By Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani
ABUJA, Nov 27 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Employers must use Nigeria's new national sex offenders register to vet their staff for it to succeed and the public must be made aware that it exists, rights activists said on Wednesday.
The online database will contain the names of people convicted of sexual offences since 2015, and will be free to access. For a fee, people can also see the names of people with ongoing cases in court.
"Imagine if the local woman in your village understands the importance of this register and the (Parent Teacher Association) in every school convinces their school to vet every staff," said Dorothy Njemanze, whose charity works with survivors of abuse.
"It will be a major deterrent, even to those people who are fond of saying that an erect penis has no conscience," said Njemanze, head of the Dorothy Njemanze Foundation, which uses entertainment to teach the public how to get justice for abuse.
The register, launched on Monday, has been widely hailed as an important step towards ending sexual violence in Nigeria, which often goes unreported as victims fear they will be stigmatised and fail to secure a conviction.
One in 10 women in Nigeria have experienced physical or sexual violence at the hands of an intimate partner in the last 12 months, according to UN Women, and mass abductions and rape have been a feature of a decade of conflict in the northeast.
"It's all about us being willing to use that register," Itoro Eze-Anaba, founder of the Mirabel Centre in Lagos, which provides free medical and psychosocial support to survivors of rape and sexual assault, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
"The government has done its bit, but if we don't provide information that is needed and make use of the information that is provided by that register, it won't be useful to anybody."
Eze-Anaba said companies should make systematic use of the register to check on job candidates before they are employed.
Lagos State established a similar register about five years ago, but Eze-Anaba said she did not believe it had been particularly effective or used regularly by employers.
The Lagos State Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Team, which handles the register, was not immediately available for comment.
Njemanze said she was committed to educating the public about the new register.
"Imagine the beauty of it if the local mechanic is talking about it and knows that there is something like a sex offenders register," she said.
(Reporting by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani; Editing by Katy Migiro. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)
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