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Tag Archives: Key Populations and Vulnerable groups n Nigeria

THE CLASS ACT OF THE 8TH BENUE ASSEMBLY AND THE VAPP LAW

By Jerome Uneje

criminaljustice

 

“Hmmm…Torkwase my sister, so it’s true that everything about the domestication of the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act (VAPPA) is finally done and dusted! Hah…the glory of the 8th Benue Assembly and the Governor will never be erased from the memory of the Benue people o! At least vulnerable and indigent women, children and even men will benefit greatly with this VAPP Act as assented to in Benue State. The two Women smile and lean their backs against the wall at the same time.

The most recently rattled and misconstrued Law has finally seen the limelight. Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Bill like other bills presented to the National Assembly became a Law in May, 2015 and it seems to have overshadowed all other instruments and laws in Nigeria regarding the prohibition of all forms of discrimination against persons regardless of their sex and/or gender. This instrument enshrines the concerns and needs of vulnerable and indigent women including men and other groups who often fall victims of violence in Nigeria.

The Law which is applicable only at the  Federal Capital Territory had left the option to States at the Sub National level to domesticate the law in their respective States or otherwise. However it became imperative for the Law to be domesticated at the sub-national level especially in States such as Benue where on a daily basis, newspaper headlines are awash with killings, rape or maiming, particularly of spouse and/or lovers by husbands or man-lover, or rape of even minors like the case of Ochanya, who died from a gradual torture of rape by her so-called uncle and his son in Ugbokolo, Benue State and that of a young woman that was strangled to death by her husband for denying him sex in Plateau State and every 1 out of 3 women and/or young girls who suffer violence daily. All of those necessitated the propagation of the campaigning and advocacy for the VAPP Act to be domesticated in the State.

Be that as it may, the VAPP Law among other things has strengthened advocacy against rape, Female Genital Mutilation, partner battery, stalking, harmful widowhood practices by State Actors while prohibiting all forms of violence, including physical, sexual, psychosomatic, domestic, harmful traditional practices; discrimination against persons and to provide maximum protection and effective remedies for victims and punishment of offenders.  In as much as this all powerful legislation instrument has provided for the above, it has also initiated positive innovations such as prohibiting persons from being forcefully isolated or separated from their family and friends and preventing widows from being subject to harmful traditional practices. It has even gone ahead to provide for a Commission of Violence Against Women which will be responsible for the general supervision of the Bill while a Victim of Violence Trust Fund will be established to provide and manage victims of violence. Under the Trust Fund, rehabilitation programmes, shelters and rape centers will be provided to cater for victims of violence. This indeed is a huge and robust fortification especially for victims of violence.

The positive effect of this Law is overwhelmingly amazing as prior to this law only women could be raped as approved in other legal materials and in the true definition of the word ‘rape’ as well as penetration of the vagina and for this sole reason, only women could be said to be raped. However, this Law now provides that a man can also fall victim of rape. VAPPA is the first piece of legislation in Nigeria which recognises that men are capable of being raped and also recognizes that not only penetration of the vagina is acceptable. All other criminal statutes delineate the offence in relation to women.  The VAPP acknowledging that unlawful anal and/or oral sex can be rape and not sexual assault is therefore ground-breaking.

The above has truly shown that the Benue people at this point will be thoroughly protected by the appropriate application of this Law and in secure environment notwithstanding the degree and/or pedigree of persons involved in violations.

In conclusion, we express our warmest gratitude to the out gone 8th Benue Assembly for a great job well done. This singular act has demonstrated beyond every reasonable doubt that their tenure was people oriented and has therefore purged it of all shortcomings while the House lasted. We also commend the Executive Governor of Benue State His Excellency Samuel Ortom for his speedy action towards signing the bill into law. We also commend the doggedness of the Civil Society including FIDA, Lawyers Alert, The Civil Society Coalition in Benue, The Media and all other actors involved in the course of this struggle.

As the struggle continues, Torkwase and her friend Ada laugh out loud shake hands and stand up. They walk out of the room towards the door to catch up with a new day in a new Benue where the rights of Women and other vulnerable groups are fully protected under the Violence Against People Prohibition Act.

 

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LAWYERS COME TOGETHER TO PROVIDE LEGAL ASSISTANCE TO KEY POPULATIONS AND VULNERABLE GROUPS

Volunteer Lawyers across 23 states in Nigeria came together in Abuja between the 2nd to 6th of February 2015 to educate themselves on the plight of key population and vulnerable groups in Nigeria at a training organized by Lawyers Alert a human rights NGO, with the support of UNAIDS Nigeria office.

At the end of the meeting, the lawyers numbering over 30, resolved to act under a coalition with the specific mandate of servicing vulnerable groups to include Persons Living with HIV, Persons with Disabilities, Women and other key populations impacted most by HIV.

The Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, Prof Chidi Odinkalu who was present at the meeting, emphasized the anti-human rights effect of discrimination and stigmatization, stating human rights are universal and interdependent. While we may not agree on everything, we must respect the right of others nonetheless he stated. He commended the lawyers for the bold initiative and assured them of the NHRC support at all times.

UNAIDS Country Director, Dr Camara Bilali, who was also present, commended the lawyers for their passion, commitment and sacrifice in terms of free representation of key population. The challenges are enormous in the sphere of policy, laws and other interventions, and lawyers are best equipped to tackle these, given their training, spread and community presence he stated.

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Rommy Mom, President of Lawyers Alert, said he was particularly excited at the prospect of what can be achieved going forward in terms of legal representation to these vulnerable groups by the initiative. He commended his Colleagues for their volunteerism while wishing more lawyers could be coopted from other states going forward.

At the end of the 3 day training the lawyers resolved to come together under a Coalition of “Lawyers for Rights of Vulnerable Groups” for the purpose of legal aid and other interventions on behalf of Persons Living With HIV, Persons With Disabilities, Women, Sex Workers, Sexual Minorities, etc.

A Participant from Maiduguri in Borno state, Barrister Merama Balami, and Barrister  Abigail Dahiru from Gombe, in Gombe state stated not minding the insurgency, they will work within the spaces provided to also reach out to Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, within the context of key populations.

Participants were presented with certificates at the end of the training.

The Coalition resolved to hold an inaugural meeting in the very near future to develop a strategic plan to guide them in the first three years of their work.

 

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