Sex predators lurk in street corners, in neighbourhoods, on social media looking for vulnerable children and women to sexually devour. The story is the same on both print and electronic media across the world.
Many people have said that the series of lockdown occasioned by the outbreak of COVID-19 contributed largely in promoting the trend.
Recently in Ghana, a group of teenagers found a widow on a social medium, deceived her to visit them, gang-raped and killed her and dumped her lifeless body in a cesspit.
Cases of sexual violence are uncountable in other African countries and have reached a frightening intolerable dimension. A call for a solution to the problem now goes beyond individuals and indigenous corporate personalities. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has stepped into the issue to stem the tide.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission has called for urgent action to address sexual gender based violence and to protect the rights of women and girls.
The ECOWAS commission made the call in a statement issued by its Directorate of Communications recently in Abuja, Nigeria’s federal capital.
The commission condemned unequivocally the rise in cases of sexual gender based violence, especially against children.
According to the commission, there’s almost daily news report of rape of children including toddlers, who are violated and, in many cases raped to death. This is very disturbing and utterly unacceptable.
“This growing trend goes against international and regional legal texts including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
“The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child; the ECOWAS Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance and the ECOWAS Child Policy (2019-2030).
“It also goes against fundamental African norms and value system that places the accountability for the development and well-being of every child as the primary responsibility of every family and community.
“For its part, the ECOWAS Commission and the Regional Child Protection Working Group (RCPWG) on the 20th April, 2020 issued a Joint Advisory to all ECOWAS Member States as a Call for Action.
“And guidance to mainstream child protection in government responses to COVID-19 pandemic and recovery Plans,” it stated.
The ECOWAS Commission also noted that in line with the Joint Advisor, it recommended that member states should take immediate action to ensure the continued functioning of the child-friendly reporting mechanisms.
It stated that the reporting mechanisms should include child helpline and hotlines to enable child-friendly reporting, counseling, and response.
ECOWAS also urged traditional, religious and opinion leaders at the national and community levels to mobilise their people against all forms of Sexual Gender-Based Violence.
It said that as an immediate step, the commission would convene a virtual meeting of the relevant National Institutions in the Member States, International partners, and non-state actors.
It stated that the meeting would create a platform to agree on a joint regional action plan against Gender-Based Violence with a special focus on child sexual abuse.
The Commission explained that this was to galvanise immediate action across the ECOWAS region towards stamping out this dangerous trend and ensuring that every child is protected now and beyond the COVID -19 pandemic.
The ECOWAS Commission further reiterated its commitment to continue to secure the rights and the well-being of all ECOWAS citizens, with particular attention to the rights of children.
It stated that the commitments are in respect to all local, national and international actors including, civil society and the private sector support member states with the technical and financial resources.
The commission noted that this support would help stem the tide of increased violations of the rights of women and children in the West Africa region.