The Shadow Pandemic

Image from 19 Voices Image series

Globally, approximately one in three women experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. Thirty percent of women between the ages 15-49 report having been sexually abused in Nigeria. These figures reflect the damaging implications of harmful practices and culture that sit gallantly in certain regions of our country.

The types of violence encircled by gender-based violence comprise sexual violence, physical violence, emotional and psychological violence, child marriage, trafficking, female genital mutilation(FGM), domestic violence, and rape.

Over the years, women have had to swallow their stories of abuse because of fear of stigmatization, disbelief, and ultimately neglect. It is safe to say this has resulted in the under-reporting of the precarious epidemic of gender-based violence.

When the worldwide stay-at-home policy ensued from the global COVID-19 pandemic, we weren't prepared for the long-lasting effect. The sudden collapse of our social lives and individual and family economic breakdown has had such a destructive effect on the overall stability in homes and environments. The cramped and confined living conditions in this nation have brought predators closer to victims. Hence, an intensification in the prevalence of this crisis. The lockdown opened up a significant influx of reports of Gender-based Violence (GBV) in the three most affected areas (Lagos State, FCT, and Ogun State). As a matter of fact, the Lagos State Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Team reported a three-fold increase in the number of telephone calls received through their hotlines.

This situation in Nigeria reflects the global trend of increased gender-based violence.

For a period of over two months, the conversation about rape and other gender-based violence has dominated not just alternate media (such as the internet) but mainstream media as well.

Kicking off with the #JusticeforEwa movement, civil society partners and women rights activists have had a handful of reasons to disregard silence.

This has not only brought to light the predominant number of predators that have found a haven in our society but the damaging repercussions of our long term lack of response.

Slowly, the repulsive entitlement to a woman's body has spread and solidified in the minds of many. It has sat in our cars, in our homes, pews, and schools hidden behind schedule, deadlines, and routines.

However, this period has brought this monster to light and sparked a wild spread of awareness about this menace, its damaging effects on the victim, and why it shouldn't be tolerated. Women are being enlightened on their right to justice. The concept of 'Consent' has become a household theme. Even when masked as jokes or bants the message is still being passed; nobody has a license to a woman's body except her.

This has even led to the rising up of the legislative arm of certain states to the call to pass bills into law, which clearly state implications of being apprehended for sexual or gender-based violence.

Not only is the word spreading but proper justice is being served, and we have COVID-19 to thank for that.

This essay was originally posted by AWWAS as first runner-up for the 2020 world literary day competition.

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