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School-related gender based violence in Kaduna State

School-related gender based violence is a highly destructive issue that contributes to girls’ poor performance and dropout. Unintended pregnancy resulting from sexual coercion and rape…

School-related gender based violence is a highly destructive issue that contributes to girls’ poor performance and dropout. Unintended pregnancy resulting from sexual coercion and rape effectively marks the end of their education.  School-related gender based violence has serious consequences for children’s physical and mental health and well-being in school settings. It has been shown to adversely impact learning, school attendance and completion.

For many years, sexual gender-based violence has been a silent epidemic in Nigeria. However, in June, 2020, in all states of Nigeria, rape was declared a national emergency. This stemmed from the fact that on daily basis, reports from all states were recounting stories of rape and other gender based violence, affecting various members of society but with stress on children. It is recorded that 1 in 4 children, especially girls, are raped before the age of 18.

 In Kaduna State, the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act was domesticated in 2018 to eliminate all forms of violence in both private and public spheres. The VAPP Act transcending the criminal and penal code for punishment against rape was enacted by the federal government in 2015 but has not been passed into law in 23 states.  Kaduna State is one of the states which have passed the law. However, the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the cases of sexual gender based violence. 

According to Hafsat Baba Ahmed, the Commissioner for Human and Social Development, “Between January and May 2020, 485 rapes cases were recorded at the sexual assault referral centres in Kaduna”. This lends credence to reports that during the lockdown, six cases of sexual gender based violence were reported weekly, many of these being incidences of rape.

The state government established sexual assault referral centres and built a shelter for survivors. These are commendable actions but much remains to be done in protecting school-related gender based violence survivors and prosecuting perpetrators.

In August 2021, SDGs Initiative conducted a survey to collect perspectives on the emerging drivers of school-related gender-based violence in Kaduna. This exercise signposts school authorities are most important partners in addressing school-related gender based violence. Fifty-seven per cent of respondents agreed that school authorities’ involvement in tackling school-related gender based violence is the denominator. While poorly enforced legislation, inadequate child protection policies and weak or non-existent reporting mechanisms also contribute to rape and sexual harassment in schools. 

Notwithstanding the availability of four Sexual Assault Referral Centres spread across the three senatorial zones of the state, there is a dire need to create widespread sensitisation on the accessibility of sexual assault services with focus on linking schools authorities to these services. 

The SDGs initiative survey shows 67 per cent respondents are not aware of the availability of Sexual Assault Referral Centre and might not make use of it.  These sexual Assault Referral Centres provide psychosocial counselling to help cope with the emotional and psychological effects of rape. The centres also help in reporting gender-based violence cases to the police, provide information on the legal system and provide medical reports for clients on referral from the police which aids in the investigation and subsequent prosecution of perpetrators.

The Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey 2018, shows that in Kaduna State, 13.8 per cent of females between the ages of 15-49 have experienced sexual violence and 7.9 per cent have experienced sexual violence within the past 12 months to the date of survey. This underscores the need for more work to be done to combat gender based violence – particularly in schools where enabling environment should be made for reporting rape and sexual harassment.

Richard Dukpa Dambo wrote from Kaduna

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