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Category Archives: Women Rights and Gender

Girl Force: Unscripted and Unstoppable

girl child

In recent times, we have seen the girl child break the bounds and limits society placed on her in the past. Now, the girl child can dare to soar alongside her male counterparts. Free to dream and live her dreams, with no shackles holding her down. Lawyers Alert acknowledge the millions of girls around the world who are yet to be set free and we celebrate their strength.

We join the rest of the world to mark the International Day of The Girl Child 2019, with the theme: “Girl Force: Unscripted and Unstoppable”. We celebrate this day by raising awareness on the vulnerable status of the Girl child and the need to continue equipping her through quality education and skills acquisition.

 

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WHEN THE ANOINTED GOT TOUCHED

By Devaan M. Mom

Timi-Dakolo-and-his-wife-Busola-and-Coza-pastor-1

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

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

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

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

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

It seems to have worked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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SEXUAL RIGHTS VIOLATION IN NIGERIA

By Doris U. Innocent Esq

lawyers alert

Sexual rights embrace certain human rights that are already recognized in national laws, international human rights documents, and other consensus documents. They rest on the recognition that all individuals have the right—free of coercion, violence, and discrimination of any kind—to the highest attainable standard of sexual health; to pursue a satisfying, safe, and pleasurable sexual life; to have control over and decide freely, and with due regard for the rights of others, on matters related to their sexuality, reproduction, sexual orientation, bodily integrity, choice of partner, and gender identity; and to the services, education, and information, including comprehensive sexuality education, necessary to do so.

Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights SRHR, in Nigeria is an area which, owing to culture and religion, is neither making as much progress nor being given as much space for expression in comparative terms with more “acceptable” rights. Violence against Women and Girls, Abortion, Same Sex Relationships, Female Sex Work, Rights of Persons Living with Affected by or Most at Risk of HIV, Female Genital Mutilation, Unlimited Access to Family Planning, Rights of Persons Living With Disabilities etc. are all issues that citizens regularly confront yet fail to attract the commensurate attention in the positive, from authorities.

The cry out against sexual rights violations in Nigeria is a very serious issue. Sexual rights violations are real and they stare at us every day in our neighborhoods, families and different circles of association. We believe that the first thing we must understand about these individuals is that they are human beings. They are entitled to their basic human rights, they are deserving of love, understanding and acceptance. A lot of organizations have carried out public sensitization, awareness and campaigns through various channels in Nigeria regarding issues related to Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights. This is an applaud-able approach to dealing with the glaring issues of SRHR violations inherent in our society. There still remain quite a number of people who are either victims of sexual violations or are at risk of becoming victims of sexual rights violation. These victims are usually at left at their own peril, they are seen as objects of constant abuse and discrimination by members of the society.

Lawyers Alert is an established Human Rights Organization with an internationally recognized track record of successful interventions in relation to Human Rights abuses in Nigeria. It is made up of lawyers and other professionals with members across the 36 states of Nigeria. It builds capacity on essentially eco-socio rights, advocacy/legislative engagement, and organizational development. Its programs are essentially the monitoring of rights violations, legal assistance and interventions geared towards enhancing good governance. Lawyers Alert was founded in the year 2000, it was birthed from the place of passion to fight and restore the rights of those whose human rights have been infringed upon. Lawyers Alert has been in the forefront of promoting women’s rights in Nigeria ever since. We have carried out many projects which have impacted positively on the lives of thousands of women and children. Presently, we are implementing projects aimed at eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls, eliminating sexual and reproductive health and rights violation and providing free legal services to victims.

Notwithstanding, Lawyers Alert’s vision remains clear: A developed Nigeria where the rights of vulnerable groups, especially women are respected. Similarly, her mission has not changed: To promote the rights of vulnerable groups, especially women through advocacy and through provision of free legal services. We are not relenting. We will keep doing the best we can to ensure we carry out our mission and achieve our vision. Denial of an individual’s rights is denial of the rights of all. We will always have mothers, wives, aunt, sisters and daughters with us. They are all entitled to their rights. We should individually and collectively stop violating their rights. And we should do the best we can to protect and defend their rights. This is our yearning for Nigeria, and together we can achieve this. Here at LawyersAlert, we have taken up the responsibility to bear the burdens of people whose sexual rights have been violated or at risk of being violated. We also make periodic violation reports, with instrumentality of our web based tool. You can get to know us better through our website http://lawyersalertng.org/ .

It is on this premise that we invite the general public as always to report human right and sexual rights violation against them and other people, we also encourage you to refer people in need of our services to us. We assure you, that we will work to ensure that justice is served.

 

 

 

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Celebration of Motherhood: The Human Rights Perspective

Sunday Adaji Esq

black-mother

On behalf of Lawyers Alert, we join other NGOs, CSOs and the entire womenfolk to say Happy Mother’s Day. March 31 of every year is commemorated as the Mother’s Day.

As an NGO that protects the rights and welfare of vulnerable groups, including women, we consider the Mother’s Day as very important as it reminds us of the need to redouble our efforts in promoting the rights of women and girls and ensuring that that they enjoy equal rights under Nigerian constitution, under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and under the United Nation’s Declaration of Human Rights.

Since 2000 when Lawyers Alert was founded, Lawyers Alert has been in the forefront of promoting women’s rights in Nigeria. We have carried out many projects which impacted positively on the lives of thousands of women and children. Presently, we are implementing projects aimed at eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls, eliminating sexual and reproductive health and rights violation and providing free legal services to victims.

From experience and based on Lawyers Alert’s statistics, one out of every three women and girls are constantly abused. This statistics shows that women and girls are among the most vulnerable groups in Nigeria. Our customs, tradition and religions are not helping matters as they encourage practices that relegate women to the background.

Lawyers Alert and indeed other NGOs and CSOs have been doing a lot to ensure that women’s rights are respected, but as it is, we still have a long way to go. We still have a lot of violations to contend with – denial of right to family planning, gender based violence, female genital mutilation, physical, verbal and emotional assault, denial of right to inheritance, harmful widowhood practices, forced economic and financial dependence, denial of sexual and reproductive health rights, rape, sexual assault and so on and so forth.

Notwithstanding, Lawyers Alert’s vision remains clear: A DEVELOPED NIGERIA WHERE THE RIGHTS OF VULNERABLE GROUPS, ESPECIALLY WOMEN ARE RESPECTED. Similarly, her mission has not changed: TO PROMOTE THE RIGHTS OF VULNERABLE GROUPS, ESPECIALLY WOMEN THROUGH ADVOCACY AND THROUGH PROVISION OF FREE LEGAL SERVICES. We are not relenting. We will keep doing the best we can to ensure we carry out our mission and achieve our vision. Denial of an individual’s rights is denial of the rights of all. We will always have mothers, wives, aunt, sisters and daughters with us. They are all entitled to their rights. We should individually and collectively stop violating their rights. And we should do the best we can to protect and defend their rights. This is the mark of an egalitarian society. This is our yearning for Nigeria. And together we can achieve this and celebrate motherhood everywhere women are found.

 

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DISCRIMINATION AGAINST PERSONS LIVING WITH DISABILITIES (PROHIBITION) ACT 2018: WAY FORWARD

By Ifeyinwa Onochie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The National Population Commission of Nigeria (NPC) has estimated that no fewer than 19 million Nigerians are living with disabilities. This population
has as its major challenge issues of stigmatization, discrimination and resultant unequal treatment in all spheres. This is evident even in access to physical spaces/building either public or private which truncates not just physical access but also access to opportunity and resources.

According to a definition from equalityhumanrights.com, “equality is about ensuring that every individual has an equal opportunity to make the most of their lives and talents.
It is also the belief that no one should have poorer life chances because of the way they were born, where they come from, what they believe, or whether they have a disability.”

Disability in Africa and across the world, is viewed in most instances as associated dependency and inability to perform basic chores. People exhibit pity for Persons With Disabilities when in actual fact their impairment makes little or no difference to their abilities.

Nigeria efforts in negating these issues and the realization that disability is in the mind and the need to negate discrimination, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari assented to the Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act 2018. This development in Nigeria is good news. This means we will begin to see less and less people living with disabilities suffer discrimination from point A to B in this country. Furthermore, the Act prohibits all forms of discrimination on ground of disability and imposes fine of N1, 000, 000 for corporate bodies and N100, 000 for individuals or a term of six months imprisonment for violation. Equally heart-warming is that the Act also provides for a five-year transitional period within which public buildings, structures or automobiles are to be modified to be accessible to and usable by persons living with disabilities, including those on wheelchairs.

This means curb cuts, wheelchair ramps, wider doorways and corridors. This also means that building plans of any public structure under construction since the President’s assent of the Act shall be scrutinized by the relevant authority to ensure that the plan conforms to the building code.

Furthermore, with this Act, discrimination is prohibited in public transportation facilities, and service providers are to make provision for the physically, visually and hearing impaired and all persons howsoever challenged.

We are finally stepping into the visions of our forefathers for, unity, peace and progress. However, there is dire need for our government to pick up a magnifying glass and look into these vast NGOs that claim to cater to the people living with disabilities in Nigeria.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

According to Miss Faith Yaasa, a disability Rights activist, the question right now is: “are all the foreign aid monies collected being used to really support the people they claim they represent and collect for? What happened to awareness campaigns to sensitize the general public on matters affecting Persons With Disabilities? What about the economic empowerment of Persons With Disabilities through realistic and achievable programs that impact the society positively?” This is the right time to take a stand and put a stop to the incessant injustice and crimes committed against physically challenged citizens is the message Miss Yaasa engaged with us at Lawyers Alert when she stopped by our office this week.

Lawyers Alert cannot agree less.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Divorce Your Wife, Lose Your Home to Her

by Kyenpya Katkuk Esq

In the light of the recent event celebrating women on International Women’s day all over the world on the 8th of March as recognised by the United Nations, women are not only celebrated on how far they have come in the society, in politics and in the economy but it’s also a time for reflecting on the sexism that affects women, a time to raise awareness of continued inequality as well as the achievements of combating inequality.

 

There is no place in the world where women have the same opportunities as men and in so many countries the rights of women and their opportunities are limited by law. The belief that patriarchy is so entrenched in the Nigerian system and the fact that women are unable to exercise their rights have been an erroneous one especially by those ignorant on the rights provided under the law.

 

However, this issue of a woman not having rights to property due to cultural beliefs has been disproved of recent and it has been an uplifting moment in the lives of women in Oyo State, Nigeria.  In the recent decided case, by the presiding Justice Munta Abimbola , the courts held that “ a husband who marries a wife and builds a house during the pend-ency of the marriage stands the risk of losing the house if he later divorces the woman who had children for him unless such woman of her own volition, leaves the matrimonial home”. The presiding Justice whilst ruling on the matter also emphasised on what is known as “palm tree justice”, which indicates that “it doesn’t matter in whose name the property stands or who pays what (on the property) and in what proportion as determination of such matters transcends all rights, legal or even equitable but simply what is fair and just ‘’ in the circumstances of the case.

The basis of this judgement was made under the provisions of the Married Woman’s Property Act 1882.  Furthermore, Section 17 Married Women’s Law of  Oyo State, Cap 83 and Laws of Oyo State 2000 gives a court the discretion as it thinks fit on the issues of title of possession to property. Section 18 Married Women Law of Oyo State also allows the court to treat property as joint property especially where it has to do with a matrimonial home.

 

Conclusively, it could be said that there is significant progress on the application of legal provisions and precedents regarding property rights that affect women inspite of the system of marriage laws (customary, Islamic and statutory marriage). The parties in the decided matter happen to be married under customary law and so this could mean that a woman is entitled to having an equal share of property in the event of divorce, regardless of whether she is married under customary law or statutory law.

 

This is also a good reflection of international instrument , the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), particularly Article 5 ,which refers to how women should not be confined to culturally defined constructions. It recognises that all human beings are equal and have equal rights and deserve equal respect for their human dignity.  Gender stereotypes should not deny women the right to be treated respectfully as an equal. Therefore, this landmark ruling is a significant in combating inequality as it affects women.

 

Kyenpya Katkuk is a lawyer with the Coalition Of Lawyers for Human Rights  (COLaHR).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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