Violation of Minors: Stakeholders call on FG, others to end menace, ensure justice for Ochanya
Stakeholders have called on the Federal Government and others to put in place all necessary measures to end the menace of sexually abusing children.
The workshop, which brought together many civil society organisations and media practitioners, has the theme ‘’End Child Sexual Abuse: Justice For Ochanya’’. Apart from using the occasion to discuss strategies to prevent and curb child sexual abuse, the forum also focused on plans to ensure that justice is done in the case of Ochanya who lost her life to the sexual abuse she experienced for five years.
The high point of the workshop was the launch of ‘Reflections On The Child Sexual Abuse In Nigeria’, a magazine compiled/edited by Betty Abah, a CEE-HOPE Publication. The magazine detailed the ordeal of Ochanya in the hands of her violators, her sufferings culminating in her untimely death and the ongoing struggle to achieve justice for her and her family.
According to her, several abuse have led to the untimely death of victims, while many others have suffered physical pain, psychological and mental challenges including stigma. “Sadly, majority of violators were left off the hook based on weak operational systems that could not hold them accountable. Besides, the pervasive silence culture significantly limited the number of cases reported,” she added.
Available statistics has shown that over 10 million would have experienced child sexual abuse even before attaining 18 years and over 22 million would have experienced damage.
She pointed out that although, sexuality education is enshrined in school curriculum, it i still not working as culture and attitude had made it a ‘subject on paper’. However, with massive awareness, which require the training and retraining of teachers, the subject could be made more functional.
Speaking on “Where We Are on Ochanya’s Case’, Ameh Ejekwonyilo, an elder brother to Ochanya who was present at the occasion, commended the efforts of several civil society groups, especially their advocacy, which drew local and international attention to the case of Ochanya, saying it was their collective efforts that prompted the intervention of both the federal and state governments.
According to Ejekwonyilo who is a journalist, when the Ogbuja was first detained in connection with the case of Ochanya, some powerful people got him released in August last year. He thereafter initiated an out of court settlement. When this failed, there were threats to parents and relations of Ochanya who insisted that justice must be done.
Ejekwonyilo said the involvement of the social media and civil society groups put the case on the front burner, drawing world attention to the crisis as well as prompting the intervention of the Benue State Government and other concerned groups.
Ejekwonyilo said, “We must continue to challenge people in government to ensure that the right things are done.”
According to him, the civil society groups needed to collaborate as they did in the case of Ochanya, as a strategy to end the era of impunity by violators some of which opt for out of court settlement. Another practice that must be checkmated is that of families whose children experience sexual abuse collecting money from the perpetrators as a method of settlement.
“During her burial, Governor Samuel Ortom pledged to rehabilitate the school in the village due to its high level of dilapidation. He also pledged that the alleged violators of Ochanya must be prosecuted, a process which has commenced.”
According to Abah, children in Nigeria are still very much endangered. Hence, she urged stakeholders, government officials among others, to stand up for the right of children, and ensure that those who abuse children are given the severe punishment to serve as deterrent.
According to Abah, it has become necessary to follow up on the Ochanya case. “If we don’t fight for justice for Ochanya today, tomorrow it could be your children, relatives or neighbours that could be the victims.
“Every child deserves a convenient atmosphere in which to grow and flourish and it is our responsibility to nurture and safeguard them.
“We are here to remind ourselves and to sensitise the rest of the society that the justice for Ochanya struggle should not be forgotten and the need to protect Nigerian children should not be forgotten because they are the future of this country.” Abah explained.
Yinkakenny who is also a victim of child abuse, said, “We must begin to shame the violators. Today, people commit suicide arising from bottled up feelings from sex abuse and other violations.”