The House of Representatives has passed for second reading, a bill seeking to make a subject compulsory in secondary schools, which teaches students preventive skills against sexual and gender-based violence.

The legislation is titled, ‘A Bill for an Act to Introduce Preventive Measures and Teachings of Sexual Gender-Based Violence into the Curriculum as a Compulsory Subject (Civic Education) for All Secondary Schools in Nigeria.’

The Chairman of the House Committee on Basic Education, Prof Julius Ihonvbere, who sponsored the bill, noted that the proposal would allow a systematic and sustainable approach to awareness creation, preventive measures, case management, psychosocial support, and case reportage/referral approaches to issues of gender-based violence.

Ihonvbere also noted that the subject would also cover related offences and child rights violations, “which include but not limited to sexual violence such as rape, harassment, intimidation, etc.; child abuse, bullying and torture, domestic violence, harmful practices such as female genital mutilation; branding a child a witch; child marriage; gender discrimination, child trafficking for labour/slavery, prostitution, ritual killings; the prevalent organ harvesting as reported by the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons and more.”

The lawmaker said, “The decision to propose the introduction of this bill is informed by recent research that shows that there are significant benefits in targeting teenagers and young adults with the knowledge of preventive teachings against issues of Sexual and gender-based violence, their basic body/human rights, referral pathways or case management of this nature and integrating the teachings into the Secondary School curriculum, which will lead to outcomes that are far-reaching as both genders and those in urban and rural areas will have equal opportunity to learn.

“It is cost-effective, timely and sustainable. Like it is said, ‘a stitch in time saves nine.’ The bill, when enacted, will tackle the prevalent issues of the SGBV and will further address child protection rights and related issues such as sexual violence, rape and harassment.”

Ihonvbere listed the cases of the late 13-year-old Ochanya Elizabeth of Benue State; late 14-year-old Karen Akpagher of Premiere Academy, Lugbe, Abuja; 11-year-old Don Davis of Deeper Life High School, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State; the recent infamous Chrisland School girl saga in Lagos; the alleged bullying and torture of the late 12-year-old Sylvester Oromoni of Dowen College Lagos and other numerous cases.

He noted, “Often in Nigeria and this part of the world, we have always focused on the victim/survivor-based approach of addressing issues as the SGBV. Increasing the punitive measures, sex offender registry, some unsuccessful litigations like that of the late Ochanya‘s case in Benue State, and more. These are all good but we need to focus and pay more attention to preventive approaches as proposed here in this bill.

“To reduce cases of the SGBV and its related offence, experts have mentioned that individuals, groups and systematic interventions should be implemented in schools and must include students, teachers, administrators and parents’ participation.

“This is one of the systematic approaches to tackling this issue by early intervention by catching them young with this enlightenment which will also put our children on their toes to detect the red flags and be on guard. This will also avail them the opportunity to referral pathways for reportage.”

The lawmaker mentioned domestic violence which includes “what to do if it is happening between parents or caregivers,” citing the case of the late Gospel singer, Osinachi.

He stated, “This bill’s aims are clear, specific, achievable, measurable and realistic. Introduce anti-Sexual and Gender Based Violence teachings into the academic curricula of all Nigerian secondary schools, into a compulsory general subject – Civic Education; as a novel, wide-reaching, cost-effective and sustainable way of tackling SGBV cases and its related offences.

“Increase the proportion of all secondary school students (male and female) with correct knowledge of the concept of the SGBV, its components, basic body/human rights, who can be a perpetrator, how the perpetrators prowl, preventive tips, referral pathways, risk factors of silence/nonreportage and preventive practices/tips.

“The goal is to have at least 80 per cent of all the participating students achieving satisfactory knowledge within 12 months of the rollout to each cohort. When they learn, they will pass it to their siblings, friends and generations. This is a more sustainable systematic approach to solving this problem.”