The Lagos State Government says religious leaders are crucial in the fight against domestic and sexual violence.
This was disclosed by the Executive Secretary of the Domestic and Sexual Violence Agency (DSVA), Titilola Vivour-Adeniyi.
She made the statement when about 200 key stakeholders comprising of Christian and Muslim clerics were engaged at the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) in the state capital, Ikeja to push the advocacy against DGBV through the pulpits.
According to Adeniyi, the 19-section booklet summarized the associated punishment for the offenders and highlighted sexual and domestic offenses.
Vivour-Adeniyi clarified that participants were required to go over the legislation in order to understand the nuances of the document and that the purpose of the Domestic Violence Act is to stop further acts of violence, which can only be accomplished by obtaining a restraining order.
She emphasised that religious leaders will use their pulpits to appeal to the consciences of their followers and persuade them to quit committing crimes, adding that religious leaders are important in forming belief systems and are typically the first responders when incidents of gender-based violence arise.
“Our mandate statutorily is to ensure we leave no one behind in our advocacy, so the way we are engaging religious clerics is the same way we engage other critical stakeholders like community leaders, traditional rulers and everyone that has a role to play in the community.
“The truth is that sexual and Gender-Based Violence is not a respecter of age, class, grade or religion, anybody can perpetrate it and can as well become a victim, so it is important to engage religious leaders from this perspective,” Vivour-Adeniyi said.
She added that “We know sometimes they serve as first responders whenever issues of Gender-Based violence are reported.
“It is important for us to let them know the relevant laws that exist and support services available that their congregation can take advantage of anytime the need arises.”
The DSVA secretary told the participants that there are 22 specialized police stations in the state that can be reached on these matters of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence, and that there are High courts and Magistrate courts are the appropriate courts for such issues.
Also speaking, the Presiding Chaplain, Chapel of Christ Delight Lagos State, Rev. Dr Oladele Ajayi, said the church has taken the lead in ensuring that several marriages that are on the verge of collapse due to all forms of abuse are saved.
“The reality is that we have this problem around and as a pastor we have seen so many issues on domestic violence, either complaints by a wife or husband. It could be emotional, financial or physical abuse at some point, we have to engage to the level of separation.
“We must continue to inform them about the laws of the land that can arrest anyone that perpetrate in any form of abuse and people should desist form stigmatising those that have come out to speak of being abused.”
According to the Chief Missioner of Nasirullahi-li-Fathi society (NASFAT), Imam Abdul Azeez Onike, who thanked the state government for the engagement, domestic violence goes beyond conflicts between men and women.
He added that Islam advocates calm and peaceful relationships between couples and condemns any actions that could endanger peaceful coexistence among people.