An NGO, Sexual Offences Awareness and Victims Rehabilitation (SOAR) Initiative, on Monday urged the Federal Government to open a register for sex offenders.
Mrs Chinyere Eyoh, the Executive Director of the organisation, made the plea in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja.
Eyoh spoke ahead of the International Day of the Girl-Child scheduled for Oct. 11.
International Day of the Girl-Child is an international observance day declared by the United Nations.
The observation supports more opportunity for girls and increases awareness of gender inequality faced by girls worldwide based upon their gender.
This inequality includes areas such as right to education/access to education, nutrition, legal rights, medical care, and protection from discrimination, violence against women and unfree child marriage.
According to Eyoh, the register will allow government authorities to keep track of the residences and activities of sex offenders, including those who have completed their jail terms.
“The government has done a lot in addressing these issues with the passage of the Child Rights Act in 2003 and the Violence against Persons Act in 2014.
“However, a lot still needs to be done with myriads of children still left vulnerable and without a voice in those states that have yet to pass the Child Rights Bill, though the Act is due for a review.
“Implementation of the laws we have are, however, very weak with the Juvenile Welfare Centre Police Officers lacking the motivation, sustained training and passion,’’ she said.
The director said that the Nigeria Police Force has a specialised unit with motivated, trained and passionate officers with career path as Child Protection Police Officers.
Eyoh said that the girl-child was often viewed as a second class citizen to her male counterparts.
She said the day was not just about the fanfare, but majorly about creating and increasing awareness about the numerous challenges facing girl-child around the world.
“Nigerian girls are not exempted from these challenges.
“They are plagued daily with all sorts of issues from discrimination to child marriage, lack of access and right to education, legal rights and medicare as well as various forms of violence.
“The Chibok Girls saga is still very fresh in our memories as we await their return,’’ Eyoh said.
She said that a survey conducted by the Violence against Children funded by the National Population Commission indicated that one in four girls is sexually abused before the age 18.
Eyoh said that the day was observed by various stakeholders to dialogue and strategise on the way forward in making our girls safer with improved wellbeing.
“It is also a day where the doggedness and tenacity of girls are celebrated.
“They are motivated to continue to strive toward attainment of their live goals and ambitions in spite of the challenges and discrimination they face,’’ she said.
Eyoh said that all hands should be on the deck to protect and safeguard our children from being sexually abused.
She advised parents to be protective, observant and have a high index of suspicion for people that were allowed access to their children.
“This is because most perpetrators fall into this category and are actually trusted by both the children and their parents or guardians.
“Some children, who love and accept the abusers, do not realise that they are being abused.
“They are too afraid to say no because they see such abusers as authority figures or they are manipulated to accept it as normal.
“Parents and caregivers also need to be aware that children do not usually lie about such abuses and they should be given the benefit of a doubt if they report,’’ Eyoh said.
She urged the media, religious bodies and non-governmental organisations to educate the public and train stakeholders involved in the responsibilities of protecting children from sexual abuses.
NAN reports that SOAR Initiative was established to break the prevailing culture of silence surrounding sexual abuse and violent against children. (NAN)