Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, has been named patron of Nigeria’s first sexual assault referral center in Lagos, the country’s largest city.
The Duchess, 74, has long campaigned against domestic abuse and sexual violence and said she is “delighted to become Patron of the Mirabel Center in Lagos,” which was founded in 2013 to support survivors of sexual assault.
“It is a truly trailblazing organization, supporting survivors of rape and sexual assault as they seek healing and justice,” she added. “Their vital work means that women need no longer suffer in silence and I am deeply grateful to all Mirabel’s wonderful staff and volunteers.”
The Duchess will be working with Nigerian and British Nigerian women to find ways to help the Mirabel Centre over the coming months, Clarence House said.
The center’s founder, Itoro Eze-Anaba, told CNN Tuesday the Mirabel Center provides free medical and psychosocial support services to survivors of sexual violence and has assisted over 6,000 people since it started eight years ago.
She said the youngest survivor they have helped was a 3-month-old baby and the oldest, an 80-year-old woman.
Eze-Anaba added that having the duchess as patron will, among other things, enable the organization to boost the work it does for survivors of sexual violence, who are often too afraid to speak out.
“It will raise awareness about the center, and the issue of rape in Nigeria. When we started in 2013, we were seeing between 20 to 30 clients in a month. Now we see at least 70, sometimes more than 100 clients in a month. This means that more people are having the confidence to speak out,” she said.
The Duchess of Cornwall became patron of the UK domestic abuse charity SafeLives last year.
“Sexual violence in Nigeria is rampant but shrouded in secrecy because of the stigma that is associated with it,” Eze-Anaba said.
A report by UN Women found that 30 percent of women and girls aged between 15 and 49 have experienced sexual abuse in Nigeria.
The report also found that gender-based violence had worsened during the Covid crisis.
Last month, the Lagos State Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Team (DSVRT) said at least 1,617 cases of sexual assault were recorded in the state between January and June this year.
The DSVRT further stated that more than 10,000 cases involving men, women, and children had been handled by the agency in the last two years.
“The current COVID-19 pandemic has further revealed the endemic nature of sexual violence. We have seen a huge number of children and women coming forward to report cases of sexual assault and rape,” Eze-Anaba said.