July 15, 2024

Spousal battery tops sexual, gender-based violence in A’Ibom

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Spousal battery tops sexual, gender-based violence in A’Ibom

Ini Billie, Uyo

Spousal battery has topped the highest reported Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) cases in Akwa Ibom State.

The state so far has over 500 reported cases, though there have not been any convictions on spousal battery, the state Gender-Based Violence Management Committee revealed.

The Secretary of the Gender-Based Violence Management Committee, Akwa Ibom State, Ms Emem Ette said the committee had attended to a total of 1,467 SGBV cases from 2021 when it was established. Ette said this in an interview in Uyo on Monday.

She mentioned rape cases to be 401, attempted rape 118, harmful widowhood practices 53, abandonment of dependants 65, forceful ejection from home 32, intimidation 54, stalking 21, incest 35, spousal battery 520, and physical abuse 165.

According to her, 210 cases are currently being investigated, adding that there were 120 cold cases which arise when a person is gang raped and does not know the perpetrator(s) or witness(s).

She explained that 53 convictions have been secured, 302 cases withdrawn, 240 settled through alternative dispute resolution, and 425 were pending cases.

Further she noted that 350 survivors had been given shelter and skill acquisition in the GBV shelter.

“The truth is that we have not had any conviction in spousal battery. The 53 convictions I mentioned are purely rape and no other crime. The spousal battery happens between a husband and the wife and the law is not just to punish but to correct, restore and rehabilitate people and help retain relationships.

“The law sees how it can as much as possible maintain and repair a relationship, especially if the couple have children, that is why in our SGBV department, the government posts people that have skills in mediation, negotiation and conciliation.

“We filter cases, we don’t just lump them, we look at cases we can take to court and cases we can use alternative dispute resolution. As I said, we don’t have any conviction in spousal battery, there was one we almost got but the victim got employed and took off.

“She said, “I’m now employed and self-sufficient, I don’t need him”.

The main evidence was with her and in that case, there was nothing anybody could do, unlike the celebrated case of the pharmacist who assaulted his wife publicly in the state.

“The crime was committed in public glare and the danger of not prosecuting that case is that it will encourage other perpetrators, that is why the state is insisting on prosecuting that case and the state is very much interested in dealing with cases that affect the public.

“Like I said, justice is a three-way traffic, justice for the suspect, justice for the victim and justice for society. So, society deserves justice, most of us who saw that debacle were traumatised by it and needed justice.

“For you to have conviction, there must be steps to be taken, like availability of quality evidence and witnesses. The level of evidence in criminal matters is beyond every reasonable doubt,” she stated.

Ette mentioned the challenges the committee faces in the prosecution of SGBV cases, lack of expertise in handling GBV cases from law enforcement agents, village heads and others; unwillingness of victims to follow through with cases due to the unavailability of witness protection scheme, and threats by the perpetrators.

Others are the unwillingness of vital witnesses to appear in court to testify; inducement of victims with money, long delays in the judicial system, shortage of judges and specialised GBV courts; shame and stigmatisation of victims; lack of funding for law enforcement agents, and settlement of rape cases by village heads and the law enforcement agents.

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