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FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION: INTERNATIONAL ZERO TOLERANCE DAY

Startled by this loud reverberation from her phone, Ms. Elizabeth Johnson (not real name) jumps out of bed, looked at her bedside clock it is 6:00am in the morning. She quickly reached out for the phone. Remembering it is the reminder alarm she had set the previously, to keep “6th February, 2017 handy as it is the International day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C), a monument she never forgets.

Female genital mutilation also known as female genital cutting or circumcision is a rite removal of the female genitalia. It is a common practice found in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. According to UNICEF Report of 2016, a total of 200 million women are estimated to have undergone the procedures of FGM and are alive in 30 countries including 27 African countries, Indonesia, Iraq Kurdistan and Yemen.  This form of circumcision is an equivalent of that of a male child in severity. This is usually conducted by a traditional circumciser particularly an older woman using a blade. The circumcision method varies depending on the country and/or ethnic group. Like circumcision for boys takes place on the eighth day after birth, most ethnic group takes from days after birth to puberty and beyond.

Dated far back as 1929 following the lead of Mario Scott Steven, a Church of Scotland Missionary, the Kenya Missionary Council already referred to Female Genital Mutilation as the Sexual Mutilation of Women. But till 2004 in Laikipiaplateau Kenya, the Kenyans still front it as an honourable rite called the “Samburu FGM ceremony”. But of what significance is it to their victims?

Elizabeth Johnson, had lost her cousin to the cold hands of death at childbirth owing to this practice that violates human rights. It drains her emotionally each time this International day is marked. What can be done to abolish or eradicate this inhuman tradition?  She recalls the  damaging health effects of FGM that often results in woman having recurrent infections, difficulty passing urine and menstrual flow with excruciating pain and worse of all the inability to get pregnant and/or childbirth complications.

Female Genital Mutilation according to health professional and/or practitioners has no benefit instead inflicts health challenges.  From the research carried out, the Inter-African Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children and the World Health Organisation (WHO) were the first to have referred to this act as Female Genital Mutilation in 1990 and 1991. Others used terms such as female genital cutting (FGC) also female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C), which is said to be the most preferred by persons who work with practitioners.

A report also had it that Female Genital Mutilation are of classes, these include cutting without removal of flesh, partial or complete removal of the clitoral hood and/or clitoral glands and also removal of flesh and sewing of same called “infibulation”. This procedure is done by clasping the foreskin together and allowing only a little passage for excretion purposes (urine and menstrual fluid). Such victims when married are faced with diverse challenges including health implications, lack of penetration, inability in getting pregnant and complications at childbirth due to the little open. In this regard victims are required to be cut open in order for them to either be penetrated or have their children with ease at every point of childbirth.  The sole reason behind this tradition is to prevent the girl child from being exposed to social exclusion, where an African mother wants to regular her daughters’ sexuality, purity, modesty and beauty sees it as an honour to inflict her with such pain and trauma.

Following the recap of Female Genital Mutilation, it may seem antiquated and ancient but surprisingly it is still making waves in most parts of Nigeria including the South West and South East. Female Genital Mutilation is a long standing tradition that is carried out by most Nigerian women on their daughters and grand-daughters. This act as performed by those women using razors, knives and other sharp objects is not mindful of the dangers of infections of different degrees. They see it as a way of protection and prevention from extreme sexuality and the voice of disgrace. Female Genital Mutilation is a pathetic issue confronting women in the name of purification, modesty and beauty. Where a woman cannot enjoy the free and natural gift as endowed her by her creator is injustice, inhuman and the highest level of women human rights violation and it all boils down to the issue of gender inequality and denial of sexual and reproductive health rights.

The consequences of all of these is the unsafe nature of the device used for this mutilation which are not sterilized yet are used on several of the children in the same home or community where it takes place as the circumcisers are traditionalists and know nothing about sterilization or the need for the safe health of those children being mutilated. It is also done without anaesthesia because medical practitioners are not involved in most cases and such children are left in cruelty.

A report from a Ugandan nurse quoted in 2007, “The Lancet”, ‘a cutter would use one knife on up to 30 girls at a time’. Whereas in Egypt, Kenya, Indonesia and Sudan Health professionals are often involved, but only in Egypt was it recorded to have 77 percent of FGM procedures performed by medical professionals as of 2008 and 2016.

Another report from UNFPA 2015 shows that in Nigeria states like Ekiti, Ebonyi, Imo, Lagos and Oyo are well known for this traditional practice but Oyo is said to have ranked the highest in female genital mutilation with over 76.3 percent.

Filled with content after series of research work Ms. Elizabeth only sees FGM as ‘the mayhem of all times’. Looking up ways to save the lives of others from dying like her cousin. She felt the need to call on mothers all over Africa and beyond who are still in the practice of FGM to rather stand in defence of the rights of their daughters and their unborn granddaughters instead of ingraining in the tradition and culture that inflicts health challenges and even sorrow to themselves as it is the only way forward to allowing this path of harmful tradition to die a natural death and fight with the weapon we know best, which is the implementation and domestication of the available legal resources, conventions and instruments such as ‘Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act (VAPP), 2015, Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)’ etc. In the spirit of working together to put an end to FGM, the 5 mile Women Walk she will be leading will be a way of saying it loud and clear: NO MORE!

Marie-Uneje Jerome is with Lawyers Alert  +234 073 129 6971

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Posted by on February 14, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

NIGERIA: MANDATORY HIV TESTING AND DISMISSAL OF AN EMPLOYEE ON THE BASIS OF HIV-STATUS

http://www.southernafricalitigationcentre.org/cases/ongoing-cases/nigeria-mandatory-hiv-testing-and-dismissal-of-an-employee-on-the-basis-of-hiv-status/

 
 

Reason to monitor Human Rights Abuses

By Sunday Adaji Esq

One common denominator among human rights defenders is the passion to fight, protect, and defend the fundamental rights of citizens. This passion has led some lawyers to sacrifice their time, money, resources and even life and limb, in defense of citizens’ inalienable rights.

The history of the human rights struggle is as old as the history of mankind. In the Bible, we read how Cain murdered Abel his brother in cold blood. There was no justification for the murder of Abel by Cain. From the time of Abel till now, human rights abuse has continued to rise at a geometric rate while the rate of protection and defence against human rights abuse, on the other hand, only rises arithmetically. Just when you have successfully prosecuted a case of human rights abuse and want to jubilate, you hear yet more cases of others whose rights have been infringed.

Nigeria, has witnessed all forms of human rights abuse by the state actors whether during the military era or in the democratic dispensation and by non-state actors.  Thousands of citizens have been killed by Boko Haram terrorists and millions of others were rendered homeless due to Boko Haram’s invasion In every nook and cranny of the country, human rights abuse exist. Issues of child abuse, domestic violence, human trafficking, rape, lynching, homicides, baby factories aimed at making babies primarily for commercial purposes, deprivation, false imprisonment, etc still abound and actually appear to be on the increase. 

As long as rights exist, so shall abuses, making the need to monitor paramount. So long human rights defenders make efforts at combating  human rights abuse and reducing it to the barest minimum, dignity of more persons can be protected. abusers.

We will not forget in a hurry heroes in Nigeria the military era for example. Be they organizations like NADECO, CLO or persons like  the Fawehinmis, the Ransome – Kutis, the Agbakobas, or the Nigerian Press, and many others too numerous to mention, who wrestled with military dictatorships and eventually saw them out of power. The feat achieved by these human-rights-minded Nigerians convinces me beyond an iota of doubt that we can reduce human rights abuse to the barest minimum, if only we are willing to contribute our quota towards protecting and defending citizens from having their human rights abused.

Everyday people’s rights are violated with impunity. Some, we witness ourselves, others are reported to us. And many others are reported on the internet and in the print and electronic media, yet we do nothing about them. We cannot continue to fold our arms and watch perpetrators violate people’s rights. We have to show and feel concerned with what happens to others. We might be the next victim! You never can tell!

There is always something you can do when you see other people’s rights being abused. Don’t shrug your shoulders, walk away and say, “It is none of my business.” It is your business. If it doesn’t concern you today, it may concern you tomorrow. Be your brother’s keeper. Do something. You can report to the police, you can report to the press. We have many radio stations, television stations and print media around us. We also have many human rights organizations around us, they are within your reach.

We don’t have to keep mute in the face human rights abuse. The reason human rights abuse is rampant is because we are not doing anything about it. If we are ready to do something about it, we will reduce human rights abuse to the barest minimum.

And for us human rights lawyers, TENACITY is our watchword! We are not relenting, we are not quitting! We will not fold our arms! More often than not, we will spend our money, time and resources pursuing this just cause, but these are the sacrifices we must make to ensure that people enjoy their inalienable rights.

Sunday Adaji is a human rights lawyer and legal officer with Lawyers Alert. He can be reached on 07061016859

 

Lawyers Alert Develops Monitoring and Documentation Tool for Sexual and Reproductive Rights Violations

Lawyers Alert with the kind assistance of  AmplifyChange has developed a Documentation of sexual and reproductive health rights violation tool to be used by the lawyers and other CSOs serving the target population.

The tool was developed in consultation women, community members and other stakeholders. The Consultant validated the tool with the community in the course of its development. The tool has been upgraded to a web Application to aid the capturing of violations by CSOs, CBOs and other stakeholders working and networking with Lawyers Alert on the internet.  http://www.colahr.org/lawyersalert/index.php

The tool is perhaps the biggest fall out of the six-month old project supported by AmplifyChange:https://amplifychange.org/grantees/grants/strengthening/2vnwejaynv5zm1mm/protecting-the-sexual-and-reproductive-health-rights-of-women-and-other-vulnerable-groups-in-nigeria.html

has the potential to revolutionise the capturing and documentation of SRHR violations in Nigeria. The application developed has the capacity to analyse trends, desegregate data by types of violation, age, geographic location, etc.

CSOs and other bodies working in same sector have expressed the desire to key into our documentation tool. We intend to share the password for them to upload such information, subject to conditions we are yet to develop.

The Tool as shown below, has about 32 indicators and is open to CSOs to fill in data, which is then verified and pulled together. Analyses will be every quarter of a year beginning April 2017. Only accredited users will have access.  http://www.colahr.org/lawyersalert/index.php

REPORTING FORM                                     Case No: _________________

  CSO’s name/SN/month/year

 

Date of interview:
Is this a referral? Yes — No —             Details of referee (Names/contact details):___________________________________________

 

Type of interview:          Face-to-face —        Focus group —        Telephone —        In-writing —                                         Other:________________________
Were the facts of the incident(s) verified?               Yes —           No —                       The facts will be verified at a later stage —

INFORMATION RELATED TO THE INTERVIEWER

Name of the interviewer:                                                                                    Organisation:
Contact (email/telephone):

INFORMATION RELATED TO THE INTERVIEWEE(S)

 Person who uses drugs —      Person living with HIV —     Sex worker —       Person with disability —      LGBTI —       Others —:___________
 Female — Male — Other —                        Age (years): 0 to 5 —          6 to 9 —           10 to 19 —         20 to 24 —         25 to 40 —                                                                        ≥40 —
 Occupation:                                                                           Highest level of education:
 Marital status:                                                                        LGA/State of usual residence:
 Contact details for further follow-up:

(Optional)

INFORMATION RELATED TO THE INCIDENT(S)

Dates/period of incident(s):
Where did the incident(s) happen? (Ward):                                                           (LGA):                                             (State):
What happened? (Describe briefly the facts):

 

How many people were directly affected by the incident(s)?

INFORMATION RELATED TO THE PERPETRATOR(S)

— State actor(s). Specify: ____________________________           — Non-State actor(s). Specify:______________________________
Age of perpetrator(s):             10 to 19 —          20 to 24 —             25 to 40 —             ≥40 —
Number of perpetrator(s):
Faults/failures on the part of the perpetrator(s):

TYPE(S) OF VIOLATION(S) OF RIGHT(S) – (TICK THE APPLICABLE BOX(ES)):

—   Abusive language/verbal abuse

—   Emotional and psychological abuse, including denial of love and attention

—   Forced financial dependence and economic abuse

 

—   Denial of the freedom to associate with others, including forced isolation or separation from family and friends

—   Denial of the freedom to express one’s sexuality

 

—   Invasion of bodily integrity and privacy, including anal examination, forced public parading, gender insensitive bodily examination

—   Medical tests without informed consent, including pregnancy, STIs  and HIV tests

—   Forced medical procedure (e.g. forced sterilisation, forced caesarean section, genital mutilations, forced rehabilitation)

 

—   Forced abortion

—   Denial of the right to decide whether to have children, the number of children and the spacing of children

—    Denial of quality, timely and safe maternal health services (pre-, during and post-natal care and delivery, including prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV)

—    Denial of quality health care, including care provided by qualified healthcare providers and care that is medically appropriate

 

—   Forced marriage

—    Denial of family life, including undue interference by family members and relatives

—   Unlawful denial of child custody

—   Harmful traditional or religious practices, including community cleansing, excommunication, forced deliverance

 

—    Breach of confidentiality over health information and medical records

 

—    Denial of SRH commodities (circle as applicable): family planning and contraception; STIs screening and treatment; condoms; lubricants; pregnancy tests; emergency contraception; post-exposure prophylaxis for HIV (PeP); medicines for post-abortion treatment and care; sexual dysfunction treatment, fertility treatment

—    Limited physical access to SRH commodities and services, such as physical accessibility or interpretation for people with a disability; reasonable geographical location; etc.

—    Denial of affordable SRH commodities and services

 

—    Denial of accurate information on sexual and reproductive health, including family planning education

—    Denial of comprehensive sexual education

—    Denial of SRH rights-related legal literacy

 

—    Denial of housing or eviction on grounds such as sex work, sexual orientation, sex, pregnancy and HIV status

—    Unlawful employment practices, including termination of employment, on grounds such as sexual orientation, sex, pregnancy and HIV status

—    Denial of access to an institution of learning, on grounds such as sexual orientation, sex, pregnancy and HIV status

 

—    Failure to protect personal security and safety

—   Blackmailing

—   Unlawful denial of freedom of movement

—   Unlawful forced detention

 

—   Physical abuse, including assault, torture and battery

—   Harassment, including sexual harassment and stalking

—   Rape

—   Sexual exploitation, including sextortion (i.e. withholding what is due in exchange for images of a sexual nature, sexual favours, or money)

 

—    Others (Specify):_______________________________________

Applicable legislation or relevant policy(ies) (if any in the State):

OTHER HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS INVOLVED (IF ANY)

  

ACTIONS TAKEN BY THE INTERVIEWEE (IF ANY)                                  ACTIONS TAKEN BY THE INTERVIEWER (IF ANY)

   

 

 
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Posted by on November 30, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

Lawyers Alert Brings Human Rights Lawyers together on provision of legal literacy and access to justice to vulnerable groups in Nigeria.

By Roseline Oghnebrume

Lawyers Alert in partnership with UNAIDS Nigeria, brought together human rights lawyers under the auspices of Coalition of Lawyers For Human Rights, COLaHR, on the 28th and 29th day of October 2015 at Kanem Suites, Utako Abuja to interact with People Living with HIV (PLWHIV), People Who Inject Drugs (PWIDs), Female Sex Workers (FSWs), Sexual Minorities towards provision of free legal assistance and legal literacy.

The Coalition of Lawyers for Human Rights (CoLaHR) which consists of Volunteer Lawyers across 23 states in Nigeria has as its  mandate the provision of free Legal Assistance and Interventions for Key Populations and Vulnerable Groups in Nigeria.

This event was aimed at bringing Members of CoLaHR and Members of Key Populations and Vulnerable Groups to get to know one another to ensure justice for all and to create awareness of relevant law as members of CoLaHR have been finding it very challenging connecting with Vulnerable Groups since the Coalition was formed. It was also a forum to increase the visibility of CoLaHR and to build confidence and trust between the Vulnerable Groups and Lawyers.COLAHR Meetin

At the event there was an official launch of the CoLaHR website (http://www.colahr.org), CoLaHR help line (08026826761) and email (colahr.nigeria@gmail) making it easy for the Key populations and vulnerable groups to reach the CoLaHR members promptly when the need arises. Ramaroson Mianko representing UNAIDS Country Director, Dr Bilali Camara, emphasized the importance of the website stating that it was created to facilitate  the protection of Human Rights and also to serve a resource base. Informative, Educative and Communication materials (pamphlets and posters) explaining rights and where to go when one’s fundamental Human Rights are abused were developed and distributed to Key and Affected Populations during the meeting to take home and also distribute to the grass roots and the larger community towards possible validation and mass circulation afterwards.

Mr. Kunle Adeniyi, representing of the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA) expressed his delight with the passion being exhibited by the participants but also cautioned that the forum cannot fully settle the issues of the law as it relates to Human Rights as the Law is constantly existing. He congratulated UNAIDS, Lawyers Alert and CoLaHR for a job well done and for the official launch of the website.

The Executive Director of INCRESE, Dorothy Akenova expressed her joy at the launch of CoLaHR website and stated that she had never been more happy working with Lawyers Alert and UNAIDS. Most participants expressed the feeling that hitherto were not comfortable in the same room with  Lawyers as they always had the mindset that no one understands them and the society at large always discriminates against them. They thanked Lawyers Alert and UNAIDS for organizing the meeting especially with members of CoLaHR  volunteering to provide Legal Assistance to them.

Barrister Rommy Mom, President of Lawyers Alert commended and appreciated his learned colleagues who have offered to give themselves and their time to the Vulnerable Groups to protect and offer pro-bono legal services when their rights have been infringed.

At the end of the 2 day event, an effective networking and trust building between the Lawyers and the Vulnerable Groups was enhanced and  agreed modality between the Vulnerable Groups and members of CoLaHR on reaching out when in need. The participants also learnt about the common violations faced, knowledge of their rights and knowledge of the legal needs of key populations and vulnerable groups.

The members of the Coalition agreed on the following: There should be a permanent staff for CoLaHR, Legal fund for CoLaHR be established and administered by Lawyers Alert, Members of CoLaHR should be trained on Human Right practice, More Lawyers should be trained to increase the number of Lawyers under CoLaHR, There should be a meeting with critical stakeholders and bodies, The need for specialization by CoLaHR members where necessary and the need to have periodic meetings.

 

 

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STILL ON CITIZEN LOIS IORVIHI AND GOVERNOR AL MAKURA

Governor Al Makura

Governor Al Makura

By Jerome Uneje Mary

So much has been written and heard concerning this issue in both the social and mainstream media. Both Ms. Lois and Governor Al Makura’s crowd are trading blames and claiming rights over the said incidence with each party putting forward their edition of the story.

For reminder on the story, on this day, along the Makurdi – Lafia – Abuja Federal High Way, a young lady by the name of Lois Iorvihi was allegedly molested, brutalized and violently intimidated by the security agents on the behest of a sitting Executive Governor under his nose with impunity. This action, is in direct contrast with the wind of change across Nigeria under President Muhammadu Buhari. It would appear Governor Al Makura and his security details are stuck in the past and have refused to flow with the tide of change.

We were not present when this incidence occurred to endorse or renounce their claims. Some underlying facts in both editions of the same story are however not manipulative. First, there was a face-off between Ms. Lois and the Convoy of Governor Al Makura. Second, the said incidence occurred before the very eyes of His Excellency, Governor Al Makura of Nasarawa State. Third, the young lady suffered some brutalization on herself, siblings and property including her car and media devices. Finally, the young lady was arrested, charged and detained alongside her siblings. Bare fact truth is that Ms. Lois and her siblings were violated simply because she is a woman with “less rights” than her male counterparts as far as Governor Al Makura and his boys are concerned.

In the face of the foregoing indisputable fact we make bold to say that the security agents took their jobs a little too far and the Governor did much too little to manage the incidence. We are not in any way exonerating Ms. Lois of blame neither are we indicting the Executive Governor and the security details. However, we are of the strong opinion that the unfortunate incidence was in the first place avoidable had someone along the line acted a little more civil. The management of the aftermath of the incidence is even worse than the incidence in itself. Since the occurrence of the incidence, the Governors’ spokesman Yakubu Lamai, Senior Special Assistant Public Affairs & Media Strategy has been turning logic on its head all in a bid to make his boss a saint and Ms. Iorvihi the villain.

It is a common knowledge on the streets of Nigeria that security agents especially those attached to high profile personalities act with dispatch overzealousness especially on hapless citizens. Therefore, it is not an out of place incidence for the security agents attached to the convoy of an Executive Governor to pounce on a young lady who seems reluctant to give way to the Governor’s convoy. What is however surprising and baffling is the period and timing of the incidence.

Barely three months into the “change” regime, one would have thought the era of Police brutality and Master Leadership was over. It is also surprising that this ugly incidence happened to a hapless young lady before the eyes of the Governor of the State. As an Executive Governor of a State, it is mind bugling to imagine him sitting in the luxury of his SUV while watching his goons manhandle a female motorist in broad day light. We strongly feel that it is duty and obligation of the Governor to uphold the dignity and rights of hapless Citizens ESPECIALLY women regardless of any circumstances. There is no law that encourages brutality and torture on offenders. Even if Ms. Lois was “driving in the middle of the road” or being “very rude” or even “dressed like a prostitute” it is still unwarranted that her car was smashed, her ipad and phones destroyed and her siblings beaten before detention.  If Ms. Lois had violated traffic laws or committed some other form of crime, the civilized thing to do is to get her arrested and charged as per the offence. Her physical assault and brutalization under the watchful eyes of the Governor speaks volumes on the state of Human Rights in Nigeria especially those of Women. This incidence also serves as a reminder to us all that the issue of Women Human Rights is still light years away from being defended and respected in Nigeria.

Perhaps, the Governor’s Senior Special Assistant Public Affairs & Media Strategy, Yakubu Lamai was right when he said in his response to the incidence that “a political leader of the stature of a governor will naturally face a constant challenge posed by the social construction of his image and identity” which is why this incidence speaks volumes about the attitude of the Governor towards Human Rights and especially Women. In a bit to correct the above ugly incidence in preservation of his towering image we hereby recommend that the Executive Governor reach out a hand of friendship to Ms. Lois and her family. He should also attempt to recompense her on her lost and damaged properties in the hands of his goons including her car and devices. Pay the medical bills of her siblings brutalized in the course of the incidence. This way, Ms. Lois’ Fundamental Human Rights and indeed that of the entire Nigerian Women will be preserved especially in these days of change.

The likes of Governor Al Makura and his goons must learn to live with the change or make way for those who will for the good of Ms. Lois, Nigerian women and indeed the entire Nation.

Jerome Uneje Mary is a Program Officer at Lawyers Alert Head Office in Makurdi, Benue State. She can be reached at unejemarie@yahoo.com

 
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Posted by on October 25, 2015 in Women Rights and Gender

 

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