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Category Archives: Women Rights and Gender

Effect Of Rape On Women/Girls

By Yua Miriam

 

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A taxi driver on his way to the motor park was attracted to a young lady who is a newspaper vendor. He decided to stop by and purchase a newspaper, telling her that he is not in the habit of buying newspaper but for her sake he would buy. The young lady smiled and said “that’s good of you Mr”. The taxi driver asked her to give him any newspaper of her choice and she did. On the first page, the taxi driver saw A father of 46 raped his 16 year old daughter for a virginity test. He was shocked and shouted Jesus Christ! “Is this a myth or what?” the taxi driver asked. The young lady asked why he was shouting, as the news had been all over town for two weeks then.

As the driver arrived the park, he was moody and decided to explain the sad news to his colleagues, where are you getting your news from? His colleagues asked, he shook his head full of tears in his eyes and at the same time smiled in amusement. He picked up the newspaper and threw it at them and started shouting, how can a father rape his own daughter for a virginity test?  What a wicked world we are living in, he said. The 15 year old girl who was selling oranges in the park felt a tinge of pity for the taxi driver.

Globally, rape is an everyday violent occurrence affecting millions of women and girls all over the world.

According to Wikipedia, rape is a type of sexual assault usually involving sexual penetration carried out against a person without that person’s consent. The act may be carried out by physical force, coercion, abuse of authority, or against a person who is incapable of giving valid consent, such as one who is unconscious, incapacitated, has an intellectual disability or is below the legal age of consent.

The effect of rape varies for each individual as each individual responds differently to traumatic experiences and recovers at different rates. However with the information from survivors, we know that there are some common responses from rape and sexual violence. These effects can last many years and can take many years to show themselves.

Physical effects may be instantly obvious if the assailant had used violence during the assault, and may need immediate hospital treatment. However, it is also worthy of note to consider other physical effects, that might arise in the future such as sexually transmitted diseases or infections.

A significant number of people who have been sexually assaulted feel embarrassed or shameful about what happened. Most people find it difficult to discuss intimate issues, this makes it difficult for such people to open up about what has happened to them. In this case it is sometimes easier to talk to someone on a telephone helpline who should take things at the victim’s pace.

For many, an initial reaction to being raped is one of shock and emotional numbness. Many people initially feel calm and shut off from what happened to them. This reaction can sometimes surprise friends and family members who expect the victim to be distraught immediately after an assault. However, disassociation is a natural defence mechanism and is perfectly normal. Usually after a few days or weeks the victim may begin to have a range of other reactions like anger, shock and fear. Fear of becoming pregnant or contracting HIV/AIDS or STD. Subsequently, the victim may worry about not being able to be in an intimate or sexual relationship, but all these fears are absolutely normal and common and given time and support they can be overcome. Discussing them with a friend or counsellor will help a lot. Research on women in shelters has shown that women who experience both sexual and physical abuse from intimate partners are more likely to have had sexually transmitted diseases. In 1991, a study in a maternity hospital in Lima found that 90% of new mothers aged 12-16 had become pregnant from being raped, the majority by their father, stepfather or other close relative.

If a victim does not want to report a rape incident or doesn’t want to be attended to by their local doctor, they can visit a local Genito-urinary medicine clinic (GUM) to check for infections.

A father in Swaziland raped his 16-year-old daughter to test if she was still a virgin, a court has been told. The times of Swaziland reported on Monday 21st May, 2018 that, a man aged 46 from the Lubombo region in the east of the kingdom made a statement to a judicial officer at Siteki Magistrate Court. He said, he had argued with his daughter because he believed she had been sleeping with boys. He asked if she was still a virgin and she told him she was. The news paper reported however, that the man confessed that he did not believe his daughter, hence he suggested that he should test her virginity. He unashamedly told the judicial officer that he forcefully had sexual intercourse with his daughter as a way of “testing” her virginity’.

The taxi driver with distaste, informed his colleagues that he had lost his zeal for working on the road that day. It would be better for him to go and rest at home, he left the park and said goodbye to his colleagues.

 

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One Day Strategic Planning Meeting On Reducing Human Trafficking In Benue State

Introduction

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On the 24th of September 2018, a case of human trafficking was reported to us at Lawyers Alert for legal advice and possible assistance. That a certain man named Saviour Daboor was placed under arrest and detained by the police at the State Criminal Investigation Intelligence Department (SCIID) Makurdi for an alleged case of human trafficking. That Saviour Daboor an indigene of Benue State on the 4th of September, 2018 took five (5) girls to Lagos State under the guise and pretence that he will make life better for them, by giving them jobs in Lagos. On arriving Lagos, he handed over the girls to an unknown woman who is still at large and surreptitiously left the vicinity. The girls were then taken out of Nigeria to BURKINA FASO, obviously for prostitution and Sex Slavery rather than a conventional job as promised by Saviour. Upon realising their situation, the girls resisted but at that point they are handicapped both financially and emotionally. As part of the job requirements, a medical test was conducted on the girls and it was discovered that one of the girls was pregnant and another sick and this isn’t good for the job. Thus the two were sent back home. Following the arrest of Saviour and the pressure that followed, the third girl was eventually returned. However, two of the victims of the trafficking are still held up with the trafficking gang in Burkina Faso. Saviour is under arrest and in detention and will be due in Court on the 21th November, 2018. The other members of the syndicate are still at large and two of the victims are still under their grips in a foreign land. This is a clear case of human trafficking and women rights violation. These girls undoubtedly have been sold into slavery and from all indication will be made to serve as sex toys.

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Given the above therefore Lawyers Alert held a one day strategy building meeting with partners and stakeholders with a view towards charting out a work plan that will lead to the release of the trafficked girls and the prosecution of the culprits involved. The meeting was also intended to necessitate the building of a movement and a formidable fight that will lead to the release of the girls and subsequent arrest and prosecution of the suspects in Court to account for their actions.

Goal

The goal of this intervention is to enhance the promotion and protection of Women Human Rights in Benue State and Nigeria and to secure the return of the trafficked girls back home and the punishment of the suspected culprit.

Objectives

  • To form a mass movement through collaboration with 5 identified stakeholders towards synergising on the release of the two girls and compensation for all the 5 Victims
  • To design and implement an effective action plan that will lead to the achievement of the project goal.

Expected outputs

  • A copy of the work plan
  • Secure the arrest and prosecution of all the suspected culprits.

Expected outcome

  • A reduction in the incidence of human trafficking.
  • The promotion and protection of women human rights in Benue state.

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The meeting was held at Lawyers Alert’ conference hall.  A total of 28 participants attended the meeting cutting across different organizations and groups. Participating Organizations comprised of State Actors, Non State Actors including the Civil Society, Media and Professional groups.

The meeting commenced with self introduction of participants. This was followed by a welcome address by the Progams Director of Lawyers Alert’ head Office Mr. Lazarus Ahangba. In the address he appreciated their time and commitment to the cause of the project. He briefly introduced the purpose of the meeting and its expected outcome. He urged the participants to be active and make quality contributions. Goodwill messages from NBA, NAPTIP and Ministry of Women Affairs were also delivered. NBA expressed delight to be part of this project and offered their hand of solidarity with pledges of support in any capacity and at any moment the need arises. NAPTIP thanked Lawyers Alert for organizing this meeting and said that the meeting could not have come up at any better time than now. They said human trafficking is becoming more rampant in Benue and equally pledged their support to this project and in any other way possible. The Ministry of Women Affairs equally thanked Lawyers Alert for putting the meeting together and expressed willingness to work with Lawyers Alert in any way and manner as required. After tea break, R.A Hwande Esq, the Legal Officer at Lawyers Alert unpacked the project. In his presentation, he attempted the definition of Human trafficking, traced its history and prevalence level from the federal level to the State, the legal frameworks that criminalizes Human trafficking both local and international. He concluded the presentation with focus on the case at hand outlining its beginning, goal, objectives, expected outputs, outcomes and the progress made so far. After his presentation, one of the victims, Ms Helen narrated in details what happened to them and how some of her friends are still held back in Burkina Faso. This was followed by questions, answers, comments and the development of a work plan and way forward.

In order to develop a more cogent work plan, the meeting broke into two working groups. A technical working group made up of Lawyers and the officials of NAPTIP and a Civil Society/ Media working group. At the end of their deliberations, each group presented their proposed action plan and persons responsible.

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Civil Society/ Media Work Plan:

  • Create a Social Media platform that will serve as an interactive forum that will keep all the project participants together and the conversations alive.
  • Report the meeting and its outcome and also write features periodically on the issue to harvest public support and also sensitize People on the issues of Human trafficking.
  • Monitor Court proceedings regularly.
  • Carry out Advocacy visit to key State Actors and other public institutions including DG Radio Benue, Commissioner of Women Affairs, Wife of the Governor, Commissioner of Justice, NAPTIP and the General Manager the Voice newspapers.
  • Push for the rehabilitation of the victims of trafficking.
  • Create a coalition that will work on this project and other related issues in the State.

Technical Working Group Action Plan

  • The other victims should write a letter of complaint to NAPTIP in order to commence the arrest and possible prosecution of the suspect at the Federal High Court.
  • Explore the possibility of including Kidnap among the charges against the victim.
  • Monitor the progress of the case at the State High Court and explore the possibility of filing a fresh case at the Federal High Court and withdrawing the other case at the lower court.
  • Work closely with NAPTIP, FIDA and the NBA to ensure justice for the victims of the trafficking case.
  • NAPTIP to explore the possibilities of rehabilitating the victims of the case.
 

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A ONE DAY SENSITIZATION WITH KABUSA MARKET WOMEN ASSOCIATION ON GENDER BASED VIOLENCE (GBV)

Dated 12Th June 2018.

The problem of gender-based violence (GBV) is an age-long problem in our communities which has led to loss of lives, emotional disorder, psychological torture and other forms of human rights abuses.  These violations happen more in rural areas than the urban areas due to poor access to information, inadequate exposure and anti-human rights cultural practices, leading to an anti-social environment for women and children. Market women who ordinarily carry the burden for over 70% of the Nigerian families and are the economic main- stay of most homes suffer the most. It shows in several ways and not necessarily violent – owing to Market women often non awareness of this, it gradually ebb their sense of dignity and consequent inability to raise citizens who fully appreciate their beings in our homes.

Lawyers Alert as a human rights Organization has identified the gap which has put the lives of many women at the risk of suffering violations and other human rights abuses, and is now engaging market women associations across the country to sensitize them on Gender based violence.

The first of this training held with the kabusa market women – Abuja sorboses. The training which started at about 2:30 PM with over fourty women in attendance was held at the market square and it started with an opening prayer by a delegate of the Market Women Leader, after which a welcome address was taken by the Market Women Leader herself. All the participants briefly introduced themselves. Mr. Yemi Agoro took time to introduce Lawyers Alert as an Organization to the women and also talked about the Objectives of the meeting. Ellen Onugha who is our legal officer took time to talk about legal literacy and Sexual Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR). Mr Yemi Agoro and Elvis Torkuma took few minutes to summarize everything in local English in other for the women to understand it better. After the session on legal literacy and Sexual reproductive Health Rights (SRHR), we gave room for comments and questions. The women were excited with our services and many threw questions which we were able to respond to with the rights answers.

One woman stood up and said, she would take it upon herself to educate those who were not present at the meeting. Another woman said initially she thought it was money we came to share to them but what she learnt from us is much more than money. After the feedback session, emphases were made on Lawyers Alert’s pro bono services, mediation, where and how they can access our free legal services and what to do when their rights are violated. This topic was even more exciting and overwhelming to them because even before we could finish this session, we had over six women reporting violations to us at the spot. It was a successful program because from their comments, questions, recommendations and openness to discuss their problems with us at the training ground, we could see that we exceeded their expectations.

 

In conclusion, we recommend more of this sensitization program for market women in other locations because many women do not know their rights and they do not know that these rights can be protected and enhanced. This will lead to more enlightened women in the society and reduction or total eradication of gender-based violence in Nigeria.

 

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LAWYERS ALERT CONTINUES ITS VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN AND GIRLS ENGAGEMENT

In continuation of our project which seeks to reduce and eliminate violence against women and girls, Lawyers alert has added 5 states to its already existing 8, making it a total of 13 states.

As in other states, Lawyers Alert in these new states will meet and create partnership with community women groups, the media and human rights lawyers in each state. The essence is to create rights awareness for women so they can report violations of their rights when it occurs and to recognize violations around them. It is also necessary that the media is sensitized on how best to report gender based violence through the lens of human rights. The last objective is to link these women with lawyers who will provide them with free legal services and where the services required are not legal, to refer them to other service providers.

 

In the last 6 weeks, Lawyers Alert has created partnership with key groups in these 5 states and we are currently liaising with several community women groups who report violations and access free legal services.

 

In Osun state, we are liaising with Community Advancement Initiative for Self-Reliance while in Plateau the partnering is with Center for the Advocacy for Justice and Rights (CAJR). In Niger, the Sisters Closet Counseling Volunteers (SCCV) are our partners as Girls Power Initiative (GPI) work with us in Edo State. Rahama Women Development Programme (RWDP) is our partners in Bauchi State.

Even though the project is halfway implemented, we have recorded an estimated 59 reported violations, with free legal services now being offered to over 42 women.

We have a vision of bringing justice home to women and girls who suffer violations and to also create enough publicity around these harmful practices. The analyzed data will soon be released and this will reveal the number of violations in Nigeria. Someday, we hope that these violations will become a thing of the past.

 

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Women and the Benue Killings

By Jerome Mary Uneje

The sound of the whistle pierces through the quiet dark night in the neighbourhood of Ityo Gbenda, a suburb of Anyiin, the headquarters of Logo Local Government Area of Benue State. Everybody is alarmed and tense. A few brave men dare the consequences and rush in the direction of the sound, machetes and spears in hand. The loud sound of the whistle at this time of the night could mean a warning or worse still, an attack within seconds; the few brave men have raced to the home of Pa Agbidye or what remains of it.

To their surprise, it is Orlaade, his rascal drunk of a son, who has had an overdose of ogogoro and is playing pranks. They are livid. How could one be so irresponsible as to alarm the community this way when they were barely returning home since January when the marauding herdsmen attacked the community in the dead of night killing scores and burning homes including the Orlaade’s father’s? One by one they leave, hissing only after abusing the fellow who is neither concerned nor remorseful.

Such has been the fate of the People of Logo, Guma and some other parts of Benue since the January attacks by the killer herdsmen. Though some level of peace is gradually returning, fear and an uneasy calm hang thickly in the air. The January attacks have taken a toll on the State on a multi-sector level ranging from the Government to individual persons.

At the State level, the attacks and killings have caused a lot of economic hardship and sprain on finances. For example, over 5 Internally Displaced Persons Camps have been set up by Government to cater for over 45,000 persons displaced in both Guma and Logo local governments. Through the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), the Government has channelled a lot of financial resources into purchasing relief materials and other necessities for Displaced Persons across the 5 camps. These monies were never budgeted for neither had plans been made in advance for their expenditure. What this implies is that, monies meant for other projects like Health Care, Agriculture and other core areas of social life may have been channelled into addressing this unexpected and unfortunate situation. This will no doubt affect the finances and economic position of the State.

Furthermore, the killings have led to a sharp decline in the aggregate food production in the state. Benue is known as the food basket of the Nation due to the high level of agricultural production the citizens engage in. With over 75% of its Citizens engaged full time in the Agro Industry, the State derives most of its Internally Generated Revenue from farms produce. Guma and Logo are particularly known for their high-level food production especially rice and yam. With both local governments currently displaced, their quota of food production and potential revenues could be lost never to be recovered. This has the potential of leading to famine, malnutrition, loss of income and other domino effects that could be inimical in the long term to general food security in the country.

At the community level, local Citizens no longer sleep with their eyes closed. Daily, the peoples of both Guma and Logo live in perpetual fear for their lives and property. Though operation “Cat Race” has been established by the Nigerian Army, fear still permeates the atmosphere. This state of perpetual fear creates an environment of insecurity, uneasy calm and tension leading to a potentially disastrous situation especially when fed by the ever-spinning rumour mill.

Though a degree of Peace has returned, the trauma of the death of loved ones and destruction of properties still affects the people. Burned houses, granaries, orchards and farmlands are physical reminders of the assault the people suffered on New Year morning of 2018. These sad reminders only make a bad situation worse. Other properties destroyed included shops and business centres. Certainly, feelings of bitterness would be assuaged if perpetrators were at least caught and punished for the irreparable losses especially human lives.

It is a global fact that in any violent conflict, women are usually the worst hit. This attack is no exception. Going by the report of the Benue State Emergency Management Agency, of the over 45,000 people in the 5 camps, approximately 65% or 29, 250 are women.

A major challenge being faced by these women is the loss of Sexual and Reproductive Health Services especially for Pregnant Women. Most of them have lost follow up on Antenatal/ PMTCT services. This loss of follow-up on basic Sexual and Reproductive Health Services posses a significant danger for both mothers and unborn children. Other such services these women have lost access to include Family Planning and HIV and AIDS. The displacement has led them to an inability to continue follow up on their medication and cocktails. As a result, some of them are already taking ill and in danger of imminent death.

The dearth of Sexual and Reproductive Health Services in these camps also affects young girls and women who are sexually active.  The camps provide little or no form of Sexual and Reproductive Health services to this group yet they face a situation where most of them are exposed to sexual demands from males longing to take advantage of their predicament. Already vulnerable, many succumb to these demands even without protection at the risk of unintended pregnancies and or infections. Were adequate Sexual and Reproductive Health Services provided in these camps, or these women and girls not displaced from their homes, the above situation might not arise.

Another effect of the displacement on the Benue woman is the loss of livelihood. Over 75% of women in Benue are farmers or petty traders living in rural areas. With this displacement, the women in both Guma and Logo have fled their homes leaving their means of livelihood.

With the increased pressure on their declining finances, some of these women are resorting to unbecoming methods and means of survival even sex for money in spite of the inherent dangers. Worse still is the fact that they will have little or nothing to fall back on when they return home from these camps.

Yet another effect of this displacement on the Benue Woman is the sharp increase in violations on women’s rights especially Gender Based Violence including battery, rape, assault, intimidation etc. Most of the displaced women within and/or outside these camps have faced one form of violence or the other. Though no specific statistics exist to confirm the number of displaced women violated, our survey has shown that many of the displaced women have experienced one form of violation or the other since the attacks occurred. Gender Based Violence is therefore another effect of the displacement on the Benue woman.

Full scale hostilities have subsided. Peace has since returned to the displaced communities. Pockets of violent attacks are reported here and there but the effects are still there. In order to ameliorate the effects of this conflict on the State and its Citizens, the following is recommended:

  • The Federal Government and the International Development Agencies should increase their aid to the State in providing assistance to the displaced people and in rebuilding homes and properties destroyed by the marauding herdsmen.
  • Deliberate efforts should be made by both the Federal Ministry of Agriculture in tandem with the State Institutions to assist farmers with improved seeds, seedlings and other farming inputs with a view towards boosting aggregate farm produce in Benue State to stave off famine and food shortage.
  • The operation Cat Race and other Security Operatives should intensify their patrols and surveillance in the war torn grassroot communities to establish their presence. This will reduce the level of anxiety and sleeplessness in the communities.
  • On the mass destruction of properties in the affected communities, we strongly recommend the compensation of the affected people of their losses in monetary terms,
  • We also recommend that Sexual and Reproductive Health services be provided in camps and in the conflict zones including the provision of Ante-natal/PMTCT to pregnant Mothers.
  • Lastly, we recommend the monitoring and documentation of the violations of Rights of the displaced women with a view towards investigating the violations and bringing the perpetrators to justice.

As they leave, the leader of the security contingent takes a last, piteous look at Orlaade. He ponders how such a childish act could have rattled an entire community, a situation which would never have arisen prior. He sighs. Such has been the effect of the killings in Anyiin and indeed the entire Benue State.

Jerome Mary Uneje is with Lawyers Alert

 

 

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WOMEN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS ON THE PLATEAU: A RISING WARNING OCTAVE

By Jerome Uneje

Bang! Bang!! Bang!!! Bot (not real name) keeps hitting on the door as he hollers her name in the still of the night. Kangyang, (not real name) 28, and a Mother of two slowly sits up in her hard, and narrow wooden bed. She picks up her small handset to check the time. The broken screen shows 1: 17 am. Oh no… not again. She hisses, gets up and opens the door for her husband. He staggers in and begins his routine of abuse and insults in slurred speech occasioned by too much alcohol. She is quiet and takes on the abuses with a dignified silence. He pushes away his food and demands sex. This time, Kangyang refuses. She has been busy on the farm all day and is too tired for sex and asks for a little more time to rest. Bot will have none of that. She stands her ground. A scuffle ensues. Bot grabs Kangyang by the throat and begins to shake her violently. She struggles, but her blocked wind pipe cannot take in enough oxygen to sustain her strength. She gasps and gasps while Bot tightens his grip. She finally weakens and slumps, dead.

Kangyang’s story is an everyday narrative in Nigeria. Violence against Women is as common place as any other vice. The United Nations Fund for Population Agency (UNFPA) reported in 2016 that Gender Based Violence, especially against women has a prevalence rate of over 30% across the country. This translates into 1 out of every 10 Women in Nigeria as a victim of violence in one form or more. The same report has it that over 25% of Nigerian women are circumcised.

There has been an unprecedented rise in violence against women in spite of the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition Act) 2015. In Plateau State for instance, reports indicate that Violence against women is on the rise. Reports from the Media and other stakeholders including the Civil Society in Plateau State has it that in the last one year, there have been up to 430 reported cases of violations against Women in the State. Of these figures, 123 are rape cases of which 96 or 80% involve minors. There are over 21 cases of murder and many more.

Currently, efforts are being made by State and Non-State Actors in Plateau state to curb this fast rising menace to the womenfolk. The Civil Society has formed an observatory platform that monitors and documents these violations. According to our sources, the Observatory Platform has over 23 Civil Society and other key stakeholders. It is this platform that has recorded the over 430 cases of violations in Plateau State over the period of 1 year alone.

Besides the efforts Civil Society, the Plateau State House of Assembly, worried by the rising cases of violations against women, has initiated an Executive bill which seeks to penalize perpatrators of violence against women. The proposed bill seeks to strengthen the old Northern Nigeria Penal Code under which offenders are currently charged and tried. The Northern Nigeria Penal Code is archaic and does not speak to current realities on ground. The proposed bill is yet to be passed and it’s still in the formative stages in the Plateau State House of Assembly.

Lawyers Alert commends the efforts of both the State and Non-State Actors in Plateau State in tackling the issue of violence against Women. Gender Based Violence (GBV) is a menace that should concern every member of the society, regardless of status.

Given the above therefore, Lawyers Alert as a Human Rights Organization and a staunch advocate of Gender Equality and Women Empowerment, wishes to make the following suggestions to both the Civil Society and Government Institutions in Plateau State and Nigeria as a whole, in their efforts to curb the violations against Women and other vulnerable groups.

Regarding the efforts of the Civil Society, Lawyers Alert suggests that;

  • Recorded violations should not be stopped at the documentation stages alone but such cases should be taken to Court where the perpetrators will be adequately punished and the victims compensated
  • Monitored and documented violations should be analysed by the Civil Society in order to pattern out a trend in the violations. This will help in directing advocacy courses and programs.
  • There should be a pool of Human Rights Lawyers set to offer pro bono services to the victims of these violations especially for the poor and vulnerable.
  • Civil Society should push for the passage and implementation of laws and policies that protect and empower Women including international, regional and local instruments.

To Government Institutions:

  • They should endeavour to pass laws and policies that protect and empower Women
  • Put in place structures and procedures to assure the full implementation of passed and domesticated laws in their States.
  • Put in place structures and platforms that empower Women in economic and social terms through the formulation of laws, policies and special interventions like Women Skill acquisition programs amongst others.

In conclusion, Women Rights are Human Rights guaranteed by laws. The violations against Women must be condemned and discouraged in strong terms at all levels in Nigeria and Plateau State in particular. Failure to take proactive measures in this regard could lead to more episodes of the Kangyang story in our communities.

 

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