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Tag Archives: Data on Human Rights Violations in Nigeia

AN X-RAY: THE IMPLICATIONS OF FEMALE SEX WORK IN NIGERIA

By Chigoziem Ellen Onugha Esq

sex work

As human beings, one of the things we find so difficult to desist from doing is the setting apart of morals from laws. There is a common law principle which states:

“for something to be an offence, it must be contained in a written law and with a punishment attached to it”

 

Invariably, we have found ourselves acting as our conscience directs and not as the law states. I think we have gotten to that point where we need to assume our conscience and laws were parcels of land adjacent to each other, where beakers would be used to create boundaries to avoid trespass.

Sex work is not contained in any Nigerian law as an offence, because it is a way of life which when juxtaposed with effect on society, would probably rate least. As a right-thinking member of the society, you would not expect to see a man and a woman on the road carrying out any sexual activities, except if they are both mentally enslaved. If this affair is private rather than public and is not contained in any written law as an offence, I beg to be educated on what informs the minds of the society in violating the fundamental human rights of persons who are called “Female Sex Workers”.

Unfortunately, the law goes beyond morals. Therefore, a person’s moral values should not compromise or prejudice the provisions of the law.

Lawyers Alert Nigeria in their recent publication of report of violations in Nigeria, educates thus:

  1. The Federal Capital Territory has the highest rate of violation of Female Sex Workers
  2. Kogi State and Benue State come immediately after the Federal Capital Territory
  3. Bornu State and Lagos State have the least amount of violation of Female Sex Workers.
  4. Persons between 20 to 24 have a high violation rate by 65%
  5. Persons between 25 to 40 follow the list by 29%
  6. Persons between 10 to 19 rank as the group with the least violation rate by 6%

The report further gives an expository to the various forms of violations these persons (Female Sex Workers) go through and they are as follows:

  1. Verbal Abuse 19%
  2. Emotional Abuse 17%
  3. Privacy 10%
  4. Blackmailing 3%
  5. Freedom of Movement 7%
  6. Forced Detention 1%
  7. Physical Abuse 7%
  8. Harassment 9%
  9. Sexual Exploitation 6%

A cursory look at the statistics above, bares a display of morality which can by investigation of some other words be termed display of double standard. An enquiry into the recent raiding of women in Abuja by men of Abuja Environmental Protection Board, Nigeria Police Force, Department of State Security and other various security agencies in Nigeria with disparate visions and modes of operation from matters like this, in the name of ridding the society of sin, also gives an expository to the trespass to morals in legal societal issues.

 

RECOMMENDATIONS

Success of the nation (Nigeria) leans extremely on the level of importance we attach to matters and what matters we attach high level of importance to. Amidst the chaos and economic redundancy the country is facing, detention and violation of the fundamental human rights of Female Sex Workers is a distraction from the goal. On this basis, I recommend the following:

  1. That a deliberate and conscious effort should be made by law enforcement agencies in carrying out their functions.
  2. That law enforcement agencies should engage in human rights trainings and studies as a course for qualification.
  3. That Female Sex Work should be seen as “just a name” that it is, distinct from persons who are involved in the acts of female sex work. Because I believe that would help law enforcement agencies to see them as human beings and also treat them as human beings.

 

CONCLUSION

Section 405 (1) (d) of the Penal Code Act, chapter 53 LFN (Abuja) defines vagabond as thus:

“A common prostitute behaving in a disorderly or indecent manner in a public place or persistently importuning or soliciting persons for the purpose of prostitution”

The law is like a manual by which we all (with no exception to a particular people) should live. Explicitly observed in the afore stated provision is the fact that prostitution is not a crime in the Penal Code Act, chapter 53 LFN (Abuja). Rather, what constitutes a crime in this Act is a disorderly or indecent behaviour in a public place persistently importuning or soliciting persons for the purpose of prostitution.

I strongly believe that meddling in the affairs of persons with regards to their private lives and how they choose to live it is rather indecent and a show of irresponsibility.

For better examination and study of the report made mention of above, kindly visit Lawyers Alert Nigeria website @lawyersalertnigeria.org.

 

 

 

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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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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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LAWYERS ALERT RELEASES DATA ON HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS WITH REGARD TO HOMOSEXUALS IN NIGERIA

The report is a compendium of reported violations of sexual minorities in Nigeria between April 2017 to March 2018, with particular focus on Men who have sex with men (MSM). The data used in this report is drawn from inputs made into the online rights violation documentation tool developed by Lawyers Alert (http://colahr.org/lawyersalert/index.php ). The findings in this report cuts across the six geopolitical zones in Nigeria.

Key findings from the Data evidences that Men who have sex with men, MSM, suffer the highest form of violations amongst key population groups in Nigeria. Violations against MSM by State and Non-State Actors concentrated to an all high of 76% as against other groups. Reasons for this are principally embedded in the prevailing laws (especially the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Law 2013

It is also instructive to note that 95% of reported violations/cases were resolved at police stations, with less than 5% going to trial, and even at that, prosecution is not diligent. This appears to validate the often held claim that arrests are basically to harass, intimidate and extort victims with no will for proper prosecution.  It should be added that approximately 75% of victims were supported with free legal representation either by Lawyers Alert or other organizations in Nigeria.

This report builds on our earlier report  that grouped sexual minorities into one group, http://lawyersalertng.org/resources/LAWYERS%20ALERT%20FINDINGS%20ON%20SRHR%20%20%20%20VIOLATIONS%20IN%20NIGERIA.pdf

With support from the Rapid Response Fund, Lawyers Alert customised the online tool to specifically speak to MSM, as against other key populations and other varying sexual orientations. The online tool automatically analyses data along age, location, types, trends etc.

Interventions for MSM actions and possible law reforms cannot be better informed than when situated against the data evidenced in this report.  The documented  violations were verified and  legal assistance proffered. With Nigeria committed to ending HIV, especially against the background of dwindling external funding, such data are very critical for targeted interventions given limited resources.

Lawyers Alert is indebted to several persons and organizations, who referred cases to us, assisted us technically and/or financially in the course of developing and putting up the online tool. We acknowledge the Rapid Response Fund for partnering with us this on work

The full report can be viewed at http://lawyersalertng.org/resources/Data%20on%20MSM%20Rights%20Violations%20in%20%20Nigeria.pdf

 

 

 

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