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VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN AND GIRLS; END MARRIAGE OF CHILDREN.

VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN AND GIRLS; END MARRIAGE OF CHILDREN.

Child marriage is one of the worst forms of child sexual abuse. Child marriage involves both physical and emotional abuse of the child. In some parts of Nigeria, girls marry only when they are considered ‘mature’, rather than when they attain a certain age. The signs of the supposed “maturity” include: menstruation; the ability to cook, to do household chores, and to manage their husband’s household. The challenge of child marriage in Nigeria is enormous due to its connection with social norms, culture, and religion. Social norms are deeply embedded in communities- affecting the decision-making of members of the committees.

Although early marriages are generally common in Nigeria, child marriage rates vary across the country; with the numbers higher in the northern, compared with the southern region. This is evident from the fact that communities where child marriages are prevalent regard Marriage as a thing of pride, and a young bride is encouraged to share responsibility with her family.

Causes of   early marriage

Poverty is a key driver of child marriage in most communities. On average; poorer households marry off their daughters between ages 12 to 18 years, earlier than stable households. Homes that lack resources to train the girl-child in school would rather marry her off to an interested suitor than have her progress in her educational pursuit. Some families regard training of a girl-child in school as a waste of scarce resources and girls from such backgrounds would rather be married off at an early age to a man with affluence that can alleviate the family from poverty.

Furthermore, an adolescent unmarried girl sitting at home is seen as a burden to her parents; not because they do not want to fend for her, but because they have to take care of her ‘dignity’ and ensure she is not defiled before marriage. In communities where girl child marriage is paramount, it is a big thing for a girl-child to “preserve her dignity’ before marriage.  There is an unfounded belief that when a girl is married off early, she does not have the opportunity to become promiscuous. This places a heavy societal burden on a young girl.  

Ills of early Marriage

Girls that marry at a very young age tend to have little knowledge about Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR), and limited access to its services. They are more likely to get pregnant early, putting them and their babies at risk of adverse health effects. Early pregnancy often leads to Vesicovaginal Fistula (VVF) or rectovaginal fistula (RVF) as these young girls give birth at a very young age when their bodies are not fit and mature enough to reproduce and deliver a child. Child marriage affects and violates the fundamental rights of women and girls.

Early marriage negatively affects boys as well as girls. Young men often struggle to secure a stable income leading to household poverty, stress and domestic violence. The attendant long-term financial burdens and economic dependence on a spouse increase the risk of physical and mental abuse inside the household. Gender inequality in Nigeria and the vulnerability of women provide a place for further abuse in the same conditions, as well as having fewer opportunities for economic gain. Vulnerability of women give room for more abuses with same having lesser chances of economic advantage.

Recently, a bill was passed by the National Assembly and a majority of senators voted for the marriage of girls from the age of 13 and unfortunately it was passed as a law in Nigeria. This means that if a girl is 13 years old, a man can propose marriage to her and her parents can decide to marry her off to an older man. This is sad, shocking, and disgraceful. While Some countries have moved forward in this regard, Nigeria is still backsliding when it comes to addressing the rights of women and girls.

The challenges of ending the menace of early marriage in Nigeria are attributed firstly to the fact that a number of our political leaders do not fully understand what a girl-child marriage really is. Besides, so many others are blinded by nepotism and religious sentiments. Secondly, communities with the prevalence of early marriage are not fully informed of the consequences of child marriage. The third challenge is that so many do not know the impact and importance of an educated woman in society.

In furtherance of the foregoing, members of the public need to be sensitized on the ills of child marriage and the importance of educating the girl-child. Furthermore, there is a need for a significant representation of the female gender in both the national and state levels of the public lives of the country. By this, the female gender would be able to lend a voice against child marriage and any form of gender violence in society.

Written By Peace Okeshola.

 

LAWYERS ALERT CONDEMNS THE KILLING OF FATIMA AND HER CHILDREN

LAWYERS ALERT CONDEMNS THE KILLING OF FATIMA AND HER CHILDREN

Lawyers Alert has condemned the gruesome killing of pregnant Fatima and her four children by so-called unknown gunmen.

Fatima who was pregnant was reportedly killed alongside her four children at Isulo, Orumba North Local Government Area of Anambra state by some gunmen.

This act is inhumane and there is no justification whatsoever for it.

It is quite sad to see that the country is contending with insecurity and a series of other crises which are leading to serious loss of lives and properties.

Lawyers Alert wishes to state for the umpteenth time that the taking of lives without the judicial process can never be justified.

The seeming division of the country along tribal and religious lines is most unfortunate.

We can only urge the various governments to double their efforts at stabilizing the country and stemming the tide of insecurity that is currently prevalent.

Finally Lawyers Alert urges individuals and groups all over the country to embrace peace and oneness.

Lawyers Alert is a National Human Rights NGO that caters for the vulnerable and seeks a democratic Nigeria where the weakest are treated with respect and the dignity of the human person.

Lawyers Alert has offices in Makurdi, Benue State and the FCT with members across the country.

Signed:

Bamidele Jacobs,

Director Legal.

 
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Posted by on June 2, 2022 in Human Rights

 

THE IMPACT OF TB ON WOMEN AND CHILDREN IN NIGERIA

THE IMPACT OF TB ON WOMEN AND CHILDREN IN NIGERIA

Tuberculosis (TB) is a serious infectious disease that mainly affects the lungs. The bacteria that
cause(s) tuberculosis are spread from person to person through tiny droplets released into the air
via coughs and sneezes, and by this definition it is clear that TB is a communicable disease and it can
be prevented. While tuberculosis (TB) is a highly contagious disease, it is also very treatable and the
best way to avoid complications from this disease is to take medications regularly and complete the
full course as prescribed.
Nigeria is among the 14 high burden countries for TB, TB/HIV and Multidrug Resistant TB. The
country is ranked seventh among the 30 high TB burden countries and second in Africa. The same
problem of TB in Nigeria has worsened with issues of drug resistant TB and the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
It is estimated that 407,000 people in Nigeria have TB each year and this is the estimated number of
HIV negative people. In addition, there are an estimated 63,000 HIV positive people that get TB each
year. An estimated 115,000 HIV negative people die from TB in Nigeria each year and an estimated
39,000 HIV positive people also die.
IMPACT
It is estimated by the World Health Organization (WHO) that 30,000 children get TB in Nigeria each
year and 47,000 children are eligible to receive preventative treatment that would help to prevent
them from getting TB. However, only about 8,500 children actually receive this preventative
treatment.
Nigeria has however started to use the new TB treatment for children. This is the treatment that is
both dispersible and flavoured and so it makes it much easier for children to take.
Data from the National TB prevalence survey (2012) shows a significantly higher burden of TB among
men than women. In adult males, the prevalence of the bacteriologically confirmed TB is estimated

at 751/100,000 and in adult females at 359/100 000.
HOW PERSONS AFFECTED BY TB (PATB) CAN ACCESS TREATMENT IN NIGERIA
It is worthy of note that in Nigeria, treatment of TB is provided free of charge at public facilities and
it is based on the directly observed treatment, short course (DOTS) strategy. But unfortunately,
many Nigerians living with TB are not aware of the free treatment.
LAWYERS ALERT CURRENT WORK ON TB
Lawyers Alert is a civil society organization that promotes the rights and welfare of women, children
and other marginalized groups. In view of this, the health and wellbeing of women and children are
our concern.
Currently, Lawyers Alert is carrying out a project in conjunction with ‘STOP TB Partnership’ to create
more awareness on the disease, end discrimination against PATB and also assist PATB in accessing
free legal services in situations when their rights have been violated.
In the process of creating the necessary awareness, Lawyers Alert leverages on its online tool called LADOCT designed for collating data on TB and PATB discriminations.

Written By Ayomide Joshua.

 
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Posted by on May 23, 2022 in Equal Rights

 

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On the Gruesome Killing of Deborah Yakubu

On the Gruesome Killing of Deborah Yakubu

The stoning and subsequent burning of the body of the 25-year-old Miss Deborah Yakubu, a 200-Level Home Economics student of Shehu Shagari College of Education, Sokoto by some Muslim youths over allegations of blasphemy still leave a lot of Nigerians in shock. The problem was said to have started when Miss Deborah allegedly expressed certain displeasure over the use of her class WhatsApp group for a purpose different from the one for which it was created. Some of her Muslim course mates who were said to be angered by her comments on the platform allegedly asked her to apologize but that she refused. Seeing this, the mates mobilized other youths from outside the school that attacked, killed and even set Miss Yakubu’s remains ablaze.

This act of the Muslim youths in taking the laws into their own hands is, to say the least, cruel and barbaric and should have no place in the 21st Century Nigeria. A situation where people resort to jungle justice and extra-judicial killings to settle scores, no matter the provocations, is unacceptable and condemnable.

Nigeria is a secular state that is governed by secular laws. Any real or perceived breach of these laws must be submitted to relevant authorities for proper adjudication and punishment. The taking of someone’s life without recourse to legally recognized dispute resolution mechanisms amounts to gross breach of the right to life of an individual as enshrined in the country’s constitution. No amount of punishment or award can properly compensate for the loss occasioned by this type of infractions.

Indeed, the requirement of a secular state imposes on Nigerians the need to imbibe religious tolerance. Taking the life of a fellow Nigerian on a mere accusation of blasphemy is despicable and smacks of hypocrisy. Over the years, religion has been a very volatile issue in Nigeria and therefore there is the need for everyone to imbibe the spirit of tolerance for a peacefully co-existence.

In view of the foregoing; Lawyers Alert condemns, in the strongest terms possible, the stoning, killing and burning of the body of Miss Deborah Yakubu by certain people alleged to be Muslims youths over her alleged blasphemous comments against Prophet Muhammad (SAW), without any recourse to law.

The organization further denounces the resort to self-help in dealing with people suspected of having committed any crime in any part of the country and for whatever reasons. Building a progressive and virile society requires that we all embrace the ‘rule of the law’ rather than the ‘rule of the mighty’.

Lawyers Alert calls for the institution of a thorough and transparent investigations into the circumstances surrounding the killing of Miss Deborah Yakubu with a view to bringing to book all that are in any way found wanting or culpable.

It is strongly believed that this is not time for religious leaders on both sides to trade blames and try to justify what had happened. It is further believed that we are at a time when both religious and secular leaders should properly educate their followers to sheath their swords and allow peace to reign and commonsense prevail. Doing otherwise will only amount to adding salt to injury.

Although no amount of compensation can adequately make up for the loss of a human life, Lawyers Alert demands that both the Sokoto State and the Federal Government should consider compensating the family that the deceased has left behind. This will go a long way to alleviating the effect of the death of Miss Deborah Yakubu on it.

Lawyers Alert further requests that their Excellencies, the President and the various state Governors direct the relevant agencies of government to embark on massive enlightenment programmes to educate the people on the need to imbibe religious tolerance and broad-mindedness.

Finally, Lawyers Alert urges individuals and groups all over the country to refrain from any form of reprisal attacks as that is capable of conflagrating the already tensed situation.

Lawyers Alert is a National Human Rights NGO which caters for the vulnerable and seeks a democratic Nigeria where the weakest are treated with respect and the dignity of the human person. Lawyers Alert has offices in Makurdi, Benue State and the FCT with members across the country.  

Signed:

Bamidele Jacobs,

Director Legal.

 

FREE LEGAL SERVICES FOR PERSONS AFFECTED BY TUBERCULOSIS IN LAGOS AND THE FEDERAL CAPITAL TERRITORY, NIGERIA.

Lawyers Alert is a legal and human rights organization that provides free legal services for vulnerable groups especially when they suffer violations associated with their health rights.

Lawyers Alert in partnership with Stop TB Partnership under the Challenge Facility for Civil Society is carrying out an intervention “Implementing the Nigeria TB Legal Assessment to Mobilize and Promote the use of the Law and Courts among Lawyers and People Affected by TB (PATB)”.

In this regard, Lawyers Alert is now rendering free legal services to PATBs in Lagos and the FCT, who require legal assistance as a result of the breach of their rights owing to TB.

Are you a TB Survivor? Have you been affected by TB? Have you lost any employment, or accommodation because of TB? Have you suffered discrimination? Have you been denied treatment or access to any facility? All these and many more are violations that the Law protects you from.

In the event that you have unfortunately been in any of the above situations, Lawyers Alert and its team of Lawyers in Abuja and Lagos are on hand to give full free legal representation ranging from advice to litigation, including ancillary services like psychosocial support when the need arises.

In contacting us, kindly call 2348099937318, +2348099936345 , or send complaints to Peace Okeshola at peaceo@lawyersalertng.org and lawyersalert@lawyersalertng.org The title of the mail should read PATB Complaints.

Signed,

Management.

 
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Posted by on May 6, 2022 in Uncategorized

 

The prevalence of Gender-based violence in Nigeria: A Call for action

The prevalence of Gender-based violence in Nigeria: A Call for action

Undoubtedly, Nigeria is failing its women and girls in so many ways. There has been an astronomical increase in the cases of gender-based violence across the country. This has underscored the critical need for government and Civil Society Organizations to act swiftly to protect its most vulnerable and ultimately put an end to gender-based violence.

According to the Nigerian Police, a total of 717 reported cases of rape have been received in January and May 2020, adding that the current covid-19 pandemic has led to increased violence against women and the girl child.

This however does not account for the number of survivors unaccounted for who chose to remain silent, afraid of the perpetrators, and even more terrified of a society where domestic violence and blaming are rife. A lot of CSOs have taken to the streets to protest the rape and murder murders of Uwa Omozuwa who was raped and gruesomely murdered. There are so many unreported cases of such occurrences (https://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/top-news/410969-omozuwa-police-parade-suspected-killers-of-uniben-student.html). With many victims dying in silence.

It is my humble opinion that a lot needs to be done to curb this menace that has besieged our country, daily a lot of women, girls, and even boys are being abused and violated by; parents, caregivers, health workers, teachers, brothers/sisters’ aunties/uncles, the list is endless. GBV could take the form; of domestic violence, sexual exploitation, forced early marriage, rape of minors, etc. sadly, these are all daily occurrences in our country, it is more saddening that a lot of us see these Human rights violations everywhere and we refuse to speak up. But the big question is “what if you are the one”, what if it’s your daughter/son, mother brother, or sister. The undeniable answer is no, no one would want such treatment mitted on their loved ones or themselves. It goes without saying what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. We all want to be treated with respect and dignity.

We, therefore, need to treat each other with dignity and respect. As guaranteed by Chapter 4 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended and International Treaties.

Lawyers Alert has been championing the campaign against Gender-based violence as this is evident in its active involvement in GBV/VAPs(W)-related issues (implementation of VAP Laws by all the states). Lawyers Alert provides free legal assistance to women and girls in Nigeria, amongst other interventions.

It is in this regard that we are providing pro bono services to women and girls who are victims of GBV. LA has actively intervened in areas of GBV also having rendered free legal services to women/girls during the #ENDSARS protest https://www.lawyersalertng.org/_files/ugd/c6dfb9_53245d3d40f843d892bf2f83f44b64de.pdf and in the face of the Covid 19 Pandemic, Lawyers Alert developed a web-based monitoring tool “LadockT” the tool captures violations across locations and states, exhibiting types and trends. Using this tool, we constantly captured and provide data on GBV and VAW in the last 3 years.

Recommendations: which are by no means exhaustive:

  1. The domestication of (VAP) Violence Against Persons Act. It is an important piece of legislation that prohibits certain practices and violations that infringe on the rights of women/the girl child and the vulnerable and marginalized in the country. The act provides that anybody convicted of the offence of rape is liable for life imprisonment without the option of a fine while, minors are liable for a term of 14 years without the option of a fine. It is our humble opinion that juvenile correctional facilities be set up, in event of a minor offender. With only 18 out of the 36 have domesticated this law, there is a strong need to push the frontiers of VAP.  
  2. Reorientation of the men/boys to recognize the fact that some ideologies such as male dominance, sexism, and notion like “it’s a woman’s job”, and “it’s a man’s world” are all factors that contribute to gender-based violence. We all need to recognize that we are all equal. This reorientation boils down to our schools and family as agents of socialization.  Religious leaders also have a very big role to play, as Nigeria is seen to be a religious nation, hence the need for their involvement in this fight
  3. There is also the need for Governors at the state level to support the fight against women/girl child it can also provide psychological support centers for survivors and medical care.
  4. Lastly, there needs to be a coalition of security forces, the civil society groups, media, state, and non-state actors to come up with a more proactive approach toward ending the menace of Gender-based violence in our country.

Conclusion.

The ultimate truth is that we all have a role to play in stumping out gender-based violence in our country, Play your Role well!.

Written by Mainasara Jacobs.

The prevalence of Gender-based violence in Nigeria: A Call for action
 

ON THE OCCASION OF CHILD SEXUAL AWARENESS MONTH

ON THE OCCASION OF CHILD SEXUAL AWARENESS MONTH

The month of April has been set aside as Child Abuse and Sexual Awareness Month in order to create more awareness on the prevalence of abuse both in children and women.

Child Abuse is could be conceived as any intentional harm or mistreatment to a child under 18 years old and this could take different forms as physical, psychological, sexual, and medical abuse or neglect.

In 2015, it was reported that one in four girls and one in ten boys in Nigeria had experienced sexual violence before the age of 18. Besides, six out of every ten children in Nigeria experience emotional, physical or sexual abuse before the age of 18, with half experiencing physical violence.

Despite the fact that child sexual abuse is a serious offence under the various laws in Nigeria, only few prosecutions have occurred. It is even pathetic that in most of cases, child abuse has been perpetrated by someone the child knows and trusts — often a parent, guardian or a relative. 

There are some symptoms a child who is being abused would exhibit and most times he or she may be afraid to tell anyone about the abuse, especially if the abuser is a parent, other relative or family friend and this is why it is very important to be an involved parent in your child’s life.

Some of these signs to look out for include;

  • Becoming withdrawn.
  • Becoming Anxious.
  • Poor bonding or relationship with parents. 
  • Knowledge of adult issues inappropriate for their age.


The month of April is dedicated to helping raise voices and awareness for childhood abuse, and it is tagged “Child Abuse Awareness Month”. 

Parents and guardians are advised to give their children age appropriate sex education as well as build an enabling environment for children to confide in them when there’s an Abuse and or exploitation.

Reports show that some perpetrators of these acts are persons very close to the family such as the father, an uncle or even neighbors.

Ensure that as a parent you set the personal boundaries and do not be too trusty with just anyone when it comes to the wellbeing of your child. 

 ‘If you suspect child abuse, ensure to report the abuse to the appropriate authorities’. 

-A true story

Uncle D usually invites children into his house. We went there to watch cartoons and animations, then there were rumors of what he did to little girl children, and one day, it was my friend who was the victim.

He tells you not to come with anyone on such occasions, then offers you sweets and biscuits, my friend was touched in ways she wasn’t comfortable with, he told her to sit on his lap and caress his private areas.

As little as we were, we were scared of telling our parents because we didn’t know what would come out of it, but it took a negative toll on my friend, she became reserved and quiet and would always hide whenever she saw uncle D.

It went on for a while until her parents became very worried, but she refused to talk, this affected her even up until her late twenties when she got to open up to a therapist.

 She now advocates against child abuse and Rape in general.

Uncle D was caught when he tried his heinous act on another little girl he lured.

He was arrested and that’s the last we heard of him.

Written by Aishat D. Abdullahi

 

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DOMESTIC VIOLENCE DESTROYS THE NATION, DIMINISHES SELF-ESTEEM, AND LEADS TO DEATH

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE DESTROYS THE NATION, DIMINISHES SELF-ESTEEM, AND LEADS TO DEATH

I remember all of it! I can for certain say what it was!! It was a daily battle for survival!! It all makes sense to me now!!!! It was DOMESTIC VIOLENCE!!!!!!

A very long time ago, I was a little girl who lived in Lagos State, Nigeria. My very hefty neighbour who was married to a very slim, fair lady made her his subject of beating and punching bag. There was never a day we did not hear a cry for plea from their apartment.  In tears, she would scream “Papa Chisom (pseudo name) I am sorry for what I haven’t done and what may offend you before you go out, while you are out and, on your way, back”. The kids would take turns to cry out for mercy because the pain they could see their mum go through was unbearable.

Papa Chisom was feared by virtually everyone who lived in the neighborhood such that even when he was out no one would even want to attempt giving her a listening ear to narrate her ordeal for fear of possible battery or rain of abuses from him. In her powerless and frightful state, she summoned the courage to invite her pastor. Oh, I remember how the pastor was sent out and mediation couldn’t take place. That particular night was terrible as all we heard from outside was the impact of items thrown on different parts of the house and her pleas.

On this fateful morning, we didn’t hear a cry for plea…. The entire neighborhood was apprehensive because it could only mean two things; death or only death…. Everyone was disturbed and decided to wait outside their apartment till it became dark and if no word was heard, the police would be contacted. Your guess is as good as mine! At dusk, there was still no word or cry of plea from Mama Chisom, so the police were invited. The police arrived and to our utmost surprise Mama Chisom was no more, she was murdered by her husband. Her kids were rendered motherless by their father…. Oh, what a loss!!!!!!!!! As a child, I wish I could do so much. I wish neighbors had intervened on time. It was too late… Sleep on Mama Chisom.

What is Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence is violence or other abuse by one person against another in a domestic setting, such as in a marriage or cohabitation.

It is a burden on numerous sectors of the social system and quietly, yet dramatically, affects the development of a nation. Batterers cost nations fortunes in terms of law enforcement, health care, cost of labor, and general progress in development. These costs do not only affect the present generation; what begins as an assault by one person on another, reverberates through the family and the community into the future.

Types of Domestic Violence

  1. Sexual Violence: The violation of an individual’s bodily integrity, e.g coercing sexual contact, rape, sex trafficking, sexual assault, sexual harassment. Sexual abuse also includes behavior, which limits reproductive rights, such as preventing the use of contractive methods and forcing abortion.
  • Physical Violence: the use of physical force against another. E.g. hitting, shoving, grabbing, biting, restraining, shaking, choking, burning, forcing the use of drug/alcohol, and assault with a weapon.
  • Psychological Violence: Intimidation, threats of harm and isolation. E.g. instilling fear in an intimate partner through threatening behavior, constant supervision or controlling what the victim does and who they talk to, Isolation, etc.
  • Emotional Violence: Undermining an individual’s sense of self-worth. E.g. constant criticism, name-calling, embarrassing, mocking, and humiliating.
  • Socio-Economic Violence: Making or attempting to make the victim financially dependent on the abuser. E.g. preventing or forbidding an intimate partner from working or gaining an education, controlling the financial resources and withholding access to economic resources, denying basic expenses for family survival

How to recognize Domestic Violence

Seek help when your partner;

  • Makes you feel like you’re never right
  • Is unreasonably jealous of other relationships
  • Questions time you spend away from them
  • Discourages other relationships, including with family
  • Shames you
  • Frightens you
  • Makes you feel like you can’t make decisions
  • Controls your actions and/or finances
  • Threatens your children or hurts them
  • Sexually mistreats you, or pushes you into sexual acts you’re not comfortable with
  • Physically threatens you, or hurts you

Why is Domestic Violence harmful?

  • It leads to loss of life
  • It can lead to depression
  • It can lead to low self-esteem
  • It can lead to Psychological trauma
  • It increases the risk of HIV transmission

What should you do when you experience Domestic Violence?

  • Report to the relevant authorities
  • Seek redress – It is your right
  • Access health services

Your rights against Domestic Violence

  • Right to life
  • Right to protection
  • Right to dignity of the human person
  • Right to justice
  • Right to personal liberty
  • Right to a fair hearing
  • Right to freedom from discrimination

Relevant Laws

  • Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).
  • The Criminal Code.
  • The Penal Code.
  • Violence  Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Act and Laws.
  • HIV/AIDS Anti-Discrimination Act, 2014.

Conclusion

Domestic Violence does no society any good. It is high time that perpetrators had a change of mind for us to achieve a more prosperous society.

Written by Roseline Oghenebrume.

 

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TUBERCULOSIS: GENDER AND HUMAN RIGHTS-BASED APPROACHES IN NIGERIA

TUBERCULOSIS: GENDER AND HUMAN RIGHTS-BASED APPROACHES IN NIGERIA

WORLD TUBERCULOSIS DAY CELEBRATION

The Global community marks World TB Day on the 24th day of March each year. Nigeria cannot afford to be left out in the commemoration, especially given the staggering statistics coming out of the country since the declaration of TB as a global health challenge in 1993. Nigeria currently oscillates between the 3rd and 4th among the 22 highest-burdened countries in the world. In fact, the country ranks 1st in Africa in terms of TB burden. Indeed, TB remains the world’s No. 1 cause of death from infectious diseases (has surpassed HIV and COVID 19), and still represents the leading cause of death among people living with HIV. 

It must be admitted that the Nigerian situation has improved significantly in terms of TB early detection and treatment. A lot of lives have been saved in this direction. We commend the National Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control Programme (NTLCP) for this progress. What has often been overlooked in our clime is the gender and human rights approach in TB response. Of course, the lack of human rights protections makes people more vulnerable to developing TB disease; negatively affects the ability of People Affected by TB (PATB) to access effective treatment; and exposes PATB to stigma and discrimination. This is why attention is being turned globally (Nigeria inclusive) to enshrining the specific rights of PATB in the various National Action Plans. This follows the launching of the Declaration of the Rights of People Affected by Tuberculosis in Geneva, Switzerland in May 2019. 

The Declaration of the Rights of People Affected by Tuberculosis delivers a set of claims and entitlements to PATB in addition to ensuring that governments and other service providers are aware of their commitments and obligations to protecting and promoting the rights of PATB. By it, People have the right to science and to be empowered to demand access to the most effective tuberculosis medicines, diagnostics and vaccines—those available now and that may be created in the future.

Without any fear of contradiction, PATB experiences infringements of their human rights on a daily basis. In far too many cases, they are given ‘less than human’ treatments both in private and public places. They lack access to effective testing and treatment, face discrimination in employment and health care settings, are even unnecessarily detained and isolated against their will, have restricted access to health information, and are given little or no access to TB treatment in hospitals.

The human rights approach to TB is also complemented by the gender-based approach which is grounded in the principles of gender equity. Globally, men and boys account for about 64% of TB cases. What this translates to is that approximately 2 men become infected with TB for every 1 woman or girl that is. Also, men account for about 63% of TB deaths among HIV-negative people. Statistics have equally shown that men are less likely to have their TB detected and reported than women. Research findings highlight how the notions of masculinity can negatively impact the health-seeking behavior of men, which may be manifested as late or missing TB diagnoses and lower rates of TB treatment access and completion. Men are also more likely to engage in behavior with an increased risk of TB, including smoking, alcohol consumption, and drug use. Gentlemen of the press, what all these demonstrate is the importance of the gender-based approach as well as a call for well-planned strategies in the gender response to TB. 

Gentlemen of the press, for Nigeria to achieve a society where the rights of PATB are guaranteed; the government, right-based non-governmental organizations, and all stakeholders must make concerted efforts to ensure the following- 

  • The incorporations of the rights of PATB as enshrined in the Declaration of the Rights of People Affected by Tuberculosis launched in Geneva, Switzerland in May 2019 into our local laws.
  • The sensitization of both the judiciary and the legal communities about the rights of PATB and the implementation of the human rights-based approaches to TB.
  • The expansion of the capacity of legislators and policy makers to incorporate human rights-based approaches into TB laws and policies.
  • The immediate and rigorous sensitization of PATB and its various communities and networks to be aware of their rights and demand for same at all times.
  • The sensitization of health care workers in the public and private sectors on the need to integrate a human rights-based approach to TB in their day-to-day interactions with PATB.
  • The passage of TB-specific law in Nigeria to cater for the rights of PATB, discourage stigma and discrimination and increase access to health care services among others.

Lawyers Alert will next week, commencing in Lagos, hold training sessions for PATB on their rights and the human rights approaches to mitigating TB. This will also be replicated in Abuja.

We wish Nigeria and Nigerians a happy TB Week celebration.

Barr. Rommy Mom,
President,  Lawyers Alert Nigeria.

 
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Posted by on March 24, 2022 in Uncategorized

 

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Army School Expels Boy Over HIV Status

Army School Expels Boy Over HIV Status

There is no doubt that Civil Society Organizations (CSO’s) have done a lot in Nigeria to create the necessary awareness towards stamping out the vexed issue of discrimination and stigmatization on account of HIV status.  What is difficult to understand is that even after years of this effort, the country has not been able to get to where it should be. So much ignorance still surrounds the issue of HIV/AIDS in the country. Even though the HIV and AIDS (Anti-Discrimination) Act was passed and signed into law by the National Assembly in 2014 and majority of the states have either domesticated or passed similar laws; the situation has not changed considerably. Indeed, various organizations and even individuals have been culprits of the serious infractions. Admittedly, the situation becomes more pathetic when the perpetrator happens to be a government or any of its agencies or authorities.

Just last week, a case of expulsion of a 12-year-old who is a student in one of the Command Secondary Schools was reported in Abuja, the country’s capital. The story goes that Master X was born HIV positive but has been on the necessary treatment and care from inception. Master X has been through primary school and did not at any time exhibit complications associated with the status. Master X (Not Real Name) lives with his mother and a sister in Abuja. In 2019, he was offered provisional admission into the Command Secondary School in Kaduna where he completed J.S.S. 1 and part of his J.S.S. 2. Owing to the insecurity and other risks associated with the Abuja-Kaduna Road, Master X’s mother decided to seek a transfer for him from Kaduna to the Command Secondary School in Suleja. The transfer worked through and Master X was asked to resume in the 2nd Term of his J.S.S. 2.

On Monday, the 10th day of January 2022, Master X’s mother accompanied him to the school in Suleja to fulfill all registration formalities and resume school. After making all necessary purchases and payments, Master X was assigned to a hostel and from there he continued his usual school activities. But at a point in the registration process, and while the mother was still in the school, the school doctor requested anyone that required special medical attention and care for his/her ward to come forward and let the school’s clinic be aware so the same could make special arrangement to attend to such special needs of the child. This was what Master X’s mother heard that encouraged her to approach the doctor to show him the Anti-Retroviral (ARV) drugs that Master X was on. On sighting the drugs, the doctor flared up and angrily questioned the decision of the mother to bring such a child into the school. The doctor immediately rushed into another office where he apparently narrated the whole of what had happened to the officer there. After a while, Master X’s mother was also summoned to the office where she was told that a child of his HIV status could not be allowed in the school. Both men later escalated the issue to the office of the Commandant for what she perceived as a necessary action. After completing all the processes, Master X’s mother retired to her home that day believing the matter had been put to rest as nothing came to her out of the last effort to the Commandant’s office.

However, in the evening of the Monday under reference, Master X’s mother received a call from an Administrative Officer in the school inviting her to report at the office the following day. On getting there, Master X’s mother was simply accompanied to the Bursary office where all the money she had already paid was enveloped and returned to her with the announcement that her child cannot be admitted in the school and that the Commandant had instructed them to return her money and expel Master X from the school. All pleas from Master X’s mother to be allowed to explain certain things to them were turned down completely. In fact, a military officer attached to the school was instead brought into the matter and made to escort Master X to his hostel where they removed everything that belonged to Master X. Thereafter, Master X and his mother were escorted out of the school premises. These actions created a lot of scenes in the school with many wondering what had happened to warrant such ill-treatment from a school that should know better. This has meant an embarrassing end to Master X’s academic career at a school he loves so much.

Indeed, it will amount to stating the obvious to announce that Master X has been so much traumatized by this experience, and he has been crying all day and had even got to the point of nurturing suicidal thoughts. To forestall the unexpected, Master X’s mother has been around him thereby giving the single mother additional tasks of watching over this child all day. Besides, Master X is out of school now with all the attendant risks and dangers.

Even though it is not out of the ordinary for Master X to be absolved by another school, the questions still remain: how many of Master X’s are suffering this kind of treatment silently around us today that have not spoken out? What is the use of all the laws we have passed that seek to protect the rights of the likes of Master X? Do we just read or hear this and ignore it as one of those things?

The decision is ours.

 

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