The Director-General of the centre, Ms Onyeka Onwenu, said this in Abuja during a roundtable organised by the centre and the U.S. Mission in Nigeria to commemorate the 2013 International Day of Elimination of Gender-based Violence.
Onwenu, therefore, called for collective action against gender-based crimes in the country.
“According to the 2012 Gender in Nigeria Report, one out of every five Nigerian women and girl aged between 15 years to 24 years has been a victim of one form of violence or the other.
“More worrisome in recent times is the increase in the violation of little girls ranging from two years to seven years.
“Much of the violence perpetrated against women and young girls are by people they know, and love and trust – their boyfriends, their husbands, their brothers, other relatives, neighbours, school mates, and even their colleagues.
“Recently, we heard about a Policeman who raped a two-year old girl that he was supposed to be protecting.
“Every day, even weeks-old babies are violated by fathers, stepfathers, grandfathers, it is quite shocking”, she said.
The director-general also described as shocking, the recurrent daily reports of gender-based violence and other crimes, especially rape, in the Nigerian media.
“Gender violence in Nigeria suggests a conspiracy of silence; this conceals the nature and the extent of the problem.
“More disturbing is the fact that violence is endemic even in public institutions, including the police, educational bodies where an entrenched ‘culture of impunity’ protects the perpetrators of rape and other violence against women.
“While cultural values and norms in our society serve to condone and reinforce abusive practises against women, manipulation and misinterpretation of religious doctrines are used to place women and keep them in bondage”, she added.
Onwenu noted that in response to violence against girls and women, a bill on Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) would be passed by the National Assembly soon.
According to her, some states are also working on Gender Equal Opportunity bills currently before the various Houses of Assembly.
In her remarks, Maria Brewer, the Deputy Chief of Mission, U.S. Mission in Nigeria, said it was unfortunate that Nigeria was at the moment paying a high price for gender-based violence against women.
“Many women from Nigeria are forced into prostitution and human trafficking, die needlessly for lack of proper health care, face poverty for lack of an education, and cannot live up to their potential to contribute to a democratic and prosperous Nigeria.
“Because these women pay the cost of gender-based violence with their bodies and their minds, Nigeria pays the price as a nation whose potential remains unfulfilled while so many of its citizens continue to be victimized”, Brewer stated.
Presentations were made by the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), Search for Common Ground, the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria and Teenz Global Foundation on violence against girls and women.
The U.S. Embassy also hosted a presentation on “Promoting the Rights of the Girl Child” at Government Girls College, Dutse, Jigawa. (NAN)