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FG takes action to address the growing incidence of sexual harassment and rape in Nigerian schools

With the introduction of the “Standard Operating Procedure for the Prosecution of Perpetrators of School-Related Gender-Based Violence Cases,” the Nigerian government has taken steps to effectively address the growing number of rape and other gender-based violence cases that are occurring at schools around the nation.

The Federal Ministry of Justice and the Federal Ministry of Education worked together to design the Standard Operating Procedure.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO, provided funding for the project.

According to UNESCO, School-Related Gender-Based Violence, SRGBV, include Gender Based Violence occurring in schools, around schools or as a result of school relationship(s). It is perpetrated based on gender norms or stereotypes and enforced by unequal power dynamics.

SRGBV includes physical violence, sexual violence and psychological violence, such as verbal abuse, teacher-perpetrated abuse, including excessive corporal punishment, sexual harassment or sexual coercion, bullying by peers, rape, physical assault, sexual assault and discrimination, among others.

In an address during the launch of the Standard Operating Procedure in Abuja, the Attorney General of the Federation, AGF, and Minister of Justice, Prince Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, observed that, from available statistics, SRGBV is highly prevalent in primary and secondary schools across every region in the country.

The AGF further noted that SRGBV has devastating consequences for victims, including low self-esteem, depression, early and unintended pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, as well as disruption or termination of education. It also increases the probability of victims experiencing or perpetrating violence in future.

However, he expressed regrets that “victims of SRGBV are often left without any form of justice against their abusers as violence of this nature is still largely shrouded in a culture of silence and victim blaming.”

“Presently, perpetrators are at best subjected to administrative sanctions such as suspension and dismissal and are rarely prosecuted for these heinous crimes,” he added, noting that “it is incumbent upon us, as a society, to confront this scourge head-on and ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice swiftly and decisively”.

According to him, the launch of the Standard Operating Procedure represents a significant milestone in efforts to address SRGBV effectively.

“By providing clear guidelines and protocols for the prosecution of perpetrators, we aim to streamline the legal process, enhance coordination among relevant stakeholders, and ultimately deliver justice for victims.”

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The AGF further explained that the Standard Operating Procedure will ensure a proper response to the SRGBV menace through successful prosecution of perpetrators, while also providing a multi-sectorial response to guide schools in handling cases.

The objectives of the Standard Operating Procedure include: “Facilitating child-sensitive SRGBV investigations, prosecutions and court procedures.

“Integration of SRGBV into national policies and education sector plans.

Support tailored response in key MDAs by developing a monitoring and evaluation mechanism for assessment of progress in response to SRGBV cases.

Ensuring standards of professional practice are prescribed and followed concerning confidentiality, information sharing protocols, recording of sensitive information and avoiding conflicts of interest.
“Raising awareness among all key stakeholders about SRGBV and the referral pathways.”

Noting that the initiative underscores the Federal Government’s unwavering commitment to the protection of children and the promotion of safe learning environments, Fagbemi stressed, “Every child has the right to receive an education free from fear, intimidation, and violence.”

“We must spare no effort in safeguarding this fundamental right and holding accountable those who seek to violate it.”

The AGF urged all law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, judicial officers, educators, civil society organizations and other stakeholders to familiarize themselves with the provisions outlined in the Standard Operating Procedure, for its effective implementation.

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