History was made in Ekiti State on November 25, 2011 when the bill prohibiting gender-based violence was signed into law by the Governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi, in Ado-Ekiti
With the development, Ekiti became the first state in the federation to pass such law that seek to protect both genders against physical and psychological abuse and violence.
The signing ceremony was witnessed by members of the state Executive Council, House of Assembly; officials of the ministry of Women’s Affairs, Women Wing of the state Action Congress of Nigeria, led by Chief Ronke Okusanya; market women and several other interest groups.
The Deputy Governor of the state, Mrs. Funmilayo Olayinka; Speaker of the House of Assembly, Dr. Adewale Omirin; Chief of Staff, Mr. Yemi Adaramodu, were some of the dignitaries that graced the ceremony.
The symbolic ceremony took place on the day the International Day of International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and 16 Days of Activism for no violence against Women and Children was celebrated worldwide.
The journey towards the passing and eventual signing of the bill into law began on November 25, 2010, when the wife of the governor, Erelu Bisi Fayemi, who is the chief initiator and promoter of the bill, led some notable women on advocacy visits to relevant authorities.
Other active players in the sponsorship of the bill were the state ministry of women affairs, social development & gender empowerment, office of the special adviser to the governor on planning and Millennium Development Goals, as well as the state chapter of International Federation of Women Lawyers.
The First Lady, who was then barely 41 days old in the Government House, had led the train of concerned stakeholders on visits to the governor, state House of Assembly and the judiciary.
The visit was part of last year’s activities to commemorate the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and 16 Days of Activism for no violence against Women and Children.
According to the governor’s wife, the women leaders had made three requests aimed at protecting the rights of women and the girl-child in each of the places visited.
These were assurances that there would be zero tolerance for all forms of abuse against women and girls and enactment of legislations to protect women and girls from violence.
The lobby group also advocated provision of adequate financial, material and technical resources towards promotion of women empowerment and gender equality in the state.
The Assembly had passed the bill into Law on November 2, a day after it conducted a public hearing that attracted an unprecedented crowd, including wife of the Governor of Oyo State, Mrs. Florence Ajimobi, to the hallowed chamber.
The new law seeks to protect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of women, children and a minority of men against physical, economic, mental or sexual harm or suffering, as well as threats of such acts, coercion and other deprivations of liberty within the public or private spheres.
It frowns on harmful traditional practices, such as Female Genital Mutilation and widowhood rites; imposition of dress codes under any guise; child marriage and criminalising pregnancy outside marriage.
Addressing a press conference shortly after the bill was signed into law, Erelu Fayemi said the state now has a clear road map and a framework for effective planning and allocation of resources for the promotion of gender equality and women’s empowerment in the state.
She expressed gratitude to the governor, speaker and members of the House Assembly, particularly the House Committee on Women Affairs for working very hard to ensure the speedy passage and signing of the bill into Law.
Erelu Fayemi said,
“My joy knows no bound today. Exactly one year ago, that is on November 25, 2010, I led a delegation of women to pay a number of advocacy visits to His Excellency, the Governor.
We also went to the House of Assembly and the Judiciary. And those advocacy visits were to commemorate the International Day of Elimination of Violence against Women.”
She solicited the support of concerned individuals and groups to ensure the continued relevance of the new Law in the lives of ordinary citizens it seeks to protect.
Addressing the gathering, the governor noted that at least one in every five women had been physically or sexually abused at one time or the other, which he said was a universal reality in every society.
He said it became expedient to put appropriate legislation in place to combat violence against women, given its devastating effect on women’s wellbeing and development.
The governor said,
“Cautions should be put in place for severe penalties against perpetrators, protection of victims and enhancement of public awareness on the danger of continued silence due to cultural influence and shame.
I wish to state here equivocally that the state government would continue to protect human rights and ensure justice takes its course against those who commit crimes rather than sweep it under carpet.
I enjoin all segments of the society, including the organised private sector, faith-based organisations and other non-state actors to get more involved in stemming the ugly trend of violence and abuse against women and girl-child.”
Quoting the United Nations General Assembly 1993 declaration, the governor described gender-based violence as any act of violence that results in physical, sexual, psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts and coercion; whether in public or private life.
He stated that the government would continue to protect human rights and ensure that justice takes its course against crime of all forms.
Governor Fayemi enjoined the organized private sector, faith-based organizations and other non-state actors to get more involved in stemming the ugly trend of violence and abuse against women and girls.
“Now that we have legislation in place, the greater challenge is to raise the level of consciousness among our people; that the maximum weight of the law would be brought against domestic violence.”
The State also has Laws that protect the child rights and another one that forbids female genital mutilation; while the gender equality bill is under consideration in the House of Assembly.
November 25 to December 10 of every year has been recognised as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and 16 Days of Activism for no violence against Women and Children worldwide.
Since October, 2010 when the present administration of Dr Kayode came into the saddle with her equally vibrant and activist wife, Olabisi Fayemi, Ekiti women have always found an ally in her.
No doubt, Erelu Fayemi has an unrivalled passion for women’s emancipation with over 20 years in the business. But with her husband now in government, she now have a policy framework under which she now carries out all her laudable programmes aimed at living the status of women in the state.
A rally was organised to mark the year 2011 International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and 16 Days of Activism for no violence against Women and Children worldwide with Erelu Bisi Fayemi and the Deputy Governor, Mrs Funmilayo Olayinka at the forefront.
In a speech delivered at the well-attended ceremony, the governor’s wife, who is also the initiator of the gender-based violence prohibition bill recently signed into law by Governor Kayode Fayemi, reiterated the commitment of the present administration at ensuring zero tolerance to violence against women and girls.
She affirmed that the 16 days of activism was being celebrated worldwide to take stock of what life meant for women and what they go through when it comes to all forms of violence.
The 16 days of activism which run from November 25 to December 10, according to Erelu Fayemi was a time for women to demand for accountability from all the stakeholders involved in gender issues.
She disclosed that the three demands that were made during the advocacy visits she led in November 2010 have all been met.
According to the governor’s wife,
“The three requests we made during the advocacy visits were the assurance of zero tolerance against all forms of abuse against women and girls; the second request was that we should have legislations in the state to protect women and girls from violence; and our third request was that there should be adequate financial, material and technical resources towards the support of the promotion of women empowerment and gender equality in Ekiti state”.
Over the past one year, we have seen evidence that the administration of Governor Kayode Fayemi has zero tolerance for abuse of women and girls in the state, and he has passed legislation in this state to protect us from all forms of violence. We thank God in Ekiti State that we have passed this legislation within the shortest time possible”.
And we have also seen all forms of resources invested in ensuring that we promote gender equality and women’s empowerment in the state”.
She commended the present administration in the state for ensuring that Ekiti was the first to domesticate the national gender policy which has been in existence at the federal level since 2006.
“It is very difficult to have legislation passed, it is very difficult to have policies put into place, but when we do have them in place, there is something that is even more difficult, and that is on-going implementation”.
The governor’s wife enjoined all and sundry to ensure that they play their parts in ensuring they contribute to the development of their community.
She promised to embark on training for the law enforcement officers and other stakeholders to enable them have a clear picture of the demands of the new legislation.
“We don’t want the law enforcement officers to use the opportunity to start exploiting women, and we don’t want them to start using it as an opportunity to start victimising men either. So we are going to be running training programme for them so that they will understand what it means to implement this law and for them to be fair.
And we are also going to be running training programme for the Judiciary as well, because if we are talking about zero tolerance for violence against women, that needs to be implemented at all levels and needs to be enforced by the judiciary, if people commit serious crime like this and sentenced at all, they should receive sentences that are equally serious”.
She used the opportunity to promise support for Non-Governmental Organizations and wives of local government chairmen in their efforts at improving the lots of the society adding that they all have a key role to play in the gender issues at hand.
Erelu Fayemi used the opportunity to inform the gathering of her intention to embark on local government tour in January to enable her bring succour to the people at the grassroots through Ekiti Development Foundation that was launched in June.
Erelu Fayemi commended all stakeholders, especially members of the state house of assembly for their tenacity and determination towards the successful passage of the bill into law.
Earlier in her remarks, the Deputy Governor of Ekiti State, Mrs Funmilayo Olayinka said gender-based violence, according to the United Nations General Assembly, 1993 declaration was any act of violence that result in physical, sexual and psychological harm or suffering to women including threat of such acts in public or private life.
Mrs Olayinka assures that Ekiti State government will continue to protect human rights and ensure that justice always take its course against those who commit crime rather than cover them up.
The Deputy Governor, who was represented by the Special Adviser in her office, Mrs Kehinde Daramola enjoins all segments of the society to get more involved in stemming down the ugly trend of violence and abuse against women and girls.
She noted that gender-based violence arises from our patriarchal system which has exerted control over women physically and psychologically.
In her welcome address, the Commissioner for Women affairs, social development and gender equality, Mrs Fola Richie-Adewusi said the essence of the gender-based violence law was to ensure that women had the opportunity of realising their potentials.
Mrs Adewusi noted that women should not be molested on the basis of their gender adding that women had all they needed to improve their lots in the society.
Goodwill messages were delivered by the various Non-Governmental Organizations including International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), National Council of Women Societies (NCWS) among others.
Last modified: November 25, 2011