The Lagos State Directorate for Citizens’ Rights has organised an online sensitisation campaign for the general public as part of efforts to tackle the disturbing increase in sexual abuse and offences, especially against young and underage children.
Speaking during the virtual event held today, the Solicitor-General and Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Justice, Ms. Titilayo Shitta-Bey, decried the rising cases of defilement and other sexual abuses on children in the society, saying that the rise in reported cases, particularly on children, including infants, calls for great concern.
She expressed optimism that the seminar will serve as a wakeup call to all the stakeholders in child protection and guide them on responsibilities and duties to stem the growing menace.
Earlier, Mrs. Oluwatoyin Odunsanya, Director of Citizens’ Rights, urged parents, teachers and caregivers to engage their children about sex education because ignorance is one of the tools employed by perpetrators, advising that intimate discussions with the children about their sexuality and vulnerability will go a long way in preventing abuse.
Odunsanya also implored the general public not to condemn the victims but encourage and support the punishment of perpetrators, stressing that the fear of being labelled by society had prevented most victims from seeking help.
In another contribution, the Director of Public Prosecution Lagos State, Mrs. Yinka Adeyemi, discussed the topic “The Crime of Defilement from the Prosecutor’s Angle: Preservation of Evidence in Order to Secure Conviction”, advising parents and teachers to keep evidence about molestation of survivors of rape or molestation.
According to her, “when issues of rape occur, timing is critical, evidence should be collected within the first 72 hours; photographs of injury sustained or the scene of a crime to be taken; victims should not take a bath or use the bathroom before undergoing medical examination; clothes worn should be preserved and put in a box bag and also the victim’s statement must be recorded”.
Professor Ayodele Atsenuwa, Dean Faculty of Law, the University of Lagos, who was the lead presenter spoke on “The Crime of Defilement: the Role of Parents, Teachers and Caregivers in Ending the Scourge”.
She outlined some risk/vulnerability factors in child defilement as lack of parental care or support; cultural factors; poor reporting and impunity; peer pressure (especially among adolescents); poor training of teachers and caregivers; and undefined and inadequate guidelines for schools.
While listing the different roles of parents, teachers, schools, caregivers as well as the government, Atsenuwa maintained that the safety and protection of the child largely depends on the family and environment.
“The Government should disseminate mandatory reporting rules and make reporting abuse process user-friendly; adopt measures to protect teachers and others who report a crime; engage in standard-setting (alongside professional bodies, where applicable) in relation to activities of all stakeholders; adopt age-appropriate curricula for sexual health education for schools as well as licensing and regulation of caregivers activities among others”, she stated.
Other speakers, Mr. Praise Fowowe, an Educator and Family Life Therapist as well as Mrs. Kikelomo Solomon-Ayeni, a Social Activist, both strong advocates for youth empowerment and child protection, especially the girl-child, also spoke in a similar vein.
Recall that the Directorate for Citizens’ Rights is responsible for the protection and enforcement of fundamental human rights of residents of Lagos State. One of its units under the Directorate is ‘One Stop Child Justice Centre’, which handles all child-related matters (in collaboration with other MDAs) in Lagos State and protects the rights of children as provided under the Child Rights Law of Lagos State, 2015.