By Dayo Adeyemi
Threats of arrest and imprisonment have never stopped crimes, though enacting laws and legislation can deter but, are not antidotes to criminal tendencies.
To end violence against women, a number of mechanisms have been put in place by the United Nations and other agencies to reduce crimes against women. Whether domestic abuse, rape, battery, murder assault, girl child molestations and so on, there seems to be more awareness and less qualitative reduction in violence against women.
The subtle nuances, which fuel gender-based violence however, remain ignored. The role played by celebrities in the socialization and exemplification of “soft” violence on women is quite alarming. For example, most musicians still display girls as objects in their music videos. There is a tacit acceptance that women can be displayed, objectified and used for pleasure.
Feminists have a strong point that a woman has a right to her body and that such blatant objectification of women connotes consent especially where the woman is an adult. This argument voids the collateral perception that women are to be used for pleasure. Either you pay for her body or you grab it by violence. All the channels of transmission of social values; be it home, religion bodies, the media and the school system accept the fact that gender-based violence is unacceptable.
However, these institutions do not clearly differentiate between sin and crime. Both sin and crime should be forgiven. Sometimes, it is even the parent of the victim that will see violence against the girl child as an act of God.
The United Nations over the years has rejigged her strategy. The 2008 Beijing Conference served as a ladder by which the narratives of Gender Equality and Women Empowerment (GEWE) became a focal point. Solutions like empowering civil society organizations, non-governmental organisations NGOs, instituting community-based intervention and massive awareness on GEWE and gender-based violence (GBV) have yielded layers of success.
The UN created UN Women as part of the narratives to broaden perspectives on GEWE, GBV and sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). In September 1995, 47,000 participants attended the Beijing Fourth World Conference on Women. The goal was; “gender equality and the empowerment of all women, everywhere”. The initiative ‘He for She’ came into existence.
The Beijing+20 campaign focused on engaging men and boys on GEWE. Men Engage Alliance hosted a global conference titled “Men and Boys for Gender Justice”. The idea was to raise male advocates who will champion a movement against gender-based violence, redefine masculinity and enlist men as partners to end gender-based violence.
Herein lies a paradox which requires a rethink. Isolating child rights as gender rights. From early childhood, the boy child is perceived as potential perpetrators like his progenitor. The girl child is seen as a potential victim of gender violence. Therefore, let’s empower the victims against the perpetrators.
The thinking behind empowering one child against another is amusing. When the children grow up to be adult, are we not engendering competition rather than collaboration? What stops the UN and it’s agencies to empower both the boy child and the girl child at the same time at the same space? Today, getting funding for the boy child project is herculean and the few available is even tied to the girl child funding and empowerment.
Why can’t as much effort, awareness, attention and funding be made available at par for the boy child to empower, engage and educate him to become the man we desire to see? The adult man who is a peace ambassador and not the man we are struggling with to stop violence. GEWE and the girl child empowerment are the best thing to happen in a society which for ages have stifled women’s right, justified violence against women and denied women basic rights whether politically, maritally or economically.
The abduction of Chibok and Dapchi girls is horrendous and calamitous. The international angst against these kidnaps and terrorist act against the girl child was unprecedented. Rightly so. But this didn’t tell the whole story. Writing in Huffington Post of 09/26/2014, Eline Gordts wrote “Why #BringBackOurGirls Doesn’t Tell The Whole Story”.
The Killing in Government Secondary School, Buni Yadi of close to fifty-nine boys never attracted so much attention.
mmunities affected by violence done last year, people reported 41% more killings of men and boys by Boko Haram than of women and girls; and the number is even higher among adults, with 77% more men killed than women”.
How does this relate to the GEWE, GBV and SRHR agenda?
Perception must shift in thinking, funding and attention to gender-based issues. The era of “they against us” must give vent to “we-we”. The boy child is crucial in the quest for gender equality. The boy child lives matter. Visiting the sins of men on the boy child of today by denying funding and developments agenda must stop. Let’s raised an empowered boy, who will not even perpetrate violence in the first instance.
In my space working with Out of Home Boys, there is a consistent pattern of perception of boys are bad and girls are vulnerable. Let’s protect the girl against the bad boys.
There are no shelters where holistic rehabilitation of bad and street boys could be sought save a few individuals whose centers are overfilled and exorbitant to afford. Today, there is no single center for abused men or sexually violated boys.
One issue is also worth mentioning. Human trafficking. Both male and female are lured and trafficked for economic or sexual reason. When these trafficked human beings are returned back to the country, where do we shelter the trafficked boys returned to this country for a total rehabilitation.
Recently, a lorry load of a hundred and twenty-three men coming from Jigawa State was intercepted by The Lagos State Task Force. The men and the boys were released without taking them through mind deconstruction therapy. They were unleashed on the city without adequate preparation for city life.
I’m not even sure, Lagos State government has a facility to engage migrant men anywhere. Is it not the right time we all focus equally on the boy child as an agent to prevent gender discrimination than this subtle discrimination against him?
The thrust of this thesis is straight forward. Let’s create an equitable planet. The girl child matters. The boy’s live also should count. Let’s create a partnership that will empower the boy child and the girl child to see that violence is not a gender issue but a human rights issue.