Thursday, August 5, 2021

Sexual assault: Humanitarian minister seeks funding for referral centres

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Sadiya Umar-Farouq, Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development has solicited for the funding of sexual referral centres, SARCs, in the 36 states of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory by the Federal Government.

The minister said this in a statement by the Special Assistant on Media to Farouq, Nneka Anibezes, in Abuja.

She made the call during her presentation of the National Guide For the SARCs in Nigeria at the Virtual Economic Council Meeting chaired by the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo.

According to Mrs Farouq, the funding will go a long way to strengthen the centres to deliver on their mandate

The minister said that, the weak commitment of state governments to strengthen the multi sectoral inter-agency collaboration has made it difficult for the SARCs to meet the ever growing demands from victims.

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She explained that for the 31 SARCs in 17 states across Nigeria to be at their optimum best in service delivery, robust funding from the Federal Government is needed.

Mrs Farouq said the SARCs were expected to provide free medical assistance, forensic medical examination, counselling and justice support services to survivors of sexual violence.

“A recent survey of some of the SARCs said a weak commitment from state governments to strengthen the multi-sectoral inter-agency collaboration mechanisms that will sustain the delivery of SARC services to the public.

“What this means is that the State-led SARCs lack the requisite funding needed to ensure optimal service delivery.

“The need to establish and commit to adequately funding SARCs is further justified by the low conviction rates of rape and sexual assault cases,” Farouq said.

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She stressed that, available data showed that the centres have provided assistance to over 17,000 victims of sexual assault with 73 per cent of the victims under 18 years of age.

She regretted that only 11 out of 3000 cases have been prosecuted in just six states, while 107 were fatal, 742 cases were still open and 188 cases were closed.

“A well-funded SARCs will help increase conviction rates through the provision of forensic evidence to support prosecution in court.

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“20 states including the FCT adopted the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act of 2015 and six states are awaiting executive assent.

“I urge other states to see the issue of gender based violence as a serious pandemic that should be tackled,” she stressed.

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In the statement, Mr Osinbajo commended efforts being made by Farouq to fight violence against women and learnt his voice to the ‘name and shame’ penalty for offenders.

Similarly, the Governor of Ogun, Dapo Abiodun praised the Minister for her commitment to the cause and fight against sexual related offenses against women and girls.

Mr Abiodun urged other states who were yet to set up SARCs to do so.

The Minister of Environment, Muhammad Abubakar described rape as traumatic for the victims and called for the severe punishment of sex offenders.

“Except the appropriate penalty is meted out to sex offenders, they will continue to be on the prowl”.

NAN

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