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SIGNIFICANCE OF THE UNDETECTABLE EQUALS UNTRANSMITTIBLE (U = U) CONCEPT/CAMPAIGN ON THE LIVES OF PEOPLE LIVING WITH HIV

 by: VICTOR EBOH ESQ                                                                                            (LEGAL/REPRODUCTIVE RIGHT OFFICER) LAWYERS ALERT

LAWYERS ALERT

1st day of December of every year is designated as WORLD AIDS DAY, an international day dedicated to raising awareness of the Aids pandemic caused by the spread of HIV infection and mourning those who have died of the disease.

 

There is no known cure for HIV/AIDS in the world today. However, treatment for

HIV, offers hope for people living with the virus. According to the UNAIDS Fact Sheet (2019), there are 37.9 million people living with HIV, globally.

Out of this number, 24.5 million people are accessing HIV treatment.

 

In Nigeria, UNAIDS (2018) estimated that 1.9 million people in Nigeria were living with HIV, however, in 2019 statistics indicate a 1.4% HIV prevalence rate among adults aged 15-49 years in Nigeria. Consistent and effective HIV treatment leads to improved health outcomes for people living with HIV.

Scientific evidence holds that people living with HIV who have an undetectable viral load cannot transmit HIV via unprotected sex to their partners. This is the basis for the undetectable equals untransmittable (U=U) concept.

 

CONCEPT OF UNTRANSMITTABLE (U = U)

 

The U=U Campaign was started by PREVENTION ACCESS, an organization in

the United States which seeks to raise awareness and ensure universal access to

treatment for people living with HIV. It is beneficial for people who are diagnosed

with HIV to start treatment early and adhere, by remaining on treatment. This

reduces the amount of HIV in the blood stream to an undetectable level. In simpler

terms, an undetectable HIV viral load means that the amount of HIV in the blood is

negligible.

 

The Centre for Disease Control, CDC (2019) holds that most people on

HIV treatment achieve an undetectable viral load within six (6) months of initiating

HIV treatment. This occurs as long as they consistently take the medication as

prescribed. After, the initial six (6) month period, adherence to HIV treatment is

advised to ensure that the HIV viral load stays undetectable. While the CDC (2019)

defines an undetectable viral load as having less than 200 copies of HIV per mililitre

of blood, the Canada AIDS Treatment Information Exchange, CATIE (2018) notes

that, HIV viral load is undetectable when it is less than 40 to 50 copies of HIV per

mililitre of blood.

 

The U=U concept is supported around the world by renowned organizations. The

World Health Organization, WHO (2019) cites an empirical study to the effect that,

the risk of HIV transmission through sex, where condoms are not used, in sero-discordant couples is effectively zero when HIV viral load is suppressed through

ART treatment. The WHO recommendation to initiate ART in all people living with HIV will contribute significantly to reducing HIV transmission.

 

From the foregoing, there is no risk of HIV transmission through unprotected sexual

intercourse from a person living with HIV to a negative partner as long as the former

is on HIV treatment and has achieved an undetectable viral load. This finding has far

reaching implications on the relationships and interactions between people living

with HIV and those who are HIV negative, especially surrounding stigma and

discrimination.

 

People living with HIV often suffer stigma from other members of the public when they know the HIV status of the former. Thus, scientific evidence such as U=U which supports the fact that people living with HIV who consistently adhere to HIV treatment, and become undetectable, cannot transmit HIV through unprotected sex, “strikes down” the reason for the stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV.

In addition, UNAIDS (2018) lends credence to the U=U concept with its submission

that, there is a strong scientific consensus that people living with HIV who are taking effective antiretroviral therapy and whose level of HIV is suppressed to undetectable levels, will not transmit HIV sexually.

 

This evidence from UNAIDS (2018) is borne from twenty (20) years of research

which demonstrates that effective treatment of HIV reduces the risk of HIV

transmission. Due to this fact, the U=U concept validates previous concepts such as

Treatment as Prevention (TasP). The reasoning is logical. If HIV treatment reduces

the risk of HIV transmission, then it simply means that HIV treatment is an effective

strategy at preventing the transmission of HIV from one person to another. However,

it is important to reiterate the conditions necessary for which transmission of HIV

will not occur. The person living with HIV, has to adhere to HIV treatment and consistently maintain an undetectable HIV viral load.

In Nigeria, (and indeed most countries of the world) HIV treatment services are free and viral load tests are conducted once every six (6) months. There is a persistent need to ensure that user fees are not charged to encourage access and uptake of HIV treatment.

Strict adherence to HIV treatment is advised for people living with the virus. This is

necessary because consistent HIV treatment ensures that the virus remains

undetectable over a long period and reduces the risk of transmission via unprotected

sex to zero (0). Thus, people with effective HIV treatment cannot transmit the

virus  through unprotected sex. This has far reaching implications on public health

and should re-configure popular perception about HIV especially the way people

living with HIV are treated in society.

 

Evidence for further validation of the U=U concept is provided by findings from

other empirical studies. Three (3) large studies (undertaken between 2007 and 2016)

were cited by Cohen, Chen, McCauley et al (2011), Roger, Cambiano, Bruun et al

(2016), and Grulich et al (2015). In each of these studies, the researchers investigated

sexual transmission of HIV among thousands of couples. With each of these couples,

one partner was living with HIV and the other was not, i.e. sero-discordant.

Findings from these studies show that there was not a single case of HIV transmission from the partner living with HIV (who had achieved undetectable levels of HIV) to their HIV negative partner. (Source: Rural Renewal & community Health Development Initiative)

 

Conversations as well as public enlightenment about the U=U concept are necessary

In the society to combat the stigma and discrimination which people living with HIV

face, especially regarding inter-personal relationships, family and even in the work

place. With the empirical evidence presented on U=U, people living with HIV

should not be barred from marriages and romantic relationships with others who are

HIV negative. They pose no risk because they cannot transmit the HIV virus through

unprotected sex. Sero-discordant couples have the potential of raising children

without the risk of transmitting HIV. Also, marital disharmony owing to HIV

diagnosis of one partner should not arise.

 

CONCLUSION

 

The concept of U=U offers hope to people living with HIV because HIV treatment

affords dignity, inclusion and acceptance in society. With effective public

enlightenment via relevant communication channels, notions of HIV/AIDS as a

deadly epidemic can be replaced with the U=U concept which demonstrates how

HIV transmission can be stopped. The hope and benefits from maintaining

undetectable levels of HIV will encourage people living with HIV to access HIV treatment services because it is a means to an end. Families, relatives and partners will be more accepting and supportive to persons living with HIV because they are no longer threatened by HIV transmission and treatment holds greater promise for better health outcomes.

Furthermore, countries and legal systems which impose travel bans as well as

criminalize people living with HIV on account of disclosure and so called “intended

HIV transmission,” need to revise these laws via necessary steps in the judicial

process. The scientific evidence from existing research is sufficient basis for judicial

reform in this respect. Also, the police, vigilante and other security agencies require

education and enlightenment on the U=U concept in order to guide the

administration of justice when complaints and disputes regarding HIV transmission

are brought before them.

References:

1. Three (3) large studies (undertaken between 2007 and 2016)

were cited by Cohen, Chen, McCauley et al (2011), Roger, Cambiano, Bruun et al

(2016), and Grulich et al (2015)

2. UNAIDS (2018) is borne from twenty (20) years of research

which demonstrates that effective treatment of HIV reduces the risk of HIV

transmission.

3. The World Health Organization, WHO (2019)

4. Canada AIDS Treatment Information Exchange, CATIE (2018)

5.  The Centre for Disease Control, CDC (2019)

CAVEAT

Lawyers Alert hereby puts our readers on notice that this article is based on the writers opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of the organization except otherwise stated.

 

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INTERNATIONAL DAY FOR THE ELIMINATION OF VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN

By Innocent Doris U ESQ

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This day was declared on December 17, 1999, by the United Nations (UN), 20 years ago, but the history of this day, dates back to 1981. This day is very relevant as the world seeks to bring Gender Based Violence and injustice against women to an end. This year’s theme is Generation Equality stands against rape. As we celebrate the International day for the elimination of violence against women, I am caught in a dialogue within, a reality check on the import of this day and the difference in the prevalence of violence against women in Nigeria 20 years ago and in our present day.

The present glaring reality of Gender Based Violence in Nigeria is quite alarming. The prevalence of Gender Based Violence is at an all time high with minors and babies at risk of becoming rape survivors. We must speak up against this endemic evil that is beginning to eat into the fabrics of our society; we must do all we can to avoid it from becoming a norm. We must protect our women and children from this terrible act. Movies like Ovys voice, alter ego, Code of Silence amongst other numerous Nolly wood movies depict the after math of rape and the different psychological trauma that victims of rape go through.

Rape is a Crime, not a civil matter that can be settled. In my line of work I have seen mistakes that victims and guardians make when a rape incidence occurs. These costly mistakes end up affecting the victim and eventually the case.

Rape has been defined by Section 1(1) of the VAPP Act 2015.

A person commits rape if –

  • He or She intentionally penetrates the vagina, anus or mouth of another person with any other part of his or her body or anything else;
  • The other person does not consent to the penetration Or
  • The consent is obtained by force or means of threat or intimidation of any kind or by fear or harm or by means of false and fraudulent representation as to the nature of the actor the use of any substance or additive capable of taking away the will of such person or in the case of a married person by impersonating his or her spouse.

It is important to know what to do when a rape incident has occurred:

  • Report to the nearest Government Hospital immediately for tests and a detailed test report.
  • Get a professional counselor to help the victim heal emotionally and mentally.
  • Get a lawyer

 

At this point, it is important to reiterate that parents and guardians should keenly watch their children and take reports made to them about harassment or suggestive words very seriously. A lot of child rape would have been prevented only if the parents or guardians of the victims had taken the cues their children had given them, listened to them or even acted on the reports they were given. Studies have shown that Child rape or violations are perpetuated mostly by familiar people or people the children trust. So parents are enjoined to be extra careful of who they allow to have access to their children or wards.

 

In conclusion, Lawyers Alert is always here for you to make reports of any violation of human rights. If you are aware of anyone whose rights have been violated, please contact us through any of our platforms, our numbers are on the website. We look forward to hearing from you.

HAPPY INTERNATIONAL DAY FOR THE ELIMINATION OF VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN FROM ALL OF US AT LAWYERS ALERT

 

CONTACT US VIA:

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CAVEAT

Lawyers Alert hereby puts our readers on notice that this article is based on the writers opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of the organization except otherwise stated.

 

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THE PARODY OF FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION AND THE LGBTIQ COMMUNITY IN NIGERIA

By Victor Eboh Esq, Reproductive Right Officer

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Sometime in 2018, one PAMELA ADIE, a citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, approached the Corporate Affairs Commission of Nigeria, for the registration of an organization with the name, (LESBIAN EQUALITY AND EMPOWERMENT INITIATIVE), whose goal was to advocate for the rights of female sexual minorities. The Corporate Affairs Commission contended that the name could not be approved because it was misleading, offensive, contrary to public policy and violates an existing law that prohibits same sex unions and associations in Nigeria.

Many adherents and sympathizers have wondered and questioned the veracity and otherwise behind the sentiments of the commission.

This piece, seeks to draw a line of contrast and spell out the parody between the constitutionally guaranteed right of freedom of Association, and the plight of the LGBTIQ community in Nigeria. But before we get down to brass tacks, let us first consider a general overview of the concept….. Freedom of Association.

 

CONCEPT OF FREEDOM

The word Freedom, has been succinctly rendered by Oxford Advanced Dictionary, as ‘the condition of being free, the power to Act or Speak or Think, without externally imposed restraints.’

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION on the other hand, encompasses both an individual’s right to join or leave groups voluntarily, the right of the group to take collective action to pursue the interest of it’s members and the right of an association to accept or decline membership based on certain criteria.

According to the Human Rights House Foundation, Freedom of Association is one of the most basic rights enjoyed by humans. It ensures that every individual is free to organize and to form and participate in groups, either formally or informally.

Freedom of association involves an individual’s right to come together with other individuals to collectively express, promote, pursue and/or defend common interests without interference, and the right of the group to take collective action to pursue the interests of its members.   The right to freedom of association protects associations formed to undertake any activity or pursue any objective that an individual can undertake or pursue alone, provided that those activities or objectives are lawful. Freedom of association is a fundamental human right that is crucial to the functioning of a democracy and an essential condition for the exercise of other human rights. It provides space for the development of civil and political society, an arena for people to express different views, values or interests and a platform for such views, values or interests to be heard. Freedom of association complements and consolidates other individual freedoms and without it, individuals may not express themselves as a group, defend their common interests and positively contribute to the development of their societies.

 

BACKGROUND TO THE PRINCIPLE OF FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The principle of freedom of association constitutes one of the basic tenets of the International Labor Organization (ILO) that was established by the TREATY Of VERSAILLES Of 1919, (source: Initiative for Strategic Litigation in Africa)  in the wake of the first world war to improve the condition of workers and achieve universal peace through social justice.  The ILO conventions on freedom of association were, and continue to be, primarily focused on the protection of the right to organize and bargain collectively.

 

Freedom of association is closely linked with the freedom of assembly and both are protected by Article 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The right is interrelated with other human rights and freedoms, such as the rights to freedom of expression and opinion and freedom of thought, conscience and religion. Giving the freedom of association protection in national and international law was not primarily to protect individual interests, but rather to seek to secure a more equitable distribution of power within the working environment and society as a whole. But individuals do deserve legal protection in this as other contexts so that their conscience, religious beliefs, freedom of expression, bodily integrity and so forth are safeguarded.

Consequently, freedom of association is both an individual and a collective human right.

 

LEGAL FRAMEWORK GOVERNING THE CONSTITUTIONALITY OF FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The combined efforts of both the Domestic, Regional and International frameworks, all ensure equality of all persons regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity.

DOMESTIC LEGAL FRAMEWORK

The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria(1999) as amended, remains the ground norm of the land, and it is sacrosanct. The extent of its supremacy is spelt out in Section 1(3) to wit: ‘if any other law is inconsistent with the provisions of this constitution, this constitution shall prevail, and that other law shall to the extent of the inconsistency be void’

Of specific interest to the subject matter are the unambiguous provisions of Sections 38, 39 & 40

Section 38(1) ‘ Every person shall be entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion…..”

Section39(1) “Every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impact ideas and information without interference.”

Section 40 “ Every person shall be entitled to assemble freely and associate with other persons, and in particular he may form or belong to any political party, trade union or any other association for the protection of his interest

 

REGIONAL LEGAL FRAMEWORK

Article 10(1) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights provides that “everyone shall have the right to free association provided that he abides by the law.”

Articles 12(3), 27(2) and 28 of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance guarantee the right to freedom of association.

ACHPR/Res. 5(XI)92: Resolution on the Right to Freedom of Association (1992)

  • The competent authorities should not override constitutional provisions or undermine fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution and international standards;
  • In regulating the use of this right, the competent authorities should not enact provisions which would limit the exercise of this freedom;
  • The regulation of the exercise of the right to freedom of association should be consistent with state’s obligations under the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights.

 

INTERNATIONAL LEGAL FRAMEWORK

Article 20(1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides that “everyone has the right to peaceful assembly and association.”

Similarly Article 22(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) states that “everyone shall have the right to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and join trade unions for the protection of his interests.”

The second paragraph of Article 22 of the ICCPR states that no restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right “other than those which are prescribed by law and which are necessary in a democratic society.”

Article 5(ix) of the International Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Racial Discrimination also provides for the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.

Article 7(c) of the International Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women obligates states to ensure participation, by women, in non-governmental organisations and associations concerned with the public and political life of the country.

Article 29 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has similar provisions to the ICEDAW.

“States have an obligation to respect and fully protect the rights of all individuals to assemble peacefully and associate freely, including persons espousing minority or dissenting views or beliefs and human rights defenders… seeking to exercise or to promote their rights and to take all necessary measures to ensure that any restrictions on the free exercise of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association are in accordance with their obligations under international human rights law.”

– UN Human Rights Council Resolution 21/26 (2012)

 

  • Article 11(1) of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights provides that “everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.”

Article 11(2) of the European Convention states that “no restriction shall be placed on the exercise of these rights other than such as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals or for the protections of the rights and freedoms of others.”

The European Convention no. 124 on the Recognition of the Legal Personality of International Non-Governmental Organisations gives recognition to the formation of associations, foundations and other private institutions

The American Convention on Human Rights Art 16(1) states that “everyone has the right to associate freely for ideological, religious, political, economic, labour, social, cultural, sports, or other purposes.”

 

DUTIES AND OBLIGATIONS OF THE STATE IN ENSURING FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

It is the responsibility of the state to respect, protect and facilitate the exercise of the right to freedom of association.

States have a negative obligation to refrain from any interference with the right to freedom of association. It is responsible for violations of this right when the infringement occurs as a result of state interference or its failure to secure the right in domestic law and practice.

In Civil Liberties Organization v. Nigeria, Comm. No. 101/93 (1995), ACHPR, the Commission held that “freedom of association is enunciated as an individual right and it is first and foremost a duty for the state to abstain from interfering with the free formation of associations. There must always be a general capacity for citizens to join, without state interference, in associations in order to attain various ends.”

In International Pen and Others (on behalf of Ken Saro-Wira) v. Nigeria, ACHPR Comm. No 154/96 (1998), the African Commission found a violation of the right to freedom of association where the government took action against an association due to disapproval of its actions.  “Communication 154/96 alleges that Article 10.1 was violated because the victims were tried and convicted for their opinions, as expressed through their work in MOSOP. In its judgment, the Tribunal held that by their membership in MOSOP, the condemned persons were responsible for the murders, guilt by association, it would seem furthermore that, government officials at different times during the trial declared MOSOP and the accused guilty of the charges, without waiting for the official judgment. This demonstrates a clear prejudice against the organization MOSOP, which the government has done nothing to defend or justify. Therefore the Commission finds a violation of Article 10.1.” (at para 108).

 

The state has a positive obligation to ensure respect for the right to freedom of association. This includes an obligation to protect associations from interference by third parties and non-state actors.

Further, the state has a positive obligation to enact legislation an/or implement practices to protect the right to freedom of association from the interference of non-state actors, in addition to refraining from interference itself. The principle extends to cases of infringement committed by private individuals that the state could or should have prevented.

The positive obligation of the state to facilitate the exercise of the right includes creating an enabling environment in which formal and informal associations can be established and operate. This may include an obligation to take positive measures to overcome specific challenges that confront certain persons or groups such as minorities, people living with disabilities, women and youth etc. in their efforts to form associations.

 

States have an obligation to respect and fully protect the rights of all individuals to assemble peacefully and associate freely, including persons espousing minority or dissenting views or beliefs and human rights defenders, seeking to exercise or to promote their rights.

It is first and foremost a duty for the state to abstain from interfering with the free formation of associations. There must always be a general capacity for citizens to join, without state interference, in associations in order to attain various ends.

Freedom of association also protects the right to refuse to join an association. There is no right for any individual to join a particular association if other members of the group decide not to include them or to expel them on the basis that their membership was not compatible with the aim and interests of the association. However, in relation to trade unions, if a decision not to include a person has adverse employment consequences, any such decision must not be unreasonable or arbitrary.

The right to freedom of association protects against the interference of the State in both the right to form an association and the right to join or remain a member of an existing one. The state is also obligated to guard against interference with the right by non-state actors and facilitate the exercise of freedom of association by creating an enabling environment in which associations can operate.

 

  • IT SHOULD FURTHER BE NOTED THAT Associations have the right to participate in matters of political and public debate, regardless of whether the position taken is in accord with government policy or advocates for a change in law.

“There is nothing…to suggest that it is immoral or unlawful to persuade those in power to change certain laws as long as that is done lawfully and peacefully. If the change advocated for is in the views of the lawmakers, likely to lead to or promote unlawfulness or any other undesirable situation or consequences, they are perfectly entitled to refuse to accede to such suggested changes. To refuse the applicants an opportunity to come together and register an organization to carry out peaceful and lawful advocacy for legal reforms…clearly violates their rights under the [Constitution]”

Thuto Rammoge v. Attorney General of Botswana, case no. MAHGB-000175-13 (High Court).

Legislation and policy concerning associations must be uniformly applied and must not discriminate against any person or group of persons on any grounds such as age, gender, gender identity, health condition, religion or belief, sexual orientation or other status. Membership or non-membership in an association shall not constitute grounds for the discriminatory treatment of persons.

Although an ‘association’ must have some degree of continuity, it need not have any formal or legal status (including legal personality) in order to be protected by international law.

The state cannot effectively negate the freedom of association by generally declaring the objectives of associations to be unlawful.

 

LEGAL EXCEPTIONS THAT NEGATES THE FULL ENJOYMENT OF FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

International human rights law allows restrictions to be imposed on rights where those restrictions are;

  • Provided by law,
  • Serve as a legitimate aim; and
  • Are necessary in a democratic society.
  • Prescribed by law– This implies that any restriction should have a basis in domestic law. Furthermore, the law itself should be of a certain quality; foreseeable as to its effect and accessible to the person concerned.
  • Legitimate aim– The interference in question should be necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security or public safety, for the prevention of disorder and crime, for the protection of health and morals or for the protection of rights and freedoms of others.

In Monim Elgak, Osman Hummeida & Amir Suliman (represented by International Federation for Human Rights & World Organisation Against Torture) v. Sudan, ACHPR Comm. No. 379/09 (2014), para 119, the ACHPR found that “the only reason that KCHRED and its director were targeted was on account of their perceived links with the ICC.  The Respondent State has not provided any information showing that the activities of the organization endangered national security, morality, or the rights of other people in Sudan.  In the circumstances, the Commission considers that the State’s interference with the activities of the organization and its staff was unjustifiable and arbitrary and finds a violation of Article 10 of the Charter.”

 

  • Necessary in a democratic society– This implies two conditions;
    • There has to be a pressing social need for the interference, and in particular,
    • The interference should be proportionate to the legitimate aims pursued. They must be proportionate to achieve their protective function; they must be the least intrusive instrument amongst those which achieve their protective function; they must be proportionate to the interest to be protected.
  • In Attorney General of Botswana v. Thuto Rammoge [2016] Civil Appeal No. CACGB-128-14, Botswana Court of Appeal held the Registrar violation of the LGBT group’s right to association was not a proportional restriction. “In my judgment the refusal of registration of a society to further address that social ill could only be justified if it could be shown clearly that the society proposed to actively participate in or to encourage the commission of crimes against those sections. That is not the case.  Nor can it be said to be proportional if a society formed to pursue a number of honourable objectives, including advocacy, public health and education, was refused registration purely because, in the subjective view of the Registrar (or of the Minister), it was suspected of being likely to promote unlawful activities.  There must, as I have said, be some evidential basis for such a conclusion.  Here there was none.”

 

JUDICIAL DECISIONS VIS-À-VIS FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION OF LGBTIQ MEMBERS

 

In 2013 in Kenya, the NGO Co-ordination Board refused to register an organization under the name Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Council.  The Board defended its rejection on the basis that the proposed names were inconsistent with laws criminalizing same sex conduct.  The High Court in Nairobi held that the Kenyan Constitution guarantees every person the right to freely associate and form an association of any kind.  As the judiciary is enjoined to apply the Constitution without prejudice, the right to freedom of association must be realized for all persons regardless of sexual identity or gender.   The Board, as a state entity, is required to act in accordance with the Constitution regardless of the personal views of its members and public opinion holding that homosexuality is reprehensible.

The Court found that limiting the petitioners’ right to freedom or association was not justifiable under Article 24 of the Kenyan Constitution, since can only be limited if it is reasonable and justifiable in a “democratic society based on human dignity, equality and freedom.”  The criminal ban on same sex conduct does not prohibit LBGT persons from existing or associating and thus is not reasonable nor justifiable.

Eric Gitari v Non-Governmental Organizations Co-Ordination Board [2015] eKLR, Petition No. 440 of 2013 (at paras 73-99).

 

In Jacqueline Kasha Nabagesera v Attorney-General Misc. Cause 33 of 2012, Freedom and Roam Uganda and Sexual Minorities of Uganda organized a workshop in order to train LGBTI activists.  The Minister of Ethics and Integrity ordered the forcible closure of the workshop, alleging that it was an illegal gathering of homosexuals prohibited by section 145 of the Ugandan Penal Code, which criminalizes same sex conduct.  The workshop organizers challenged the actions of the Minister as a violation of their constitutional rights to freedom of expression, political participation, freedom of association and assembly, and equality before the law.

The Ugandan High Court accepted that the applicants were exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association, and assembly.  Yet, it also found that Article 43 of the Ugandan Constitution, which allows justifiable limitations of human rights in the public interest, was applicable in this circumstance.  The Court found that the workshop promoted prohibited and illegal same sex acts and such promotion was prejudicial to the public interest, thus the Minister was justified and did not violate the applicants’ aforementioned rights.   The Ugandan High Court declared that the “promotion of morals is widely recognized as a legitimate aspect of public interest which can justify restrictions”.

 

In Pamela Adie v Corporate Affairs Commission (2018) Federal High Court of Abuja, the CAC refused the registration of an organization named Lesbian Equality and Empowerment Initiatives whose goal was to advocate for the rights of female sexual minorities. The CAC contended that the name could not be approved because it was misleading, offensive, contrary to public policy and violates an existing law that prohibits same-sex marriage in Nigeria.

The Court held that in so far as the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act is still operative in Nigeria and has not been repealed, the right to form same sex and gay unions and associations is prohibited and CAC was justified to have rejected the application for being in contravention of public policy and morality.

 

RECOMMENDATION

The right to freedom of Association is core to any society, it is an indispensable right in enabling citizens to monitor the Human rights situations in a country and to support the implementation of Human Rights policies. It is key for the work of Human Right defenders.

Registration should never serve as a tool to control the establishment of organizations, but rather as a tool to provide them with a legal status in jurisdictions that require such a measure.

Denying registration to NGOs that challenge or criticize the government is a violation of the right to freedom of association which forces civil action underground and delegitimizes NGO work. Registration as a form of repression also hinders the formation of an open and pluralistic society, by excluding civil society from public dialogue.

In many countries with a high level of civil society engagement and indeed an enabling environment, prior registration is not mandatory. If such regulations are in place, the UN has underlined that principles guiding the rule of law also apply to these regulations, meaning that they should be determinable, non-retroactive, lawful, proportional, non-discriminatory, and necessary. Furthermore, registration procedures should be expeditious, and not be used as a tool to slow down the establishment of organizations.

The possibility to appeal a decision should be included in the regulation, to provide civil society organizations with fair access to obtaining legal status. Provisions should not require re-registration, enabling organizations to be sustainable and look to the long-term.

Procedures governing the registration of civil society organizations play an important role in the control of civil society space. With this in mind, the power to limit the right to freedom of association must be appropriately framed. States should not impose lengthy, burdensome or overly bureaucratic registration processes, as this would undermine the effective functioning of NGOs.

In some countries, registration applications filed by associations can take up to a month to be considered for approval, while business registration is considered complete, the moment the application is filed.

Burdensome re-registration and reporting requirements usually do not meet the criterion of necessity, as they are solely used to control the activities of NGOs. Nor do they follow the principle of non-discrimination, as often more requirements are placed on civil society than on businesses. There are also doubts that such requirements are proportional, given the heavy requirements with regard to the budget of NGOs, in comparison to businesses for example.

CONCLUSION

FROM All The ABOVE CONSIDERATION, then comes the parody,… can the express provision of the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act 2014, negate, subjugate and undermine the express provision of the Constitution of the Federal republic of Nigeria?

Section 4(1) SSMPA “The registration of gay clubs, societies and organizations, their sustenance, processions and meetings, is prohibited”

Section 40, 1999 constitution “ Every person SHALL be entitled to ASSEMBLE freely and ASSOCIATE with other persons and in particular he may FORM or BELONG to ANY political party, trade union or ANY OTHER ASSOCIATION for the protection of his interest”

THERE LIES THE PARODY, WHERE LIES THE SUPREMACY?

 

CAVEAT

Lawyers Alert hereby puts our readers on notice that this article is based on the writers opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of the organization except otherwise stated.

 

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The User Fee Charge and Its Implication on Persons Living with HIV and AIDS

By Blessing Mase

The-Number-Of-People-Living-With-HIVAIDS-In-Akwa-Ibom-Will-Shock-You-»-Naijaloaded

According to a “U.S –Supported Nigeria HIV/AIDS Indicator and Impact Survey,” about 1.9 million people are still living with the virus and 80% of them are living below poverty line. As a result of this, they find it difficult to access HIV treatment due to the fact that they are being asked to pay what is called the ‘User Fee.‘

Now, what is user fee charge? User fee charge is seen as money paid to access services in health care center.

Facts about User Fee Charge

Research has been carried out concerning user fee charge which has been a burden to PLWHIV (persons living with HIV and AIDS) and it was discovered that a lot of people pay user fee in other to access the ARV drugs which has and is causing a lot of pain to them as a result of the state of poverty they are in.

Over the years, donors like PERFAR (Presidency Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief)  have been the ones sponsoring these ARV drugs but since there was lack of fund to continue with the funding, PLWHIV are been asked to pay this fee. The fee includes opening of files which cost N200, consultation to see a doctor in which series of test is administered to them like viral load test, CD4 test, Eye test, Liver test. As a result of the multiple test that has to be carried out in other for them to access these drugs, it becomes so difficult for them to pay for the test which will go for as far as N4,000-N5,000, considering the fact that most of these PLWHIA cannot afford three square meal or  even a meal or two  a day. According to Claire Pierangelo, a US Diplomat, such fee constitutes a major barrier to people living with HIV/AIDS.

Another test that got my attention was the “Genotypic Resistant Test.” This test is an antiretroviral resistance test that is used to help select drugs regime that will likely be effective in treating a person with HIV infection The test go as far as N35,000 while other hospitals collect N60,000-N65,000. As a result of these huge amounts placed on this test, it was reported that three persons who could not pay for the test in other to access the drugs died at Nyanya General Hospital.

It has gotten to a point where some doctors now write proposals without the knowledge of the management in other to source for fund to help pay for these test in other not to stain their reputation. It is a way to help save lives of these persons living with the virus. Some of them are orphans, unemployed youths and parents who can’t afford the money.

Way Forward

The government needs to ensure that the user fee imposed of PLWHIA is removed. The Government should ensure that the 1% budget that is allocated to health sector for ARV drugs is implemented.

The United States Consular General, Claire Pierangelo has advised that an increase in the funding of antiretroviral drugs would enable these people to leave healthy, productive lives until the day a cure is found.

Reference: https://www.premiumtimesng.com/health/health-news/360312-u-s-diplomat-wants-user-fees-for-people-living-with-hiv-removed.html

CAVEAT

Lawyers Alert hereby puts our readers on notice that this article is based on the writers opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of the organization.

 

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HOW TO USE SOCIAL MEDIA IN FIGHTING HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSE

By Ifeyinwa Onochie

human rights now

In recent time, social media has become an important part of our daily lives from shopping to connecting with friends, information and education etc. Social media plays a vital role in transforming the way we behave today. Let me start with a definition; Social media are computer tools that allow people to share information, discuss opinions, ideas, as well as share images and videos online.

Since the emergence of social media networking sites like Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, these networks have become a day to day routine for most people. The ability to share photos, events and opinions as they happen in real-time has changed the way we live and do business.

Research has shown that in 2017, users spent more than 2 hours on average per day on social networks and messaging services, which amounted to about one third of their entire daily computer time (Mander, 2017). In addition, it is statistically estimated that more people spend time on the internet and on social media than time spent on TV or newspapers.

Consequently, for organisations, this means social media would improve customer service, marketing, public relations and other business activities that rely on quick and efficient information exchanges. However, the addictive part of the social media is bad and can disturb personal lives. Teenagers are mostly affected by addiction to social media. They get involved extensively and may eventually cut off from the society. Similarly, social media can waste individual time that could have been used for productive activities.

In relation to this, human rights abuses around the globe have drawn global criticism and attracted the attention of international communities such UN, African Union, and other international organisations (Kaluge, 2013). However, despite efforts by these organisations, Nigeria still faces human rights abuses. This could be because violations are usually not reported.

Hence, linking social media to human rights violations in Nigeria, the rate at which citizens’ rights are violated is alarming. Almost on a daily basis, Lawyers Alert receives reports of violations. In the same vein, violations are reported in the newspapers and online. To prevent violations of human rights, human rights organisations should encourage people to ask questions and demand reparation when abused.

Furthermore, there is every need to protect and defend citizens’ rights. In view of this, social media is an effective tool that can be deployed to protect the rights of citizens as well as help to fight human rights violations. One way to do this is by putting up information online on the need to end human rights violation and urge persons to report violations.

Lawyers Alert has a Facebook, twitter Instagram, blog and website where it reaches out to people, monitor and document violations. In addition, Lawyers Alert has a web based tool called LADOCKT which it developed. LADOCKT is used to capture, monitor, document and analyse human rights violations in trends, demographics, age and gender.

After analysing the violations, the report is shared with partners and the general public. It is essential to note that the reason human rights violations continue unabated is because people do not usually report. And because violations are not reported, perpetrators continue to violate citizens’ rights with impunity. There is need to encourage citizens to report violations, and one effective way to do this is to reach out to people through the social media.

After encouraging people to report violations the next step to take as a human rights organisation is to put your contacts address on Facebook, twitter, Instagram etc. Lawyers Alert has its contacts on all social media platforms where citizens report violations.

Conclusively, as a human rights organisation, Lawyers Alert will keep protecting and defending citizens’ rights and with the support of citizens, we are ready to take up issues of human rights violation and pursue them to logical conclusions.

 

Below are our contacts for purpose of reporting violation from all and sundry

 

Telephone Numbers: +234  92202090, Toll-Free Line:080 99937318
Email:
info@lawyersalertng.org (OR) lawyersalert@lawyersalertng.org

 

Facebook: Lawyers Alert Nigeria

 

Twitter: @lawyeralertNG

 

Instagram : @lawyersalertnigeria

Reference

Mander, J. (2017). Daily time spent on social networks rises to over 2 hours. Retrievedfrom https://blog.globalwebindex.com/chart-of-the-day/daily-time-spent-on-social-networks Accessed 10 June 2018

Kaluge, D.(2013). Human right abuse. Available from http://davidkaluge.hubpages.com/hub/human-right-abuse

CAVEAT

Lawyers Alert hereby puts our readers on notice that this article is based on the writers opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of the organization except otherwise stated.

 

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THE PROTECTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN NIGERIA: WHO IS RESPONSIBLE?

BY: D.U INNOCENT ESQ.

Human-rights

“Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home – so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. … Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerned citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

There has been an outcry, on the gross violation of human rights that has ravaged Nigeria in recent times. These violations have led to massive loss of lives, properties and the displacement of families and communities. These violations have also led to the rise in the insecurity and the volatile nature of our society presently. It is important to note that victims of these violations are innocent civilians whose lives are being disrupted and even destroyed. Who should we hold responsible?

The European Union reported at the end of 2018, that 7.1 million people were estimated to be in need of humanitarian assistance, and more than 850,000 people in Borno are estimated to be in areas that are inaccessible to humanitarian organizations. The conflicts between farmer communities and herdsmen escalated markedly in 2018, becoming the deadliest crisis in Nigeria with thousands of casualties and hundreds of thousands internally displaced. While the root causes are fundamentally economic and lack of governance, the violence increasingly takes on a worrying ethno-religious dimension.
Federal and State governments are being criticized for the failure to ensure security, rule of law and for not addressing the widespread impunity. [1] The brutal violation of Human Rights in Benue, Nigeria which occurred in January 2018 caused by decades of old communal conflicts between nomadic herdsmen and farmers in the Middle Belt further exacerbated the security situation in the country. As at least 1,600 people were killed and another 300,000 displaced as a result of the violence.

In June 2018, at least 84 people were killed in double suicide bomb attacks attributed to Boko Haram at a mosque in Mubi, Adamawa State. The heightened political tensions ahead of the 2019 elections led to the violations of human rights of Nigerians through Abductions, suicide bombings, and attacks on civilian targets by Boko Haram. At least 1,200 people died and nearly 200,000 were displaced in the northeast in 2018.[2]

As of 2019, 1.8 million Nigerians have fled from their homes and are internally displaced, the majority in Borno State – the epicentre of the crisis. 80 per cent of internally displaced people are women and children, and one in four are under the age of five.   [3]                                                                                                              Civil societies have led campaigns against arbitrary arrests, detention, and torture exposed human rights abuses by security agencies, including by the Department of State Security Services (DSS) and the Police Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).[4]

On the 11th of October 2019, the Punch Newspaper reported that the ECOWAS Court indicted the Federal Government over 2018 Benue Mass killings. This judgment was given by a three member panel of the Community Court of Justice ECOWAS with suit number: ECW/CCJ/APP/16/18. The judgment was presided by Justice Edward Asante, President of the Court, Justice Keikura Bangura, and Hon. Januaria Costa.[5]

Between 2018 and 2019 Nigeria has lost millions of human resource to human rights violations both reported and unreported. The above stated scenarios are only a tiny fraction of the reports of human rights violations in Nigeria, as writing about more would turn this piece into a documentary. The list of violations in Nigeria is almost listless and cuts across almost every strata of the society. The government is supposed to be the hope of security for the common man, but today in Nigeria that hope has been shredded in pieces as Nigerians are being violated even in their homes. The apparent case of Nigeria’s hopelessness in tackling human right issues is seen in the plethora of violations by both state and non-state actors.

Article1, 2,3,4,5 and 6 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Right, Chapter 10 LFN 1990 and Chapter 4 of the Nigerian Constitution enshrine the Protection of the Human Rights of Nigerians. The Federal Government is tasked with the responsibility of protecting the Human Rights of her citizens. It is therefore in the interest of the peace and development of our country that our governments should take up their responsibility of protecting the human rights of her citizens.

 “When the fundamental principles of human rights are not protected, the center of our institution no longer holds. It is they that promote development that is sustainable; peace that is secure; and lives of dignity.” – Former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein

CAVEAT

Lawyers Alert hereby puts our readers on notice that this article is based on the writers opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of the organization except otherwise stated.

[1] https://eeas.europa.eu/delegations/nigeria/62580/eu-annual-report-human-rights-and-democracy-world-2018-country-updates-nigeria_en

[2] https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2019/country-chapters/nigeria

[3] https://www.unocha.org/nigeria/about-ocha-nigeria

[4] https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2019/country-chapters/nigeria

[5] https://punchng.com/ecowas-court-indicts-fg-over-2018-benue-mass-killing/ 

 
 

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SEX FOR GRADES: AN IGNORED FESTERING SORE

By: D.U Innocent Esq.

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Before I got into the university, I had seen movies where lecturers used undue influence to either extort money from students or sleep with female students. For those who dared to refuse, the lecturer basically destroyed their future by either failing them continuously or giving them lower grades than they deserved. So, I already had a fear for lecturers even before I got admitted into the university and all through my university days I did my best to avoid them.

There is a salient fear for lecturers especially male lecturers among students in tertiary institutions in Nigeria than even the fear of studies. For many years, Nigerians and indeed so many societies in West Africa have settled into this trend and some students have been forced to go even spiritual or diabolical on some lecturer s because of this seeming hole they put them in. These lecturers are seen as untouchable demi-gods.                                       As a student, I often heard a lecturer remark on how students prayed for him to die. He almost got it though, but he survived.

My name is Emma, in 2011 I got admitted to study Political Science in a prestigious university in Nigeria and like every other innocent 100 level student, I just wanted to get quality education.  I was made the class representative and by virtue of my office at the time, I had to interface with lecturers and students alike in carrying out my responsibilities. In the first semester of my first year, I encountered a lecturer, Mr. Ken. Mr. Ken is a core lecturer in the department and he lectured 2 important courses that had 3 point grade for each course in my time. His courses were very important for the success of my academic success, especially since they were core courses.  He was reputed for two things in the university community. First, his connection to a high management official and secondly his attraction and lust for fair slim girls.

On a fine day after lectures, he invited me to his office where he told me that he liked me and made advances at me, I left for my hostel bewildered. At this junction, I had two worries I am a fair complexioned, slim beautiful girl who just wanted to get an education. Secondly, this man in question was a force to reckon with because of his connection to the higher ups. It would be my word against his, who am I again? Yea that’s right; I’m a 100 level student.

This situation stressed my friends and I for months, it also got me depressed because Mr. Ken became even more hostile towards me as the exam period drew near. He kept threatening to keep me in school long after my mates, if I did not concede to his demands, I practically became depressed and on the verge of giving up. My school fees was about half a million excluding pocket money and my family only sent me here because of the quality of education we were promised I will get. During this period I was slowly becoming embittered and getting distracted from my studies. I was on the borderline of losing it because of my seeming helplessness. I was discouraged many times to attend classes but I knew I couldn’t give him anything to hang me on, so I kept pushing, showing up for classes and ensuring that I stayed on my lane as much as possible. We had more meetings were my pleas fell on deaf ears and his threats were blaring in my ears. I had already vowed to myself that I would not sleep with this man; I would not become a part of his statistics, trophy or prize.

Despite Mr. Ken’s threats, I forged ahead to write the exams without sleeping with him and Mehn! That man was true to his word. By the time results were out for the first semester the F and D on the board were staring at me, I had failed his two courses and those were the only courses I had issues with. My head kept whirring for the entire 1st semester break.  At this point, I knew that I couldn’t continue like this, I had three more years and because of his position in the department, he would be my lecturer for even more courses for the next three years, and I wasn’t ready for to continue going through the emotional and psychological torture I had endured throughout the 1st semester in my first year. I just needed my peace to enable me concentrate in school and I needed to act fast.

Thankfully, changing departments in my school at the time wasn’t a hassle and with advice from my friends and confirmation from my family, I switched to International Relations Department. Changing my department was at a cost. The cost was, not graduating from my dream department and course. Mr. Ken is a murderer; he murdered my baby in the womb of my spirit. He ended my dream of being a political scientist with his demands.

Now I think of it, I’m grateful for the strong girl I was in that season and for my amazing friends who stood by me through that period. That change was instrumental to what I have become today. Thankfully, in the International Relations department I had no lecturer issues and I graduated with my mates. I have served my country and I am currently working somewhere in Lagos Nigeria. I found a way out of that situation, but many girls in Nigeria are unable to escape and their experiences are much worse than mine. What these lecturers are doing is evil and their gory stories are beginning to come to light. I believe that this festering sore in the Nigerian tertiary educational system will at last begin to receive the treatment that will heal not just the educational system. It will also heal millions of Nigerian men and women who fell into the hands of these predators and very importantly it will cleanse our nation Nigeria and we will become great again.

PS:  This is a real life story of a Nigerian, but the real names of the characters are not used.

CAVEAT

Lawyers Alert hereby puts our readers on notice that this article is based on the writers opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of the organization except otherwise stated.

 

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