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Category Archives: SRHR

SRHR with Regards to LGBTI Community

by Solumtochukwu P. Ozobulu  Esqlgbti

Sexual and reproductive health right (SRHR) is a growing movement around the world and in Nigeria. The movement is borne out of the need to encourage individuals to explore their sexuality without fear of stigmatization, physical abuse or any other kind of violation as a matter of Right.

The growing nature of SRHR movement is aimed at protecting the vulnerable and Key Affected Persons including the LGBTI community. LGBTI is an acronym for Lesbians, Gay, Bisexual, Trans- gender and Inter- sex. This community with a different and peculiar kind of sexuality has been viewed with negative and discriminatory tendencies especially in Nigeria and other African Countries. This unfortunate trend has sent the LGBTI Community into hiding due to the legal, social and religious environment in our country with attendant consequences.

It is no news in Nigeria that many LGBTI Persons are still being denied key sexual and reproductive health rights and services i.e. their right to enjoy control over and make decisions on their sexual and reproductive health without discrimination.

The homophobic nature of the citizenry draws its link from socio-cultural and religious beliefs and practices. The culture of the people of Nigeria largely frowns at homo sexual practice as it is said to be foreign to the indigenous practices and beliefs. The religious beliefs and teachings also view same sex practice as sinful, unnatural and therefore unacceptable.

The aggregate Socio Cultural opposition to same sex practice and relationships in Nigeria led to the enactment of the same sex marriage (prohibition) Act 2014. The same sex marriage (prohibition) Act together with the criminal and penal code totally criminalizes homosexual activities in Nigeria. According to the words of the criminal/ Penal code,  homosexual act is regarded as “an act against the order of nature”. The maximum punishment in the northern states that have adopted the sharia law is death by stoning among other punishments. That law applies to all Muslims and to those who have voluntarily consented to application of the sharia courts. In the southern Nigeria the maximum punishment for same sex sexuality activity is 14years imprisonment. The various laws forbidding gay practice providing different punishment varying from the state of commission did not take into cognizance the sexual and reproductive health rights of the LGBTI community.

The provision/ enacting of the laws led to an unprecedented violations of the Rights of the LGBTI community in Nigeria even on grounds of suspicion and hearsay.For example in Lagos Nigeria, over 40 Young People were arrested on the suspicion of holding a gay party. The different violations range from physical abuse, verbal abuse, denial of freedom of association, denial of privacy, emotional abuse, rape, denial of quality healthcare among others. These various violations of the LGBTI community prevailed in Nigeria as both the law enforcement agencies and individuals took justification from the various laws prohibiting homosexuality to violate the rights of the sexual minorities at random.

Since most members of the LGBTI community  are seemingly oblivious of their sexual and reproductive health rights, they find it difficult to open up by reporting these violations due to fear of stigmatization. This has led to strong need for  massive sensitization and awareness creation in the area of sexual and reproductive health right and reporting of violations for effective interventions by Civil society organizations and Nongovernmental organizations both local and international in Nigeria.

Part of this sensitization is currently being carried out by Lawyers Alert in its legal literacy project for vulnerable groups in Nigeria. The positive effect of the sensitization is that more awareness of the Rights of KAPs is being recorded across Nigeria, leading  to a decrease in some violations. This can be clearly seen in the Lawyers Alert published findings on Sexual and Reproductive Health Right violations in Nigeria between 2017 and 2019. These findings can be accessed at http://www.lawyersalertng.org/res.php.

 

According to the recent released report of Lawyers Alert on its website in April 2019, Benue state seems to have the highest rate of LGBTI violations among other states in Nigeria. It can be deduced from the published finding that the age bracket more susceptible to be violated in the LGBTI community are those between 20-24years which can be categorized as youth with 58% of violations in 2019 and 63% in 2017. Although the statistics shows a level of decrease yet it is alarming. A critical analysis of the reports brings to limelight the occurance of these right violations, while some are on the increase others are on the decrease. Violations like physical abuse breach of privacy, denial of freedom to associate, sexual expression and  rape seems to be on the increase with 2%, 3%, 4%,1% and 4% respectively while blackmailing, verbal abuse and emotional abuse are on the decrease with 5%, 1% and 2% respectively. Regardless of the increase and decrease of each of the violations emotional abuse still top the chart as it represents 20% of the violations followed by verbal abuse and denial of sexual expression with 18% each. Although some of the right violations like rape and breach of privacy e.t.c represent a little fraction of the violation but it is important to know that every little piece matters when it is in relations to a person’s sexual and reproductive health right.

It is trite to know that the published finding is not all inclusive as just reports from 12 states out of the 36 states in Nigeria were used. Nevertheless, it shows the growth of SRHR movement and the need to deepen and expand the scope in other to curb the menace.

As we all aspire to be part of a society where individuals have knowledge, skills and resources to enjoy their sexual and reproductive health right without violations and subsequently bequeath same to future generations; there is a need to deepen sensitization on sexual and reproductive health right.

 

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PETTY OFFENCES; THE NIGERIAN CONTEXT

By Roseline Oghenebrume, Director Programs, Lawyers Alert

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dawn sets in the suburbs of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, Nigeria. Alhaji Abubakar (Pseudo name) after his morning prayer wakes his family up to begin the grind for the day. His family comprises of two sons and a daughter all aged 15, 13 and 11 respectively. In his words, it is Monday, you have to meet up with travelers at the Jabi Motor Park or else no food for you all. They begin their journey on foot for a 5km walk with their goods to be sold off on their heads. While they approached the park, they sighted the task force team and obviously took to their heels. While the eldest was lucky to have escaped, the two others were swept off the roads in the van of the task force and their goods seized.

These types of petty acts that are seen as offences is regrettably targeted at low income earners, the vulnerable and the poor. For instance, citizens engaged in activities such as loitering are arrested by security agents shouldered with the responsibility of enforcing these laws. In one instance, someone hawking goods in trying to escape arrest jumped off a fly over in Abuja Central District Area, losing his life in the fall. Security agencies go out at night arresting women and breaking people’s doors, dragging them out on account of their sexual orientation and perceived type of job. Commercial bus drivers trying to eke a living are said to commit offences when parked in a non-designated area and can be sent to jail if they don’t come up with the resources to pay their way through. The above is a picture of what a less privileged family/ citizen in Nigeria deals with on a regular/daily basis.

Nigeria is a country with a population of about 180 million persons with over 70% of its population said to be poor. Nigeria recently ranked highest in poverty according to a report by the World poverty Clock released in June 2018.  This shows that the Nigerian criminal justice system cannot effectively cope in keeping with this high population with regard to arrest and prosecution nor does it have the prison to hold these persons.

As it stands today, Nigeria has about 75,000 persons in prison with about 60% of these persons awaiting trial. Those awaiting trial for petty offences account for a higher percentage of those awaiting trial. Petty offences are more to do with the poor and vulnerable who are often prone to these acts owing to economic dis empowerment. Petty actions like hawking, obtaining goods by false pretence, sex work, sexual expression, slander, conduct likely to cause a breach of the peace, use of insulting language, intake of alcohol in some Northern States, etc. are criminalised.

Petty offences are not only inconsistent with sections 34, 35, 41 and 42 of the Nigerian Constitution, which provide for right to dignity of human person, right to personal liberty, right to freedom of movement and right to freedom from discrimination respectively, but are equally inconsistent with Articles 2, 3, 5, 6 and 18 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights duly ratified by Nigeria.

The effect is State resources are expended in rather needless investigations and prosecutions and the prisons congested. Good governance, more attention at economic empowerment and fighting corruption by Government will be more in focus if Government is not distracted by expending resources on petty offences that are criminalised. Petty offences have resulted in lack of justice for the poor, social discrimination sometimes with grave consequences.

We at Lawyers Alert strongly believes that decriminalising petty offences in Nigeria will aid development given the likelihood of more time and focus on development issues.

Based on the above, the following are recommendations;

 

  1. Laws/policy reform which is critical in decriminalising petty offences because the small actions that are made petty offences are being institutionalised by certain laws in Nigeria.
  2. State and Non- State Actors should be engaged. Majority are not aware of the effects of these laws, they have not been made to understand the importance of decriminalising petty offences and its effect on socio, economic welfare of the nation.
  3. Lawyers are to be encouraged to offer free legal services to victims of petty crimes rather than demand professional fees which the vulnerable and poor people who are the victims of petty offenses cannot afford.
  4. Continuous sensitization of the vulnerable and less privileged in the society. Lack of knowledge of human rights or where to get assistance when their rights are abused is part of the problem that institutionalizes petty offenses.
  5. Civil Society groups, the Media and other Human Rights Activists to embark on a campaign towards decriminalization of petty offenses in Nigeria. Petty offenses target the most vulnerable in the country; the poor, less privileged and uneducated.

 

Poverty is not a crime……

Human Right is for all…….

Decriminalizing petty offenses is a human rights issue….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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USER FEE CHARGE: A HINDRANCE TO HIV CONTROL IN NIGERIA

Ayomide Joshua

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Over the years, a lot have been done to exterminate or reduce the spread of HIV to the barest minimum. Many drugs have been invented to treat HIV. One drug that immediately comes to mind is the anti-retro viral (ARV). The ARV has been known to be very effective in HIV treatment as constant dosage reduces the viral load to zero. What this means is that any person living with HIV who is constantly taking the ARV will continue to enjoy sound health for as long as he keeps taking the drug. Another drug that has been found to be effective is one which injection a person takes once in a year. As the HIV positive person keeps taking this injection yearly, he keeps enjoying sound health. The injection reduces the viral load in his/her body system to zero level. However, this injection is very expensive and not very much available like the ARV.

STRATEGY FOR HIV CONTROL

Prior to the invention of the ARV, especially in the 80s and 90s, the world witnessed rapid spread of HIV infections and many people died of AIDS.  During these periods, some drugs were invented which were helpful in the treatment of HIV but they were expensive and only few people afford to pay for them. As a result, the condition of majority HIV positive persons who could not afford those drugs worsened from HIV infection to full blown AIDS, leading to their eventual death. Worried by this development, the United Nations came up with two strategies for HIV response and control.The strategies are;

  1. The ARV should be made available everywhere;
  2. The ARV should be free so that every person living with HIV should obtain the drug regularly.

No doubt, these strategies have gone a long way in helping to treat and contain the spread of HIV. A front liner in the campaign for the right and welfare of persons living with HIV/AIDS once testified: “I am a living testimony to the effectiveness of the ARV. I have been taking the ARV for over 13years and I have been enjoying sound health.”

Currently, statistics shows that 63.9 million persons are living with HIV/AIDS in the world while 3.1 million persons are living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria and of the 3.1 million persons, 28% of them are children.

 

ACCESS TO HIV TREATMENT AND THE USER FEE CHARGE

The strategies for HIV control has been effective in Nigeria. For instance, the ARV are very much available in our health institutions and PLWHIV are accessing the drug. However, there are many people living with HIV who are finding it difficult to obtain ARV regularly due to the fact that they are being compelled to pay user fee before they can obtain it.

“User fee” means an amount that a person living with HIV is asked to pay before accessing HIV treatment. Towards the end of December 2018, a large number of persons living with HIV trooped out with various banners and posters to protest against the user fee charge. One of them who was interviewed by a journalist said that the user fee that is imposed by public health institutions was worsening his condition of health. He said each time he went to the public health institution where he normally obtain ARV, they would ask him to pay N1, 000 and sometimes N500 before giving him the ARV. He said further that anytime he didn’t have money to pay for the treatment, they will not give him the ARV. And once there is no ARV for him to take, his condition of health would start deteriorating. While they kept demonstrating against the user fee charge, the person living with HIV appealed to the government to remove the user fee charge so that they could have access to HIV treatment and enjoy sound health.

REMOVING HINDRANCE TO HIV CONTROL

The fact is, if we are going to make any head way in our national HIV response, we must remove anything that will act as a cog in the wheel of our progress

In Nigeria, we are very good at shooting ourselves in the foot or working agent our self. We always want to make things difficult for ourselves. HIV treatment have been made available for fee, yet our public health institutions have made user free mandatory for persons living with HIV to pay before obtaining the drugs.

Whatever may be the reason for introducing the user fee, the fact is that persons living with HIV are finding it difficult to access HIV treatment. Even the little amount of N500 and/or N1,000 they are been asked to pay before accessing treatment, are amounts which persons living with HIV/AIDS find it difficult to pay.

If persons living with HIV/AIDS cannot access treatment because of the user fee, how then will we be able to achieve our goal of controlling HIV infection come 2020? Obviously the user fee charge is a hindrance to our national HIVresponse. If we are really serious about controlling the spread of HIV infection, we should not hesitate to remove the user fee charge.

WAY FORWARD

Lawyers Alert is therefore appealing to the Federal Government, the 36 States Government, the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, the NACA (National Agency for the Control of AIDS), the SACA (States Governments for the Control of AIDS),Ministries of Health and other relevant agencies and institutions to expedite action to remove the user fee charge so that persons living with HIV can access treatment and enjoy sound health. It is when this is done that we can hope to achieve our goal of controlling HIV infection come 2020.

 

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Employers of labour must comply with HIV/AIDS non discrimination Act

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A Civil Society Organisation in Nigeria, Lawyers Alert has insisted that employers of labour in the public and private sector must comply with the HIV/AIDS non discrimination Act to protect workers who that are infected with Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), a chronic, potentially life-threatening condition caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

The President of Lawyers Alert, Mr Rommy Mom told Daily Trust that the HIV/AIDS non discrimination Act that was passed into law in Nigeria five years ago was not implemented and that his organization has dragged the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami to court to demand full implementation and total adherence to the law.

He said the HIV/AIDS non discrimination Act mandates the Attorney General of the Federation to ensure that work places have HIV/AIDS policies to protect workers that are HIV positive.

He said the law was passed in 2014 and that it mandates the AGF to ensure that employers of labour in public and private sector in Nigeria have the policy within three months.

Mr Rommy expressed concern that the law was not implemented five years after and that no policy in work places to protect people living with HIV.

He lamented that majority of workers that are HIV positive are facing all forms of discrimination and stigmatization in their places of work.

 

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ADVOCACY VISIT TO THE BENUE SATE EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY ON THE 23RD DAY OF AUGUST, 2018

The Head Office of Lawyers Alert in Makurdi, Benue State paid an advocacy visit to the Benue State Emergency Management Agency on the 23rd of August 2018. The 3-Person delegation was led by Mr. Lazarus M. Ahangba the Programs Manager, alongside Jerome Uneje Programs Officer and Linus Mbakaan the Administrative Officer.

Lawyers Alert Advocacy Visit to the Benue State Emergency Management Agency (BSEMA) took place on the 23rd day of August, 2018 at 10:00am. The group was led by Mr. Lazarus M. Ahangba, the Head Office Programs Manager. The group was received by the Executive Secretary of the Agency, Mr. Emmanuel Shior and his team. Mr. Lazarus Ahangba set the meeting in motion by introducing his team members and Lawyers Alert including its vision and mission. He went ahead to highlight on the Organization’ history, major achievements and current activities. He also spoke on the purpose of the visit which is to explore areas of mutual interest and partnership between the two Organizations. Furthermore, he said LA identifies BSEMA as a core stakeholder since it is saddled with the responsibility of managing Emergencies in the State. This responsibility therefore places them in direct contact with victims of disasters made up of mostly women and other vulnerable groups.

Since women and vulnerable groups happen to be LA’ core target groups, BSEMA then becomes a Key Stakeholder and State Actor to collaborate with towards meeting the needs of women and other vulnerable groups. He went ahead to intimate the Agency of LA’ intention to visit some of the Internally Displaced Persons’ Camps with the view towards building their capacity on Sexual and Reproductive Health Right (SRHR) and Gender Based Violence (GBV). In addition Jerome Uneje mentioned the monitoring and documentation of rights violations LA carries out. She also mentioned the availability of the web based tool developed by LA in 2016 which captures and analyses SRHR violations. She concluded by intimating the Agency of the intention of LA to also monitor and document SRHR violations in the camps. She further talked about LA’ pro bono services and asked the Agency to take advantage of same by sending in cases of violations.

The Executive Secretary, in his response was quite pleased with the visit and thanked LA for it. He was appreciative of the gesture and assured LA of the Agency support and Cooperation. He gave LA the go-ahead with its intended intervention in the camps on the condition that she shares her finding with the Agency before publishing. This has become necessary because some groups will visit the camps and publish damning reports without consulting the Agency. He also wanted to know if LA’ pro bono services includes development workers whose rights are abused in the course of their services. He concluded by saying that he is a feminist and any intervention regarding women and their rights is highly acceptable to him. The meeting ended with a group photograph.

In conclusion, the meeting with Benue Sate Emergency Management Agency was fruitful, timely and most appropriate. It has opened up a channel of opportunities especially for women and other vulnerable groups focus intervention. We look forward for more of such interface with key State Actors in the State.

 

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