants, including the Chief Jugde of Lagos State, Hon. Justice Kazeem Alogba, ably represented by Hon. Justice Hakeem Oshodi, the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Education, Mr. Bolaji Abayomi, Permanent Secretary Ministry of Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, Mrs Oluyemi Kalesanwo ably represented by Mrs. Oluwatoyin Olorunfemi, for their attendance and participation.

She urged parents, teachers and caregivers to engage their wards in sex education with their wards adding that ignorance is a basic tool that perpetrators use to abuse children.

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