Participants at a one-day Stakeholders’ Convening and Baseline Report Presentation on Violence against Women and Persons With Disabilities (PWDs) in the 2023 off-circle governorship election

Stakeholders want Electoral Act strengthened to address election violence against women 

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By Angela Atabo

Stakeholders have called for the strengthening of the Electoral Act and other extant laws as well as Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act, to address increasing violence against persons with disabilities and women during elections.

They said this at a one-day Stakeholders’ Convening and Baseline Report Presentation on Violence against Women and Persons With Disabilities (PWDs) in the 2023 off-circle governorship election, organised by the Electoral Hub in collaboration with INEC Gender and Inclusive Department in Abuja.

Princess Hamman-Obels, the Director, IRIAD-The Electoral Hub, said that the event was driven by the historic concerns about electoral violence against women and PWDs especially during Kogi, Bayelsa  and Imo governorship election.

Hamman-Obels said the report was important was lack of attention on violence against women in spite of general awareness of the impact of violence.

She said that the presentation was aimed at filling the gap by providing evidence-based recommendations for addressing violence against women and PWDs, promoting their inclusive recommendations in the electoral process.

“This  project  aims  at improving electoral inclusion by addressing violence against women and PWDs in elections in Nigeria and deepening electoral accountability and integrity.

“This is through increased participation of vulnerable and marginalised groups for quality and credible elections; to draw up actionable policy recommendations to produce a safer and more inclusive electoral environment for historically disadvantaged groups – Women and PWDs,” she said.

Hamman-Obels said recommendations included a call for relevant electoral duty bearers like INEC, women affairs ministry among others to develop and implement comprehensive civic and voter education programmes.

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She said the programmes should  focus on raising awareness about the importance of gender equity, the rights of women and PWDs in elections, and the negative consequences of electoral violence on their participation in the electoral process.

She added that security agencies should formulate policies to enhance security measures during elections, ensuring the safety of all voters, especially women and PWDs.

She said that the Electoral and VAPP Acts as well as the INEC guidelines and regulations on separate queues for women and PWDs including priority voting for them should be implemented in accordance with both their letters and spirit.

“INEC and other relevant governmental bodies should conduct training programs for election officials on gender sensitivity and disability awareness, enforce anti-discrimination policies, and establish mechanisms for reporting and addressing violations.

“There is urgent need to conduct security risk assessments to determine the security risks faced by women and PWDs and adequate preventive and safeguarding measures put in place.

“There is need to give priority to strengthening political parties to become democratic institutions and to ensure that party functionaries including polling agents manifest democratic behaviours in the course of polling activities,” she said.

Hamman-Obels said that INEC and the legislature should develop a holistic policy that addresses the root cause of violence against women and PWDs in elections, including socio-economic factors and cultural norms alongside measures that mitigate the impact of the root causes.

She said that the study also recommended for introduction the policies and practices that prioritised community consultation and engagement in preventing violence against women and PWDs in elections.

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Prof. Sam Egwu, INEC’s Benue Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), said the well-researched study established that violence against PWDs and women was prevalent in the electoral system and many were unaware of the nuances around it.

Egwu said that the study identified that even though security agencies have a mandate to deal with these issues, there were no indication that they should help to protect women against violence during elections.

“Having shared these findings with the stakeholders, new steps have to be taken to ensure that the different agencies do what they are supposed to do to curb violence against women.

“So by addressing violence against women and PWDs, we can see improved level of inclusion in the electoral process  in which this category of persons participate more actively as candidates and as voters,” he said.

Ms Dorothy Lakunuya-Bello, the Director, INEC Gender and Inclusivity Department, said the report interrogated a lot of issues around violence against women and PWDs adding that some of these violence were being perpetuated knowingly.

Lakunuya-Bello said that it was important to aim at increasing the tempo on voter education and sensitising the public on the issues because knowledge was key and if they knew better they would do better.

“So every stakeholder should look at areas where they could work on themselves and ensure that violence is reduced to its barest minimum,” she said. (NAN)(www.nannews.ng)

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Edited by Ali Baba Inuwa

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