……….The Wikipedia defines rape as unlawful sexual assault and usually sexual intercourse carried out forcibly or under threat of injury against the will usually of a female or with a person who is beneath a certain age or incapable of valid consent.

Statistics show that the prevalence of rape cases range between 15 and 40 per cent in sub-Saharan Africa with the abuse of female adolescents in Nigeria ranging between 11 and 55 per cent. In Akwa Ibom state, according to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) report, about 59 percent of women suffer sexual and domestic violence; leaving the state at a very high prevalence.

To address this ugly trend, recently, the Family Empowerment and Youth Reorientation Path-Initiative, a pet project of the wife of the Akwa Ibom State governor, Mrs. Martha Udom Emmanuel in collaboration with the United Nations Population Fund have set up a Gender-Based Violence Preventive Centre in the state with the primary aim to address the behemoth elements.

The official unveiling of the center took place at FEYReP office 173, F-line, Ewet Housing Estate, Uyo, with the wife of the state governor, Mrs. Martha Udom Emmanuel in company of the UNFPA representatives performing the symbolic opening.

Thereafter, the event proper later held at the prestigious Ibom hall where the call to break the silence amongst women and speak up against the crimes against humanity was further amplified by all stakeholders.

FEYReP’s founder, Mrs. Emmanuel while addressing the participants said rampant cases of gender-based violence in Nigeria and Akwa Ibom in particular is a huge gap in the progress of women’s right and empowerment.

She stated that the statistics available were alarming, pointing out that one in every three girls’ aged 15 to 24 experience violence. The governor’s wife remarked that the gender-based violence preventive center seeks to end the tide by offering free legal services on rape cases, counseling on physical injuries, psychological trauma/depression, sexually transmitted diseases including HIV, harmful use and drugs and alcohol and emotional distress.

Mrs. Emmanuel while calling on all hands to be deck to curb the ugly scenario, added that it was no longer acceptable to keep condoning the stigma and culture of silence that allows such acts to go unabated and perpetrators to go unpunished.

Also speaking, a representative of the UNFPA, Mr. Kenneth Ehouzou while lending the group’s voice to the initiative, said the partnership became expedient in order to end all forms of violence against women in state.
He said data at their disposal indicates that over 59percent of women in the state have been victims of physical and sexual violence and that the one-stop preventive center seeks to address this anomaly.

Notable speakers at the event such as the deputy Speaker of the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Felicia Bassey said legislation has been put in place to tackle the scourge, while a representative of the state commissioner of Police, Chief Superintendent C.U. Isong added that the Police will work hand in hand with the center to prosecute perpetrators of the crimes.

There were paper presentations by resource persons such as the senior pastor of God’s House of Refuge, Pastor Ezekiel Atang, an associate Prof of law in the University of Uyo, Dr. Moji Solar, and Barr. Mfon Udo Inyang who all espoused on the biblical and legal framework that could help tackle the menace.

Earlier in the day, there was an awareness walk in the streets of Uyo. The walk did not only raise awareness on cases of rape in the society some of which have gone unreported by victims out of shame and fear of victimization, but also served as clarion call for all to rise against rape and other forms of violence against women.

Taking it further, Mrs. Emmanuel has also taken her campaign to churches seeking need for collaborative efforts to raise awareness especially at the grassroots. She notes that the surge in the crime are worrisome, stressing that all hands must be on deck curb the monster.

She also uses the services to encourage victims of the crime to speak out and report cases of rape as well as vices meted to them to her non-governmental platform, Family Empowerment and Youth Reorientation Path- Initiative and the Ministry of Women Affairs, saying culprits must be made to face the full wrath of the law.

As FEYReP intensifies the campaign, members of the public must sympathize and not stigmatize rape victims as it prevents victims from coming out to report. All hands must therefore be on deck to ensure that this scourge is rid out of our society so we could have a better future for our children.

(C) Koko Udonquak
30th April, 2019

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