A black book to register perpetrators of rape and gender-based violence has been opened in Plateau State to ensure maximum punishment and deter others.
Governor Simon Bako Lalong made the disclosure in Jos on Wednesday during a webinar on addressing sexual, gender-based violence and rape in Nigeria organised by Gideon & Funmi Para-Mallam Peace Foundation.
He said the fight against sexual, gender-based violence and rape must be fought with maximum attention to ensure justice for victims.
While stressing that severe punishment of culprits should go hand in hand with rehabilitating victims, the governor regretted that problem of gender violence and rape has assumed alarming and disgraceful dimensions in Nigeria.
He stated that the ugly development should not be allowed to go on, adding that “One thing we take very seriously as a government is the prosecution of rape and sexual offenders.”
Governor Lalong disclosed, “Following increase in rape cases in the country, I have directed the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice to step up vigorous prosecution of offenders no matter their status.
“Very soon, we shall open a Sexual Offenders Register, where the data of convicted offenders shall not only be deposited, but their identity made public so that they are named and shamed. I believe that they are the ones that are entitled to stigmatization not their victims.”
The governor noted that sexual and gender-based violence finds incubation in conflict areas where most women and children are at the receiving end.
Consequently, he said the Plateau State Peace Agency has also been mandated to step up engagements with communities on the dangers of sexual and gender-based violence, particularly during crises.
On what the Northern Governors Forum was doing to tackle the situation, Governor Lalong said, “Under my leadership, the Nigerian Governors Forum has declared a state of emergency on the increasing rate of sexual and gender-based violence in the country.
“We have all resolved and condemned all forms of violence against women and children. The Forum also resolved to ensure that member States promulgate laws with stiffer penalties against perpetrators of sexual-based violence. As part of our resolve, Governors are to ensure the domestication of the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act, 2015 in their various States without further delay.
Earlier, the British High Commissioner to Nigeria Catriona Laing said addressing gender violence and rape is a challenge that must be handled holistically with the cooperation of all stakeholders where there are condemnation and intolerance for perpetrators as well as succour for the victims.
She said the UK was willing to support the action against gender-based violence and rape with and advocacy groups, government agencies and religious leaders in ending the scourge.
In their presentations, Ekiti State First Lady, Mrs Bisi Fayemi, and her Kebbi State counterpart, Mrs. Zainab Bagudu, acknowledged the role of Nigerian Governors Forum and the Northern Governors Forum in ensuring that more states pass legislation against rape and violence and domesticate the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act 2015.
Conveners of the forum, Professors Funmi and Para-Mallam identified sexual, gender-violence and rape as vices that get more exacerbated by crises seen in many areas where violence has been recorded.
The speakers called for more action by government and civil society groups to end the cycle of violence that targets women, girls and children.