December 3, 2015
Jude Ossai – Enugu
Every year, December 1 is set aside by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to celebrate people with Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). It offers an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with HIV and commemorate with the families of those who have died.
The 2015 edition was held in various parts of Nigeria and indeed by the world on Tueasay and reports from WHO revealed that HIV continues to be a major global public health issue and has so far claimed more than 34 million lives.
In Enugu State, the marking of the HIV/AIDS day was unique as a non-governmental organisation called the TARMAR Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC), in collaboration with another NGO, Women’s Aid Collective (WACOL), and the Enugu State government, represented by the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Gender Affairs and Social Development, took to the streets of Enugu metropolis to create public awareness on the dreaded scourge ,as well as rape/sexual assault cases in Igbo land.
The awareness procession, which was led by Dr Joy Ezeilo, the founder of WACOL, began from the gate of the Enugu State Broadcasting Service (ESBS) through Independence Layout down to Enugu/Abakiliki Road where the Enugu State College of Education (Technical) is located.
Men, women and children as well as Nollywood actors/actresses were in the train that marched peacefully on the major streets in the Coal City.
Speaking to reporters, Dr Ezeilo explained that the Centre was a gender justice, responsive project set up to provide rapid, holistic and high quality free medical, counseling and other support services to victims and survivors of sexual assaults in Enugu and beyond.
Dr Ezeilo stated: “We render without discrimination confidential and high quality medical, counseling and other support services to victims/survivors of sexual violence, especially women and minors, by supporting their recovery and encouraging increased reporting of tape and other sexual assault cases”
The WACOL boss recalled how an 80-year woman as well as a two-month baby were raped at different occasions, lamenting the trauma the victims had passed through.
According to her, more than 200 rape and other sexual assault cases were reported to them by the police this year, adding that she was happy that people were no longer shying away from reporting such sexual abuse cases to the security operatives.
She urged victims of rape and other sexual assaults to report such cases in time, stressing that rape was a serious crime in Nigeria punishable under the law.
“Attempted rape and child defilement is also heavily punishable under the law. About half of all rape cases are committed by persons known to the victims or survivors. Date or acquaintance rape is very common. Women are often raped in their homes. Young girls/ minors are often defiled and sexually abused at home.
To the human right activist, “Rape and other sexual assault victims should not be blamed for what happened to them. Only the rapist is responsible for the rape”
She advised victims/survivors to avoid washing away the evidence and preserve their clothes. “Don’t bath or wash your body and hands or brush your teeth until you are seen by us. No self medication. Report and come to us immediately for professional help. Break the silence and report. You do not have to suffer alone or in silence”
Copyright Women Aid Collective (W A C O L ) 2015 by Softchips