By Joy Okoli
Women in Maritime Journalism (WIMAJ), has condemned in strong terms the incessant cases of rape and violence against women in Nigeria, calling also for organisations in the maritime industry to prioritise the enforcement of laws and policies that protect women against sexual violence.
WIMAJ, in a press release signed by its Chairperson, Mrs Ezinne Azunna stated that recent national discussions on putting an end to rape and sexual violence against women must take into cognisance occurrences of sexual harassment and abuse at the workplace, even as it tasked organisations to ensure that people found culpable are punished according to law.
It said there are reports pointing to experiences of sexual harassment and abuse of females who work in the industry, especially seafarers who many times have to stay onboard vessels working for months.
According to WIMAJ, organisations and victims “must shun the culture of silence, inaction and cover-ups” if such ugly incidents will be stopped, adding that irrespective of the gender, no human being should be sexually exploited.
The group said there is an urgent need to ensure that individuals found guilty of rape are given stiffer punishments, regardless of their positions in the society and called on agencies in the maritime sector to come public with bold policies on sexual abuse as silence often encourage predators.
It also noted that “seafarers have been victims of rape perpetrated by pirates who hijack vessels and hold crews hostage”.
The association asked, “Government to expedite action for the implementation of the Deep Blue Project embarked through the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) as it is expected that the project would effectively tackle sea piracy, and ensure the safety of lives at sea.”
The group frowned at situations where rape victims who suffer severe psychological trauma, are stigmatised while the perpetrators walk freely in the society unpunished, and pledged support for victims who would speak out.
“Rape and sexual violence are criminal offences and should not be swept under the carpet. Victims must be encouraged to speak out. Agencies must show that the industry is not weak in this regard and will fully implement policies and laws that protect workers.
“The Nigerian Police must also be ready to carry out thorough unbiased investigations to rid the society of this evil”, WIMAJ stated.