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SEXUAL AND REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH AND RIGHTS (SRHR) VIOLATIONS OF SEXUAL MINORITIES

By Doris U Innocent Esq

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Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights or SRHR is the concept of human rights applied to sexuality and reproduction and these rights are protected by international laws. SRHR guarantees a number of rights to individuals, some of these rights are; The right to equality and non-discrimination, the right to life, liberty and security of the person, the right to autonomy and bodily integrity, the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, the right to be free from all forms of violence and coercion, the right to privacy, the right to the highest attainable standard of health, including sexual health; with the possibility of pleasurable, satisfying, and safe sexual experiences. In our society today, there are sexual minority groups which these laws seek to protect and among them are the Sexual minorities.

The concept of Sexual minorities is fairly new to our continent Africa and our country Nigeria. It is proven that man fights and opposes anything he is not familiar with. The concept is alien to our society’s tradition, culture, religion and beliefs. Thus the concept is met with hostility and adverse opposition. Most communities are part of the sexual minority groups presently, in Nigeria. Due to the peculiar nature of their circumstance, Sexual minorities suffer a lot of Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) violations in the hands of members of the society. The passage of the Same-Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Bill (SSMPA) 2014 into law in Nigeria has heightened the rate of violations suffered by members. Over the years many of these groups have experienced homophobic stigma, discrimination and violence. This has driven sexual minorities to hide their identity and sexual orientation. Many fear a negative reaction from members of the society. Reports of indiscriminate arrests by law enforcement officers were also made from different parts of the country. These acts of injustice, discrimination and violence have led to the intervention of some civil society organizations in ensuring that the human rights of these affected persons are protected. It has also led to the rise of the SRHR movement in the country, which has consequently led to the nationwide awareness and sensitization programs held by different Civil Society Organizations (CSOs). This write up is aimed at giving you credible information on the SRHR violations of communities in Nigeria.

In partnership with AmplifyChange, Lawyers Alert an NGO, in the last two years has been monitoring and documenting Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights violations in Nigeria. Within these two years, they have released findings on these rights violations with regard to the sexual minorities. Their findings are published and updated every six months. Their reports can be found at http://www.lawyersalertng.org/res.php

This documentation is done via their online tool styled “LadockT” http://colahr.org/lawyersalert/index.php  which automatically analyzes these violations across locations with regard to State and Local Government.

It is important to note that, as it relates to Nigeria as a geographical entity, the findings here may not represent the entire facts nationally. The project that birthed this tool is focused in 12 states.

Nevertheless, these findings are critical owing to their veracity and mode of collation.

Based on the analysis on communities, Ikeja in Lagos State has the highest reported violation rate, followed by Kosofe in the same Lagos State, while Gboko in Benue State ranks third on violation rate. Damban in Bauchi State and Gwagwalada in the Federal Capital Territory both rank forth. Lastly Biu in Bornu State ranks the least with regards to MSM violation rate.

On the analysis of age range with regards to these groups, 25-40 years and 20-24 year both have the highest violation rate with 38% while 10-19 years with 24%.

Information gotten from the Lawyers Alert’s tool shows the report of violations as regard to the group, within the time range ( July, 2017 – April, 2019) 20-24 years and 25-40 years has been leading age group in the increase to reported violations in local government areas in States, followed closely by 10 – 19 years age group. From the tool it is also shown that, Physical abuse and Verbal Abuse have the highest reported violation rate with 13%. Followed closely by Emotional Abuse having 12%, Blackmailing and Sexual Expression both rank third with 11% each. Personal Security and Freedom to Associate both rank fourth with 10% respectively. Forced Detention has 7%, Freedom of Movement and Economic Abuse both have 6% each. Quality Healthcare has 4%, Harassment has 3%. Privacy has 2%, Sexual Exploitation and Rape both have the least amount with 1% each. These facts are stated more clearly in the table below.

VIOLATION TYPES – MSM JULY 2017 APRIL 2019
Physical Abuse 13%
Rape 1%
Verbal Abuse 13%
Harassment 3%
Emotional Abuse 12%
Freedom to Associate 10%
Economic Abuse 6%
Blackmailing 11%
Privacy 2%
Freedom of Movement 6%
Quality Healthcare 4%
Sexual Expression 11%
Personal Security 10%
Forced detention 7%
Sexual Exploitation. 1%

 

It is hoped that this document will help to highlight the dangers of communities exposed to. It should also be stated that the data represented in this report is based only on that obtained from the Lawyers Alert online portal. It is important to note that, all violations recorded were verified. Flowing from all of the above it is clear that members of  communities, are beginning to speak up and that the society is becoming a more SRHR conscious one with regard to communities. Nevertheless, there is still need for more awareness programs as many victims of these violations are still stuck in their shells and many more members of the society need to be enlightened.

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WHEN THE ANOINTED GOT TOUCHED

By Devaan M. Mom

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Busola Dakolo’s decision to call her pastor out could not have been an easy one. She is after all, a successful professional photographer, married to one of Nigeria’s prominent musicians, and the incident occurred many years ago.

Her accusation came a few weeks after her husband, Timi Dakolo’s allegations of sexual misconduct meted to female members of the church by the same pastor, Biodun Fatoyinbo.

Biodun Fatoyinbo came to most Nigerians’ consciousness in 2013 when salacious allegations were made about him by a female member of his church who claimed to have been in an extra-marital affair with the founder of the upcoming (at the time) Pentecostal church, the Commonwealth of Zion Assembly, COZA.

Dapper, young, charismatic and good-looking, Nigerians were more sympathetic to the pastor whom it was assumed by most had fallen prey to some Delilah determined to bring him to ruin and pull the church down. Indeed, there are those who opine that the scandal served to make both pastor and church even more popular and sought after.

So, it was with a sense of unease and dismay that many read Timi Dakolo’s allegations when they first hit social media in June 2019. Still, many gave Fatoyinbo the benefit of the doubt. That debate was still being whispered around when Busola, Timi’s wife dropped her own bombshell. Apparently, this same pastor had raped her in her parents’ home when she was just 17 years old. One can only imagine that the constant allegations of sexual impropriety levelled against him by a staggering number of women, mostly members of his church, brought back memories which spurred Busola to pitch in her 2 cents to give credibility to the stories.

It seems to have worked.

Suddenly a tsunami engulfed social media, particularly Twitter and Facebook, as more people watched the revealing interview on Youtube and drew their conclusions. However, if Pastor Fatoyinbo of COZA had hoped to weather the storm as usual, it seemed Nigerians and particularly women weren’t having it this time around. In less than 48 hours a peaceful protest was organized and held at the church premises in Abuja and Lagos, 2 of Nigeria’s biggest cities.

COZA’s attempt at a pushback, having the Church premises cordoned off by state security agents, hiring random strangers to stage a counter protest, only outraged Christians and served to rouse scorn and deepen suspicion. The hue and cry would not die down this time and the church had to get Pastor Fatoyinbo to step down (even if temporarily) and yet there are still those insisting on litigation.

Described as a serial rapist, many on social media claim he has a history spanning back to his time before he became a pastor and speak of how he left Ilorin, Kwara state in a dust cloud of sexual impropriety including statutory rape, abortions, and getting kicked out of university. They insist his relocation to Abuja was an attempt to remake his image which has since fallen through owing to the constant trail of the same kinds of allegations.

His wife, Modele Fatoyinbo, who handled service the Sunday after the scandal, defended her husband. A bit of an irony really, since several of the women speaking up claim he blames his behavior on her inability to satisfy his sexual desires.

The sexual scandals COZA has found itself engulfed in are not new to the Christian faith. The Catholic church, the biggest Christian institution in the world, is currently in the process of reconciliation and healing after thousands of faithful brought such allegations against priests spanning many decades. The Anglican church had to deal with a split when it took the controversial decision to ordain gay priests, a stand the African arm of the church refused to accommodate. Every now and again, the random randy pastor is named though hardly ever shamed and life goes on.

However, what makes this situation stand out is the instant mass action embarked upon especially by non-COZA members to try to get the situation redressed. It serves as a watershed in the history of the church in Nigeria and indeed the culture of silence and shame which generally attends such occurrences. For one thing, it makes evident the fact that Nigerians are no longer willing to look away when clergymen are accused of sexual impropriety in any form as was the case in times past. Many challenged Christian regulatory bodies such as the Christian Association of Nigerian CAN, and the Pentecostal Federation of Nigeria PFN, to speak up. Both have since condemned the act while calling for investigations and also revealing that COZA is not registered with either of them.

The public uproar, however, has served the purpose of ensuring COZA’s postponement of a planned weeklong church activity tagged, “7 days of Glory”. These are remarkable achievements as far as holding the Church to account goes. It is also an indication that Nigerian women are finally finding voice and losing shame where rape stories are concerned.

There are still several people who disbelieve Busola’s story and wonder why it took her so long to raise the issue, despite the number of women who have chimed in since the story broke. The Pastor still has a strong fan base within and without his church.

Pastor Dave Ogbole wrote, to the ire of many, on his Facebook page, “My loyalty is stronger than correctness. I run to the battle right or wrong, we never leave a comrade alone in battle. It is one for all, all for one. I stand with Biodun Fatoyinbo, I am Bidoun Fatoyinbo”, following which he also promptly got called out for similar conduct by a certain Nguter Uja.

Also, in support of Pastor Fatoyinbo were the following Twitter accounts, with @funshographix tweeting: “It’s pure lies that Jesus was born through holy spirit (sic), God actually raped another man’s wife to birth Jesus Christ, Pastor Biodun was just following God’s steps.” Yet another tweep, @RenoOmokri described Busola’s account of the rape as being totally without merit. Tweeps like @DrJoeAbah, @Omojuwa, @BukkyShonibare, @Adeola, @AuduMaikori however, had a different perspective and kept the debate alive on Twitter.

Shortly after the video was publicized, Pastor Fatoyinbo, wrote a strongly worded rebuttal in which he threatened to take legal action to clear his name. Many on social media do hope the matter goes to court to reach a resolution on the matter. Twitter account @AyodejiOsowobi appeared to be soliciting for complaints of a similar nature perhaps in hopes of carrying out a class action or having other victims willing to testify should the matter go to court. As at the time of writing this article, her request had generated almost 10,000 likes and been retweeted by over 12,000 tweeps.

Should this action actually follow through, and an investigation is carried out, regardless of what is ultimately uncovered regarding Pastor Fatoyinbo’s guilt or otherwise, it would have served to send a very strong message to sexual predators that the days of shameful silence are over.

 

Devaan Mom is a journalist, development worker and politician. She writes from Abuja.

 

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HIV Criminalization Cases Recorded in 72 Countries, Including 49 in the Last Four Years.

By Arasa Network

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HIV criminalization continues: a global review has found that HIV-related arrests, investigations, prosecutions and convictions have ever occurred in at least 72 countries, with recent cases occurring in 49 countries, including 14 in which the law appeared to be applied for the first time.

The HIV Justice Network’s review concerns cases in which either the criminal or similar law is applied to people living with HIV based on HIV-positive status, either via HIV-specific criminal statutes (29 countries), general criminal or similar laws (37 countries), or both (6 countries). Such laws typically criminalize non-disclosure of HIV status to a sexual partner, potential or perceived exposure to HIV, or transmission of HIV.

HIV criminalization “is a pervasive illustration of how state-sponsored stigma and discrimination works against a marginalized group of people with immutable characteristics,” says HIV Justice Network. “As well as being a human rights issue of global concern, HIV criminalization is a barrier to universal access to HIV prevention, testing, treatment and care.”

Between October 2015 and December 2018, at least 913 people living with HIV were arrested, prosecuted, convicted or acquitted in 49 countries. The largest numbers of cases were reported in the Russian Federation (at least 314 cases), Belarus (249), United States (158), Ukraine (29), Canada (27), Zimbabwe (16), Czech Republic (15), United Kingdom (13), France (12) and Taiwan (11).

To estimate where the criminal law appears to be disproportionately applied, the researchers analyzed the number of known recent cases according to the estimated number of diagnosed people living with HIV in a country. They identified 15 criminalization hotspots: countries in which the number of cases was equal to or greater than 0.5 in 10,000 per capita of diagnosed individuals.

  • Belarus (139 in 10,000)
  • Czech Republic (55 in 10,000)
  • New Zealand (10 in 10,000)
  • Canada (4 in 10,000)
  • Sweden (4 in 10,000)
  • Russian Federation (3 in 10,000)
  • Taiwan (3 in 10,000)
  • Ukraine (2 in 10,000)
  • Australia (2 in 10,000)
  • Switzerland (2 in 10,000)
  • England and Wales (1 in 10,000)
  • Kazakhstan (1 in 10,000)
  • United States (1 in 10,000)
  • France (0.8 in 10,000)
  • Italy (0.5 in 10,000)

Their analysis suggests that recent HIV criminalization cases do not reflect the demographics of local epidemics, with the likelihood of prosecution exacerbated by discrimination against marginalized populations on the basis of drug use, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, immigration status, sex work and/or sexuality. Cases in the United States also appear to disproportionately impact people already in the purview of the criminal justice system, such as prisoners, and people living in poverty, including homeless people, with a high number of cases related to ‘HIV exposure’ via biting or spitting during arrest or whilst incarcerated.

Recent reports of increased numbers of cases in sub-Saharan Africa and in Eastern Europe and Central Asia illustrate what advocates have long-feared: that women are more likely to be prosecuted (and less likely to have adequate legal representation), since they are often the first in a relationship to know their status as a result of routine HIV testing during pregnancy, and are less likely to be able to safely disclose their HIV-positive status to their partner due to gendered power inequalities. Women with HIV also face the possibility of being prosecuted for passing HIV on to their child during pregnancy, birth or breastfeeding.

In addition, migrants from high HIV prevalence regions (such as sub-Saharan Africa and eastern Europe) appear to be disproportionately prosecuted in Canada, northern and western Europe and Australasia, and usually have limited access to adequate legal representation. Non-citizens are also likely to be deported to their country of origin after serving their sentence even if they have family ties in their adopted country.

HIV-specific laws continue to exist in at least 75 countries, including many countries in sub-Saharan Africa (29 countries) and eastern Europe and Central Asia (18).

Advocacy Success

Nonetheless, during the period covered by the report, promising developments in case law, law reform and policy have occurred, most often as a direct result of advocacy from individuals and organizations working to end the inappropriate use of the criminal law to regulate and punish people living with HIV.

HIV-specific laws have been repealed in Victoria, Australia and in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The latter decision followed eight years of effective civil society lobbying and nurturing of supportive parliamentarians.

There have been promising developments in case law, law reform and policy, most often as a direct result of advocacy.

Laws have been modernized in seven jurisdictions. For example, Belarus’ law previously made exposure of HIV a crime, regardless of disclosure of HIV status, condom use or whether the sexual partner wanted the prosecution to take place. As a result of advocacy by the community organization People PLUS, the government announced in December 2018 that a person with HIV will no longer be held criminally liable for HIV exposure or transmission if they disclose their HIV-positive status and their partner consents.

The US state of Colorado used to hand out longer sentences to individuals convicted of sex work, solicitation of a sex work or rape, if that person had been diagnosed with HIV at the time of the offence. Following several years of researching, consulting, organising, lobbying and negotiating by a coalition of campaigners, these laws were changed in 2016. The sex work provisions were removed, while the tougher sentences for HIV-positive individuals convicted of rape were somewhat lessened.

Other jurisdictions modernizing their laws in recent years are Switzerland, Norway, California, Michigan and North Carolina.

Several proposed laws have been withdrawn. In Malawi, a proposed law was initially welcomed by feminists, but perceptions of the law’s impact changed after consultations between legal activists and grassroots networks of women living with HIV, examining the legislation in detail. As it became clear to local women how the vague provisions on ‘willful transmission’ could play out in their lives, they decided to take up advocacy against it and the parliament withdrew that part of the law.

International activists facilitated the development of Mexican network of 44 civil society organizations (La Red Mexicana), which has had several successes, including the withdrawal of proposed laws in three Mexican states and the country’s supreme court declaring a law in Veracruz to be unconstitutional. A proposed law has also been withdrawn in Brazil and a Kenyan statute ruled to be unconstitutional.

In addition, precedent-setting cases in Finland, Germany, Greece, Italy, Sweden and Morocco have the potential to limit the overly broad application of the law through the recognition of up-to-date HIV-related science on the real risks of transmission.

Reference

Cameron S & Bernard EJ. Advancing HIV Justice 3: Growing the global movement against HIV criminalisation. HIV Justice Network, Amsterdam, May 2019. (Report).

 

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THE RESONANCE OF ALBINISM

By Kyenpya Katkuk Esq

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As a 9 year old I had a problem with the colour of my skin because I was constantly bullied by a certain boy who was always calling me “blacky” everyday on our way back from school.  His constant name calling and taunting got me thinking there was something wrong with my skin.  Fast forward to my college year, I had a course mate who happened to be an albino. I realised she barely had friends around her and she was constantly avoided by people. Inspite of her plight, she was extremely smart, outspoken and very confident of which I admired so much.  This got me thinking about albinos whenever I’d come in contact with them, I resonate with their insecurities and the discrimination they face by virtue of their skin colour but I also can see that its no fault of theirs, and they have as much to offer to the world as every other person. These are people that are endowed with gifts, talents and abilities of which can be of great help to anybody, establishment or community.

 

Albinism is a genetic condition, which has been profoundly misunderstood and has led to various forms of stigma. The sad part about albinism is the constant dehumanization, physical attacks or killings due to the perception that they are magical beings and so their body parts can be used for witchcraft rituals particularly in certain parts of eastern Africa. Some persons also share beliefs that the condition can be physically transferred.

 

This brings me home to where it has been discovered by UNICEF that there is an estimated number of 2 million albinos living in Nigeria. With this population, Nigeria has one of the highest albinism prevalence rates in the world, with children constituting about 40% of the estimated 2 million albino’s.  Children with albinism are the most vulnerable of all children. Their situation is further compounded by the fact that they are the most susceptible to skin cancer due to their delicate skin type. Quite a number of albino children are not in school because of visual impairment, discrimination from other children and social exclusion as a result of their skin.

There is significant ignorance amongst families and communities and sometimes the rationale is that parents of children with albinism should not enrol their children because of the belief that educating such a child is a waste of resources.

Furthermore, the inability to see the classroom board from their desks leaves most of them frustrated and puts pressure on them to drop out of school. As a result, a lot of albinos do not have the full social or economic tools to live productive lives and some lack the confidence to compete favorably with others in the labor market and therefore rarely reach their full potential. Conversely, both the individual and the country suffer because the skills of an albino person are not being tapped for the greater goal.

Conclusively, there is a need to address the challenges of persons living with albinism in homes, schools and communities to create adequate awareness educate the public as to the fact that albinism is not a disability but a genetic condition and should not be a ground for discrimination. Albinism should not be undermined by governments and there should be a social welfare policy for the care of persons with albinism. Policy makers should be involved in ameliorating challenges faced by persons living with albinism.

 

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THE CLASS ACT OF THE 8TH BENUE ASSEMBLY AND THE VAPP LAW

By Jerome Uneje

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“Hmmm…Torkwase my sister, so it’s true that everything about the domestication of the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act (VAPPA) is finally done and dusted! Hah…the glory of the 8th Benue Assembly and the Governor will never be erased from the memory of the Benue people o! At least vulnerable and indigent women, children and even men will benefit greatly with this VAPP Act as assented to in Benue State. The two Women smile and lean their backs against the wall at the same time.

The most recently rattled and misconstrued Law has finally seen the limelight. Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Bill like other bills presented to the National Assembly became a Law in May, 2015 and it seems to have overshadowed all other instruments and laws in Nigeria regarding the prohibition of all forms of discrimination against persons regardless of their sex and/or gender. This instrument enshrines the concerns and needs of vulnerable and indigent women including men and other groups who often fall victims of violence in Nigeria.

The Law which is applicable only at the  Federal Capital Territory had left the option to States at the Sub National level to domesticate the law in their respective States or otherwise. However it became imperative for the Law to be domesticated at the sub-national level especially in States such as Benue where on a daily basis, newspaper headlines are awash with killings, rape or maiming, particularly of spouse and/or lovers by husbands or man-lover, or rape of even minors like the case of Ochanya, who died from a gradual torture of rape by her so-called uncle and his son in Ugbokolo, Benue State and that of a young woman that was strangled to death by her husband for denying him sex in Plateau State and every 1 out of 3 women and/or young girls who suffer violence daily. All of those necessitated the propagation of the campaigning and advocacy for the VAPP Act to be domesticated in the State.

Be that as it may, the VAPP Law among other things has strengthened advocacy against rape, Female Genital Mutilation, partner battery, stalking, harmful widowhood practices by State Actors while prohibiting all forms of violence, including physical, sexual, psychosomatic, domestic, harmful traditional practices; discrimination against persons and to provide maximum protection and effective remedies for victims and punishment of offenders.  In as much as this all powerful legislation instrument has provided for the above, it has also initiated positive innovations such as prohibiting persons from being forcefully isolated or separated from their family and friends and preventing widows from being subject to harmful traditional practices. It has even gone ahead to provide for a Commission of Violence Against Women which will be responsible for the general supervision of the Bill while a Victim of Violence Trust Fund will be established to provide and manage victims of violence. Under the Trust Fund, rehabilitation programmes, shelters and rape centers will be provided to cater for victims of violence. This indeed is a huge and robust fortification especially for victims of violence.

The positive effect of this Law is overwhelmingly amazing as prior to this law only women could be raped as approved in other legal materials and in the true definition of the word ‘rape’ as well as penetration of the vagina and for this sole reason, only women could be said to be raped. However, this Law now provides that a man can also fall victim of rape. VAPPA is the first piece of legislation in Nigeria which recognises that men are capable of being raped and also recognizes that not only penetration of the vagina is acceptable. All other criminal statutes delineate the offence in relation to women.  The VAPP acknowledging that unlawful anal and/or oral sex can be rape and not sexual assault is therefore ground-breaking.

The above has truly shown that the Benue people at this point will be thoroughly protected by the appropriate application of this Law and in secure environment notwithstanding the degree and/or pedigree of persons involved in violations.

In conclusion, we express our warmest gratitude to the out gone 8th Benue Assembly for a great job well done. This singular act has demonstrated beyond every reasonable doubt that their tenure was people oriented and has therefore purged it of all shortcomings while the House lasted. We also commend the Executive Governor of Benue State His Excellency Samuel Ortom for his speedy action towards signing the bill into law. We also commend the doggedness of the Civil Society including FIDA, Lawyers Alert, The Civil Society Coalition in Benue, The Media and all other actors involved in the course of this struggle.

As the struggle continues, Torkwase and her friend Ada laugh out loud shake hands and stand up. They walk out of the room towards the door to catch up with a new day in a new Benue where the rights of Women and other vulnerable groups are fully protected under the Violence Against People Prohibition Act.

 

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1 DAY INTERACTIVE SESSION ON THE OPEN GOVERNMENT PARTNERSHIP (OGP)

HELD BY LAWYERS ALERT ON THE 17TH MAY 2019

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The Open Government Partnership (OGP) was formally launched on September 20, 2011 on the sidelines of a UN General Assembly meeting during which Heads of State from 8 founding governments (Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, Norway, Philippines, South Africa, United Kingdom, and the United States) endorsed the Open Government Declaration and announced their country action plans along with an equal number of civil society leaders.  The eight founding members also welcomed the commitment of 38 governments to join OGP. Since its creation, OGP has resulted in over 2,500 commitments made by 75 participating countries, covering a third of the world’s population. Nigeria joined the OGP as the 70th member in 2016, the OGP mechanism has been adopted by some states in Nigeria and it is working efficiently in those states. It is yet to be adopted and implemented in Benue state. Lawyers Alert alongside other CSOs and the Media, have  come together in a bid to form a coalition to advocate for the introduction of the  OGP and actions towards encouraging the state government adopting the OGP and developing a sub-national Action plan mechanism for Benue state.

Open Government Partnership is an international multi-stakeholder global coalition of reformers from government and civil society, working to make government transparent, participatory and accountable, to truly serve and empower citizens. The fundamental principles of OGP include:

Transparency: Information on government activities and decisions is open, comprehensive, timely and freely available to the public, and meets basic open standards.

Accountability: Rules, regulations and mechanisms are in place that calls upon government actors to justify their actions, act upon criticisms or requirements made of them and accept responsibility for failure to perform.

Citizenship Participation: Governments seek to mobilize citizens to engage in public debate, provide input and make contributions that lead to more responsive and effective governance.

Technology and Innovation: Governments embrace the importance of new technologies in driving innovation, providing citizens with open access to technology, and increasing their capacity to use technology.

OBJECTIVES:

At the end of this meeting, we are expected to achieve the following:

  • A clear cut understanding of what the OGP is and how it works
  • A Civil Society led movement towards having the Benue State Government sign up to the partnership
  • A road map towards successfully having the Benue State Government sign up to the OGP.

PROCEEDINGS:

The meeting which held on 17th May, 2019 at the Lawyers Alert head office Makurdi brought together members of the media and various civil society organizations in Makurdi. Among the participants were representatives from the Sun newspaper, Daily Trust newspaper, Elohim foundation and Angel Support foundation.The President of Lawyers Alert Mr. Rommy Mom defined Open Government Partnership as the government and civil society coming together to run governance as equal partners in an open and transparent way. He also spoke on the roles of the civil society organizations and the government in OGP, using the OGP at the national level as an example; stating that both the government and the civil society have equal co-chairs on the OGP committee. He also spoke about the numerous advantages, which the implementation of OGP in Benue state would bring to the citizenry and the government. The Programs Director, Mr Lazarus Ahangba spoke onengaging the Benue state government on the OGP and led a very interactive session where an action plan was developed by the participants in ensuring government buy in and eventual signing up. Agreements were reached, meetings and deadlines set and persons responsible appointed. This meeting was essentially a startup meeting and with a larger strategic meeting to hold soon including capacity building sessions on understanding the OGP. Thereafter advocacy will commence on state actors and government.

WAY FORWARD:

  • Identify and meet some members of the transition committee to pitch the OGP to them as a proposal for the incoming government in June 2019.
  • Capacity building for CSO’s on OGP to equip them for advocacy on OGP.
  • Advocacy visits to state actors and non-state actors to urge to enhance the implementation of the OGP.

CONCLUSION:

The OGP movement start up meeting was a huge success because, participants ensured that the entire session was lively through their robust contributions and in put. We believe that Benue state is on the right path with regards to good governance and that the OGP movement will give more room for innovation, progress and the development of Benue state.

 

 

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SEXUAL AND REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH RIGHTS WITH RESPECT TO HIV VIOLATIONS

by Hwande Richard

HIV is an acronym for Human Immune deficiency Virus; it is a virus that lives in human blood, sexual fluids, and breast milk. It weakens the immune system, so the body has a hard time fighting off common germs, viruses, fungi, and other invaders. It spreads mainly through unprotected sexual contact and sharing needles.[1] The first two HIV cases in Nigeria were reported in 1986 at the international AIDS conference, over thirty years ago. Ever since then the statistics of People Living with HIV have grown, these statistics have been researched and recorded by different organizations and bodies. The most recent research results released on 14 March, 2019 indicates a national HIV prevalence in Nigeria of 1.4% among adults aged 15–49 years. Previous estimates had indicated a national HIV prevalence of 2.8%. UNAIDS and the National Agency for the Control of AIDS estimate that there are 1.9 million people living with HIV in Nigeria. At the national level, viral suppression among people living with HIV aged 15–49 years stands at 42.3% (45.3% among women and 34.5% among men). When people living with HIV are virally suppressed they remain healthy and transmission of the virus is prevented. The new data differentiates HIV prevalence by state, indicating an epidemic that is having a greater impact in certain areas of the country. The South-South zone of the country has the highest HIV prevalence, at 3.1% among adults aged 15–49 years. HIV prevalence is also high in the North Central zone (2.0%) and in the South East zone (1.9%). HIV prevalence is lower in the South West zone (1.1%), the North East zone (1.1%) and the North West zone (0.6%).[2]

The State of HIV/AIDS in Nigeria & Benue State:

HIV/AIDS has in its reign harvested for its self a trajectory of effects in its course.  These myriad of effects cuts across core areas including economic, socio-cultural, health and other effects combined. Persons living with HIV/AIDS (PLWH) over time have been subjected to humiliation, discrimination and stigmatization; which is a clear violation of their Sexual and reproductive health right. These violations can be traced to the trepidation of contacting the virus from the affected person. The citizenry, both individuals and government establishment were party to these violations; for example, Government hospital refusal to treat a person living with HIV/AIDS or a family refusal to allow a PLWH to sleep under the same roof with the entire family. PLWHAs were practically treated with disgust regardless of the awareness creation done by the government.  Many people living with HIV, who are in good health, will want to enjoy their sexual and reproductive health rights which provides them with equal opportunities with a person living without the virus. The unbearable situation of the PLWH community in the Nigeria society led to the clamour by Civil society organizations and Nongovernmental organizations both national and international for an Act prohibiting discrimination based on HIV status.

The Nigerian legislation in the year 2014 finally passed an Act titled HIV and AIDS (Anti-Discrimination) Act. Despite the enactment of the HIV and AIDS (Anti-Discrimination) Act, 2014, the Nigeria society still grapples with issues of discrimination and the violation of People Living with HIV. HIV is a health status and not a death sentence; people living with HIV are human beings and are not only entitled to their basic fundamental rights but also their health rights. They deserve to be loved, understood and valued. They deserve to be happy, dream, achieve their goals and lead their normal lives. They are also part of the human resources of our great country Nigeria and they deserve to have good paying jobs and job security. Over the years many victims of these violations previously had little or no support that ensured that they received justice and this situation was given little attention.  This piece seeks to appraise the violation reports of people living with HIV within the last two years using records from Lawyers Alert. This report encompasses violations in the last two years as it affects the above target group. Their documentation is made via their online tool styled “LadockT”http://colahr.org/lawyersalert/index.php  which automatically analyzes these violations across locations with regard to State and Local Government, age groups and type of violation; it also exhibits trends and gaps. Their reports can be found at http://www.lawyersalertng.org/res.php

The report shows that with regard to PLWH, the Abuja Municipal Area Council in the FCT reports the highest number of incidents, followed by Karu local government area in Nasarawa state. Akure East in Ondo State, Awka North in Anambra State, Ibadan South East in Oyo State, Kebbi in Kebbi State, Kwande in BenueState and Lagos Mainland in Lagos State all show the same violation rate.

 

From the report, Emotional Abuse shows the highest rate of violation with 20% followed by Verbal Abuse with 17%,Economic Abuse, Freedom to Associate and Housing have  8% each. While Employment and Physical Abuse have 6%.Confidentiality Breach, Blackmailing and Institute of Learning have 4% each followed by the least rate of violations which are Personal Security, Forced Detention, Harassment, Medical Test and Child Custody having 3% each.

VIOLATIONS JULY 2017 APRIL 2019 INCREASE DECREASE
Emotional Abuse 20% 20%
Verbal Abuse 16% 17% 1%
Economic Abuse 4% 8% 4%
Freedom to Associate 6% 8% 2%
Housing 8% 8%
Employment 4% 6% 2%
Physical Abuse 2% 6% 4%
Confidentiality Breach 6% 4% 2%
Blackmailing 4% 4%
Institute of Learning 6% 4% 2%
Personal Security 2% 3% 1%
Forced Detention 2% 3% 1%
Harassment 4% 3% 1%
Medical Test 4% 3% 1%
Child Custody 4% 3% 1%

Table. Showing Percentage increase and decrease of PLWH – Violations in the last two years.

From the table above we can see the increase and decrease of the reportage of various violations of People living with HIV. It is very important that every one wakes up and begin to respect each other’s Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights and report violations where they occur.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] https://www.webmd.com/hiv-aids/understanding-aids-hiv-basics#1

[2] https://reliefweb.int/report/nigeria/new-survey-results-indicate-nigeria-has-hiv-prevalence-14

 

 

Hwande Richard was a Legal Officer working with Lawyers Alert

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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