FGM/FC in Nigeria: An update.
Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act of 2015
The passing of Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act 2015 (VAPP)and FGM
Nigeria passed the VAPP Act in May of
2015, at the Federal level to abolish harmful traditional practices and other violent acts against persons: women, girls, men and boys.
This is a step in the right direction. We advocates heaved a sigh of relief at this giant step. However, it is just the beginning of the journey.
So far 11 States out of the 36 states have passed their own laws or some have domesticated the VAPP act.
The passing of VAPP or a similar law is very instrumental to the eradication of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and other harmful traditional practices e.g. the denigrating widowhood rights.
The Relevant portion of VAPP to FGM et all
VAPP states that “any act or attempted act, which causes or may cause any person physical, sexual, psychological, verbal, emotional or economic harm whether this occurs in private or public life, in peace time and in conflict situations.”
This latest law follows on the heels of several laws and international treaties that Nigeria has signed in the past.
The Penalty for violation.
VAPP penalizes a person who performs female circumcision or genital mutilation with a maximum of four years in prison or a fine of 200,000 naira ($1,000), or both. It punishes anyone who aids or abets such a person with a maximum of two years’ imprisonment or a fine of 100,000 naira ($500), or both.
In the months following the passing of VAPP, I spoke to some people in government, Non governmental organizations (NGOs) and respected community leaders, to get a sense of what both the government and the governed feel. They all agreed that there are gaps in the Law that need to be addressed.
The two major concerns are: Implementation and delay in domesticating the law. This is because when a law is passed at the national level, like the VAPP Act, the State courts have to make provisions to incorporate it in their various jurisdictions.
The delay in getting the law passed at State level hampers the criminalization of FGM to a large extent.
Even without the VAPP Act, there are criminal laws that exist in the books that ought to cover such violent acts.
Although this law has been passed, it will take time before it can become effective. I personally, am not happy that they substitute the word " women" for "persons" in VAPP, pushing "women's" issues to the back burner. On the bright side, this law helps to open the way to greater things that will happen in future for women and the people in their lives!
This update is on going as more States adopt the VAPP Act.