About LACVAW

Legislative Advocacy Coalition on Violence Against Women (LACVAW) is a Coalition of diverse groups in civil society working on various aspects of women’s human rights, particularly, violence against women. The Coalition was formed in 2001, in response to the need to bring together and amplify the voices of NGOs across the country, particularly those that were proposing Bills at the State and National Assemblies on issues of domestic violence, harmful traditional practices and inheritance rights. Today, LACVAW comprises over sixty groups working on domestic violence, women’s human rights, and includes international human rights groups, religious organizations and other stakeholders. LACVAW has succeeded in attaining its principal aim of the enactment of a law prohibiting violence against persons, in the form of the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act 2015, also referred to as the VAPP Act.

Aims:
- To promote the enactment of legislation on violence against persons, particularly gender based violence, in Nigeria.
- To promote the implementation of legislation on violence against persons, particularly gender based violence, in Nigeria at Federal and State levels.

Objectives:
- To facilitate the co-ordination of activities among civil society organisations, the state, government and development actors concerning the enactment and implementation of legislation on violence against persons, particularly gender based violence, as well as reforms in practices and shifts in social norms with direct impact on women's human dignity all over Nigeria.
- To engage in sensitisation and awareness-raising on gender based violence and legislation prohibiting such violence in Nigeria.
- To advocate for the requisite funding for the implementation of legislation and dialogue aimed at reducing prevalence while entrenching a culture of zero tolerance to violence against persons, particularly gender based violence, in Nigeria.
- To monitor the prevalence and incidence reportage of gender based violence in Nigeria, to ensure documentation for accountability.
- To undertake research to support effective evidence based legislative and social advocacy for enactment and implementation of laws prohibiting all forms of violence against persons, particularly gender based violence. 
- To actively promote the direct ratification and domestication by Nigeria of international treaties as well as passage of integral and model legislation relating to women’s rights and gender based violence at Federal and State levels.

LACVAW’s role in getting the VAPP Act passed

Nigeria’s return to democratic governance in 1999 provided the context for renewed vigour around the demand for legal institutional frameworks and mechanisms for the protection of citizens against all forms of violence in Nigeria. This translated into several draft legislations being articulated and presented to the National, and in some cases State Houses of Assembly. The International Law Group then brought all the groups/CSOs working on Violence Against Women (VAW) in order to synergize/coordinate their activities and enable them speak with one voice. In May, 2002, Legislative Advocacy Coalition on Violence Against Women (LACVAW) articulated and submitted to the National Assembly, a Bill titled The Violence Against Women (Prohibition) Bill, 2003, but the Bill was not passed during that Legislative session.
In 2003 the process was commenced afresh. Early in May 2005, the then Chairperson, House Committee on Women Affairs and Youth Development, Hon. Saudatu Sani convened a meeting for LACVAW members, the Technical Committee on legislative matters and other stakeholders to deliberate on the modalities for the passage of the Bill. At the end of the meeting, it was agreed that the Bill needed to be harmonized with other related Bills on Gender Based Violence, modified and some provisions re-drafted or expunged in order to avoid major obstacles to the passage of the Bill. The Bill along with all others suffered the setback that meant starting anew once the new legislature was inaugurated.

In April 2008, concerned about the consistent failure to realize a legal framework to addressing the increasing prevalence of violence in Nigeria, LACVAW, coordinated by Women’s Rights Advancement and Protection Alternative (WRAPA) and International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) Nigeria with the support of defunct the Security, Justice and Growth Programme of DFID, carried out a harmonization of existing Bills on gender based violence in the National Assembly with the aim of harmonizing their provisions so that a single Bill which would be collectively promoted could emerge. This eventually led to the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Bill (VAPP Bill).

2008 - 2011 INTERVENTIONS
CSOs and Development Partners came together to:
- Highlight weaknesses, actions and remedies to remove discriminations in law and in practice;
- Engender systemic engagement for the passage of GBV law at the national level;
- Address the proliferation of the Bills born out of various efforts which became confusing and counter-productive;
- Cause mind shifts in social and institutional responses to GBV thereby enhancing women’s capacity to seek and obtain redress.

LACVAW mandate to harmonize all Bills was sought and obtained through a Stakeholders’ consultation meeting on 19th June 2008. A seven member team of experts was formed to undertake harmonization with key actors as WRAPA and FIDA Nigeria. The team of experts worked for nine days to extract and articulate a harmonised Bill to reflect the aspirations of a holistic legislation that reflects all the concerns and issues of high priority for women and other vulnerable groups. Research, documentation and analysis of a total of 9 Bills that on aspects of GBV and laid before the Senate and House of Representatives.
The “Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Bill 2008” was presented to the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters in July 2008 during a Public Hearing on Sexual Offences (Prohibition) Bill and Public Nudity Bill sponsored by Senator Chris Anyanwu and Senator Emem Ufot Ekaette respectively. The Harmonized Bill was formally presented to the House of Representatives on 9th December 2009 during a Public Hearing on VAW and focusing on a rape and murder case in commemoration of the international 16 Days Campaign Against VAW.

Significance of VAPP Act for women and girls in Nigeria

Women and girls are exposed to various forms of assault on their bodily integrity. The rising incidence of sexual violence, such as rape, incest, sexual assault and the like in the society is particularly alarming. It is a sad indictment of the status quo that particularly women, is so readily tolerated and even justified in some instances as ‘normal’. Such practices are not only condoned by large sections of society; they are upheld by members of the criminal justice system that should be protecting the rights of people who have experienced violence. Even when instances of domestic violence are taken to the police, they rarely treat such cases seriously, dismissing them as ‘private’ disputes and therefore not their responsibility. Perpetrators are able to continue engaging in violence because their actions have no negative consequences.
To stem the trend of increasing violence in society, one important avenue is that of legal protection of people’s rights to a life free from violence. Alongside this is the need to provide sanctions against violence and disincentives for perpetrators. The VAPP Act is an effort to do this in a way that goes beyond the scope of existing legislation, such as the Criminal Code and the Penal Code. The Criminal Code and the Penal Code do not address the new forms of violence that are becoming more common in society – gang rape, acid baths, stalking, economic abuse – and they are discriminatory. Section 55 (1) of the Penal Code allows a husband to ‘correct’ his wife, as long as it does not amount to ‘grievous hurt’, such as permanent loss of sight, ability to speak or hear, facial disfigurement, bone fracture, tooth dislocation. Section 353 of the Criminal Code allows 3 years imprisonment as the maximum punishment for an indecent assault on males but only 2 years for females. The VAPP Act, as a single piece of legislation, represents the possibility of legal redress and penalties for violators in a more accessible form than did previously existing legislation.

Strategies deployed to push for its passage into law

Some of the strategies employed by LACVAW in ensuring the passage of the VAPP Act include:

i. The Media: The campaign for the VAPP Bill escalated due to the involvement of the media, especially in 2009 during the 16 days activism on Violence Against Women. The media were trained by CSOs on reporting VAW cases and the improved media and growth of the social media helped and gave it a push.
ii. By 2011, the reportage by victims and survivors of VAW went up and the stigmatization went down.
iii. High Level and Low Level advocacy campaign to major stakeholders in Nigeria: LACVAW carried out several courtesy and advocacy visits to the major stakeholders including the leadership of the Senate and House of Representatives, the Chairman and Clerks of several Committees at the Senate and House of Representatives.
iv. Inclusion of male champions in the advocacy support for the Act
v. Working with the institutions of religion and culture including traditional and religious leaders and religious groups to get their support on the VAPP Act. 
vi. Technical support to the Committees working on the VAPP Act at the National Assembly: LACVAW provided technical support to the Committee on Judiciary, human rights and legal matters, to produce a report of the public hearing. This was done to ensure the third reading of the Bill; and LACVAW also provided support to the House Conference Committee Report Drafting Session on the VAPP Bill to assist in harmonising the Bill as passed by the Senate and the House of Representatives to ensure the transmission of the Bill to the president for his assent.
vii. Resource Management (Technical, Human and Finance): In the beginning, LACVAW was funded by MacArthur Foundation. But after the funding stopped, LACVAW utilized the technical and human resources of its member’s organizations. The member organizations had their different areas of expertise which LACVAW utilized to achieve its aim. For example, if advocacy was needed in Enugu, WACOL or CIRRDOC would carry out the advocacy. Programmes such as Raising Her Voice (RHV) helped enormously in promoting synergy and increasing the effectiveness of groups working on VAW across the country.  So, pooling resources together helped LACVAW move forward even without funding.
viii. Government Agencies: The major advantage LACVAW had with the government agencies is that they have the mandate on issues of women affairs in Nigeria. So the consistent commitment of Ministry of Justice, National Bureau of Statistics and Federal Ministry of Women Affairs, particularly Directors of Women’s Affairs, also helped in the passage of the VAPP Act. The previous Minister for Women’s Affairs played a critical role, even though this was not visible to the public.
ix. The presence of an institutional framework (The Gender Technical Unit - GTU) that engaged the National Assembly helped in the passage of the VAPP Act. The GTU itself was the outcome of a WRAPA project and the work of the Gender and Affirmative Action (GAA) Coalition.
x. Development Partners such as Justice4All, UN Women, Ipas, Unicef, UNFPA, actively supported all the processes that led to the successful passage of the VAPP Act.
 

High and low moments:

i. Low moments – only getting as far as gazetting the Bill by 2003. We had seriously underestimated how long the legislative process could take, with such a Bill. And by 2011, we had still not had our Bill passed by the lower legislative chamber, the House of Representatives.
ii. High moments – getting the Bill passed by the House of Representatives on the 14th of March 2013. There then followed a delay of over a year, just getting the Bill to move from the House of Representatives to the Senate, which also needed to pass the Bill.
iii. Tense moments – between the 5th of May 2015, when the Senate passed the Bill, and the 25th of May 2015, the date that the President finally signed the Bill into law. The Bill passed by the Senate differed in a number of ways from that passed by the House. The differences had to be reconciled by a conference committee comprised of members of the relevant committees in both the House of Reps. and the Senate. Only after the report of the conference committee had been adopted by both chambers of the National Assembly and a clean copy sent to the Legal Department for authentication, could the Clerk of the National Assembly send the Bill to the President for signing. The President’s Assent to the Bill was essential for it to be passed into law.   

Allies in this journey

Some of the strategies employed by LACVAW in ensuring the passage of the VAPP Act include:
i. The Media: The campaign for the VAPP Bill escalated due to the involvement of the media, especially in 2009 during the 16 days activism on Violence Against Women. The media were trained by CSOs on reporting VAW cases and the improved media and growth of the social media helped and gave it a push. By 2011, the reportage by victims and survivors of VAW went up and the stigmatization went down.
ii. High Level and Low Level advocacy campaign to major stakeholders in Nigeria: LACVAW carried out several courtesy and advocacy visits to the major stakeholders including the leadership of the Senate and House of Representatives, the Chairman and Clerks of several Committees at the Senate and House of Representatives.
iii. Social media utilization. The campaign developed a website (www.nigeriacountdown.org) designed by a LACVAW partner at a highly subsidized cost. This leveraged on the potentials of the social media’s wide reach that increased the demand for the speedy passage of the Bill. The website consisted of a twitter page, Pinterest account, GBV video, Youtube link etc. Signatures for the support of the bill were collected and used as an advocacy tool with outcomes that included an increased demand and support for the bill, as well as popularized the bill both within and outside Nigeria.
iv. Massive use of bulk messaging with one of the major telecommunication providers in Nigeria. This channel was focused on placing pressure on the Parliamentarians with daily and weekly messaging on GBV Status information, the content of the bill, and appeals for support towards its passage.
v. Recruitment and partnership of male champions in the advocacy to support the Act
vi. Working with the institutions of religion and culture including traditional and religious leaders and religious groups to get their support on the VAPP Act. 
vii. Technical support to the Committees working on the VAPP Act at the National Assembly: LACVAW provided technical support to the Committee on Judiciary, human rights and legal matters, to produce a report of the public hearing. This was done to ensure the third reading of the Bill; and LACVAW also provided support to the House Conference Committee Report Drafting Session on the VAPP Bill to assist in harmonising the Bill as passed by the Senate and the House of Representatives to ensure the transmission of the Bill to the president for his assent.
viii. Resource Management (Technical, Human and Finance): In the beginning, LACVAW was funded by MacArthur Foundation. But after the funding stopped, LACVAW utilized the technical and human resources of its member’s organizations. The member organizations had their different areas of expertise, which LACVAW utilized to achieve its aim. For example, if advocacy was needed in Enugu, WACOL or CIRRDOC would carry out the advocacy. Programmes such as Raising Her Voice (RHV) helped enormously in promoting synergy and increasing the effectiveness of groups working on VAW across the country.  So, pooling resources together helped

LACVAW move forward even without funding.

ix. Government Agencies: The major advantage LACVAW had with the government agencies is that they have the mandate on issues of women affairs in Nigeria. So the consistent commitment of Ministry of Justice, National Bureau of Statistics and Federal Ministry of Women Affairs, particularly Directors of Women’s Affairs, also helped in the passage of the VAPP Act. The previous Minister for Women’s Affairs played a critical role, even though this was not visible to the public.
x.  The inclusion of high and strategic actors within the faith and culture constituencies as advocates and sensitizers on the imperative of supporting the bill.
xi. The presence of an institutional framework (The Gender Technical Unit – GTU managed by WRAPA, then the secretariat of the Coalition) that engaged the National Assembly helped in the passage of the VAPP Act. The GTU itself was the outcome of a WRAPA project and the work of the Gender and Affirmative Action (GAA) Coalition.

3 pieces of advice would you give to other women’s rights organisations, groups or coalitions seeking to undertake a similar journey

i. Involve as many women’s rights groups as possible from the outset in determining the content of a Bill prohibiting violence against women. This is not only to include offences that are specific to the context but also to strengthen the process of building a women’s rights coalition that will feel a sense of ‘ownership’ of the Bill.
ii. Understand the political context within which the legislature operates, so as to anticipate, if possible, when obstacles might occur and whose support might be needed to address them.
iii. Understand the legislative system in your context very well – is it a federal or unitary legislature? Work out potential allies and resisters in the legislature and develop relationships with strategic members at all levels. This includes not only elected members (politicians) but staff as well.
iv. Identify and generate relationships with the structures of supply and demand actors. In particular, the Chairs and Secretaries of key legislative committees as well as the clerks and desk officers of ministries and agencies. This is to preserve and utilize institutional memory to make all the difference in the entire legislative journey.
v. Recognise and nurture strategic alliances with men and institution of faith and culture.  

Memorable quotes

“Thank you and keep it up. Through your SMS, we know what is happening   in the country. This is a good initiative and we support the (VAPP) Bill” Dec.2012: A Member, Federal House of House of Representatives, Nigeria responding to Bulk SMS advocacy for the passage of the VAPP Bill

‘‘Distinguished Committee Chairman and Members, this is the Last Lap in a 12 year relay race between responsibility and obligation to protect the weak and vulnerable in your constituencies. It is the Last Lap in a race against time, as we all are aware of what time is left for the 7th Assembly. It is indeed a Last Lap in a race between moral conscience and constitutional responsibility to fulfil the essence of governance………’’  2nd March 2015: WRAPA Secretary General to Senators at Public Hearing on the VAPP) Bill (HB191) 2014 following which it was passed and later assented to by Nigeria’s President on 25th May 2015

Next steps?

i. Advocacy: Over the last 14 years, considerable advocacy has been carried out so henceforth, our advocacy has to be targeted and of high quality. Constituencies of particular interest include: lawyers, so that they understand how to use the law; media, to continue publicising issues of VAW; sensitisation of community platforms. Advocacy targeted at young people is also important - on provisions of the Bill, their meanings and implications, in order to promote social media activism.
ii. Simplification and popularization of the Act in different Nigerian languages
iii. Legal Opinion: Brainstorming session with lawyers to bring out the scope of the Act, to advise us and bring out the confines of the Law.
iv. Strategic Litigation: What is important here is to get NGOs to bring out case files that can be tested. Once the court makes pronouncements, lawyers can use these as precedents and they become law.
v. Disaggregation of the VAPP Act stating the responsibilities and obligations of state and non-state actors so that it will be clear who is responsible for what and all partners are clear on what they can do on the Act. Key activities include appropriation; the role of CSOs; which agencies comprise service providers; who are the response institutions for protection providers.

Journey towards the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act 2015 – Nigeria
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