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INTERNATIONAL DAY FOR THE ELIMINATION OF VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN

By Innocent Doris U ESQ

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This day was declared on December 17, 1999, by the United Nations (UN), 20 years ago, but the history of this day, dates back to 1981. This day is very relevant as the world seeks to bring Gender Based Violence and injustice against women to an end. This year’s theme is Generation Equality stands against rape. As we celebrate the International day for the elimination of violence against women, I am caught in a dialogue within, a reality check on the import of this day and the difference in the prevalence of violence against women in Nigeria 20 years ago and in our present day.

The present glaring reality of Gender Based Violence in Nigeria is quite alarming. The prevalence of Gender Based Violence is at an all time high with minors and babies at risk of becoming rape survivors. We must speak up against this endemic evil that is beginning to eat into the fabrics of our society; we must do all we can to avoid it from becoming a norm. We must protect our women and children from this terrible act. Movies like Ovys voice, alter ego, Code of Silence amongst other numerous Nolly wood movies depict the after math of rape and the different psychological trauma that victims of rape go through.

Rape is a Crime, not a civil matter that can be settled. In my line of work I have seen mistakes that victims and guardians make when a rape incidence occurs. These costly mistakes end up affecting the victim and eventually the case.

Rape has been defined by Section 1(1) of the VAPP Act 2015.

A person commits rape if –

  • He or She intentionally penetrates the vagina, anus or mouth of another person with any other part of his or her body or anything else;
  • The other person does not consent to the penetration Or
  • The consent is obtained by force or means of threat or intimidation of any kind or by fear or harm or by means of false and fraudulent representation as to the nature of the actor the use of any substance or additive capable of taking away the will of such person or in the case of a married person by impersonating his or her spouse.

It is important to know what to do when a rape incident has occurred:

  • Report to the nearest Government Hospital immediately for tests and a detailed test report.
  • Get a professional counselor to help the victim heal emotionally and mentally.
  • Get a lawyer

 

At this point, it is important to reiterate that parents and guardians should keenly watch their children and take reports made to them about harassment or suggestive words very seriously. A lot of child rape would have been prevented only if the parents or guardians of the victims had taken the cues their children had given them, listened to them or even acted on the reports they were given. Studies have shown that Child rape or violations are perpetuated mostly by familiar people or people the children trust. So parents are enjoined to be extra careful of who they allow to have access to their children or wards.

 

In conclusion, Lawyers Alert is always here for you to make reports of any violation of human rights. If you are aware of anyone whose rights have been violated, please contact us through any of our platforms, our numbers are on the website. We look forward to hearing from you.

HAPPY INTERNATIONAL DAY FOR THE ELIMINATION OF VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN FROM ALL OF US AT LAWYERS ALERT

 

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CAVEAT

Lawyers Alert hereby puts our readers on notice that this article is based on the writers opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of the organization except otherwise stated.

 

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THE IMPLICATION OF SAME SEX MARRIAGE PROHIBITION ACT 2014 AND THE RIGHTS OF SEXUAL MINORITIES IN NIGERIA.

By Victor Eboh, (Legal / Reproductive Right Officer)

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Violence and discrimination against sexual minorities  in Nigeria have been on the increase in recent times, no thanks to the promulgation of the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act 2014, (Herein after referred to as The Act) which has contributed negatively to the already dire circumstances of the Sexual minorities (Herein after referred to as The Community) in Nigeria. Members of the community have suffered an increasing wave of arbitrary arrest, unlawful invasion of privacy, assault and battery, sexual violence and extortion, among other ills, since the passing of the Act.

The average citizens of Nigeria, finds it very difficult to enjoy the protection of their rights and access to basic social services. It is rather more unfortunate for persons who are imputed to have sexual minority identities; they are faced with even more social isolation and discrimination by both states and non-state actors. Ironically, Public Authorities who are saddled with the responsibility to protect and ensure the fundamental rights of citizens are sustained, are most times at the forefront of the scourge of terror, intimidation, intolerance and violence against members of the community. The extreme intolerance, homophobia, bi-phobia and transphobia, make it even more dangerous for sexual minorities to reach out for help, hence most human rights violations against them, go unreported.

The cardinal principles of human rights include, universality and non-discrimination. The pre-condition for enjoying human rights is HUMANITY.  However, the Nigerian society and Public authorities do not see the sexual minorities as part of those, whose humanity are guaranteed rights under the Nigerian Constitution. Thus, their humanity is disregarded solely because of their sexual orientation or gender identity or expression, which exposes them to all forms of violence.

 

LEGAL FRAMEWORK GOVERNING SEXUAL MINORITIES ISSUES WITHIN THE NIGERIAN CONCEPT

The combined efforts of both the Domestic, Regional and International frameworks, all ensure equality of all persons regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity.

DOMESTIC LEGAL FRAMEWORK

  • DOMESTIC FRAME WORK: 1999 CONSTITUTION OF FED. REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA
  • The preamble of the constitution
  • SECTION 1(1) & (3)
  • SECTION 17 (3) (C & D)
  • THE FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS OF EVERY CITIZENS:
  • CHAPTER 4  of the constitution  section 33-40
  • SECTION 33: “Every person has a Right to Life and no one shall be deprived intentionally of his Right    to life
  • SECTION 34: “ Every individual is entitled to Respect for the dignity of his person and no person shall be subjected to torture or inhuman or degrading treatment.
  • SECTION 35: “Every person shall be entitled to his personal liberty and no person shall be deprived of such liberty.
  • SECTION 36: “Every person shall be entitled to fair hearing
  • SECTION 37: “ The privacy of citizens, their homes, correspondence, telephone conversation and telegraph communications is hereby guaranteed and protected
  • SECTION 38: “ Every person shall be entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion
  • SECTION 39: “Every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression
  • SECTION 40: “ Every person shall be entitled to assemble freely and associate with other persons …or any other association for the protection of his interest.

 

REGIONAL LEGAL FRAMEWORK

the African Charter on Human and Peoples Right, (hereinafter referred to as ACHPR),  a document which has been domesticated and  forms part of the body of laws in Nigeria, clearly and unequivocally guarantees freedom from discrimination and equal protection and equality of individuals before the law. The treaty was signed in 1981, but did not become a law in Nigeria until when the National Assembly ratified and enforced it as applicable law in Nigeria. The Charter is now known as the AFRICAN CHARTER ON HUMAN AND PEOPLES RIGHTS (RATIFICATION AND ENFORCEMENT) ACT (CAP 10) OF THE FEDERATION OF NIGERIA 1990

Article 2 of the Act, clearly provides that ‘ Every individual shall be entitled to the enjoyment of the rights and freedom recognized and guaranteed in the present charter without distinction of any kind such as race, ethnic group, color, sex, language, religion, political or any other opinion, national and social origin, fortune, birth or other status’

Other relevant sections of the Act are as follows:

  • The preamble
  • ARTICLE 1
  • ARTICLE 2
  • ARTICLE 3
  • ARTICLE 4
  • ARTICLE 13 (2)
  • ARTICLE 16 (1 & 2)
  • ARTICLE 19

 

The African Commission, the body responsible for monitoring compliance with the African Charter, has in various communications, denounced acts of discrimination. The ACHPR has clearly established that the expression ‘OTHER STATUS’ as used in the Act can broadly be interpreted to include grounds, other than those explicitly listed under that provision of the Charter. The rights to dignity, liberty and security of persons and freedom of association are among rights clearly proclaimed by the African Charter and the Charter clearly states that every human being is entitled to these rights.

Concerned by the increasing violence against the community, the ACHPR at its 55th session adopted a landmark resolution on the Protection Against Violence and Other Human Rights Violations against persons on the basis of their Real or imputed Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity. The Resolution unequivocally condemns violence against persons on the basis of their real or imputed sexual orientation and gender identity. It calls on states to stop all violence committed by state and non-state actors and to enact and implement laws condemning violence against all persons regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. States were also urged to promptly investigate and punish all acts of violence against persons based on their real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity.

 

 

INTERNATIONAL LEGAL FRAMEWORK

The International legal framework governing Human rights apply equally to all sexual minorities in all parts of the world. The principle of equality, non-discrimination and universality are fundamental in ensuring the human rights for all persons including sexual minorities. It has been established that the grounds of discrimination enumerated in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights are non-exhaustive and “other status” includes sexual orientation and gender identity.

 

THE SAME SEX MARRIAGE PROHIBITION ACT 2014

The promulgation of the Same Sex marriage prohibition Act has to a great extent heightened the level of violence against the sexual minorities. The law has been used and utilised by both state and non state actors to subject community members to all sorts of violations, ranging from public humiliation, to battery, assault, blackmail, extortion and other forms of violations and violence.

The Act has further encouraged and in fact, breeds a culture of intimidation, suppression and violence against community members in Nigeria. The Act, apart from prohibiting same sex marriage, goes further to prohibit and criminalizes the association of persons and organizations who purport to promote the interest of Sexual minorities in Nigeria. It prohibits and criminalizes the ‘Public show of same sex amorous relationship directly or indirectly without defining what qualifies as “same sax amorous relationship”

The negative effect of this law was immediate and still persists, as and thus the community members are subjected to an unimaginable level of futility being victims of a wave of arbitrary arrest, invasion of privacy, blackmail, extortion and violence of which state actors are also perpetrators of this hideous practices.

 

 

RECOMMENDATIONS

From the above consideration, it suffices to say that if the rendition of the constitution “WE THE PEOPLE” is the have a meaningful impact, then it must have the force of general application without prejudice.

The following recommendations are worthy of consideration:

  1. The Government should act timeously in condemning the on-going violence against persons based on their real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity expression.
  2. A review of discriminatory laws that trigger violence against sexual minorities should be given priority.
  3. Enforce constitutional and treaty provisions on universal human rights in public and private institutions across the country.
  4. Human rights violations based on sexual orientation or gender identity expression, should be investigated and perpetrators brought to book.
  5. Embark on a holistic campaign to promote an end to hate speech and statements inciting violence against sexual minorities in Nigeria from religious leaders, politicians and others and establish a link with sexual minorities human rights organizations, regarding ways to promote awareness on issues affecting sexual minorities.
  6. Establish a reporting process for informing the Human Rights Commission and other related bodies, on human rights abuses experienced by sexual minorities.
  7. State actors should discourage incidences of police raids, arbitrary and indiscriminate arrests and searches of individuals based on perceived or actual sexual orientation or gender identity expression.
  8. The police should be at the forefront in investigating and prosecuting incidents of violence against sexual minorities and refrain from harassing, arresting or prosecuting members of the sexual minorities support organizations and human rights advocates on account of their work on sexual minority rights.
  9. Civil society organizations should be encouraged to mainstream sexual minority’s awareness and rights into their relevant health, gender and human rights programmes.
  10. Mainstream stakeholders and the general public should be educated on human rights issues affecting sexual minorities. Sensitization workshops with government agencies, health workers and other law enforcement agencies be developed, on the need to promote and protect rights of sexual minorities as citizens of Nigeria.

 

CONCLUSION

From the above consideration, one fundamental principle looms larger, that violence and discrimination against any individual or groups of persons is unacceptable. OUR HUMANITY should be paramount in ensuring dignity and rights to ALL PERSONS.

 

CAVEAT

Lawyers Alert hereby puts our readers on notice that all articles on this page are of the writers opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of the organization except otherwise stated.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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CHILD BRIDE: IT’S LONG TERM AFTERMATH

By: Innocent Doris U.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same”.     – Nelson Mandela

Agnes sat down on the platform at the back of her house staring into space, her mind whirring like an electronic fan at its highest pace. As a young woman at 28 who has 6 children for a man who kidnapped her as a child and was forced by her uncles to remain with him, tradition they called it. She was only 14 and newly orphaned. Her life from then on turned inside out and all she had become accustomed to was a dark tunnel, at no time did she see the light as there was no one to show her the way. For the past 14 years of her life, she has endured a place worse than hell, because of her helplessness first as a child and subsequently as a mother who feared to lose her children. Her 4 beautiful girls and 2 little boys who were still running about in their knickers in their childish innocence, oblivious to the reality around them except for when their mother becomes a punching bag, which happens very often.

She smiled on the platform, so much sadness, anguish and pain in her eyes as she relived the past 14 years of her life. Life has been so cruel to her, as she endures constant pain, abuse, rape, neglect and even torture. She definitely didn’t suffer alone, any child who dared come between her and the man who calls himself her husband when he is beating her, would be beaten as well.

Samson really personified his name on her body, he was tall, dark and handsome, such an irony to his personae. It would be too kind to call him a beast, because even beasts have time for rest. He always found an excuse to hit her, rape her or even torture her, sometimes in the presence of their children. He also didn’t relent in saying terrible things to their children about her. This was the system that enabled her conceive 10 times; of those 10 pregnancies she lost 2, had 2 still births and nurtured 6 children who she is grateful, are alive and healthy.

As she continued her reminiscing, she remembered the many times she had woken up to realize that she had fainted from domestic violence. She took a look at her young battered body, the scars on her body and the gaping wound in her heart.

Samson had threatened to separate her from the kids forever if she ever dared to leave him. This threat was etched in her heart and so with every child she bore, her fear grew and so did her anger.

The most troubling part of her situation that has kept her in this quagmire presently is the plan to marry off her first daughter Ruth who is only thirteen, to a rich man who had promised to give them a new house, buy them three cars and send their two boys to school. Samson had eagerly agreed without her consent, she was deeply troubled; she was only a year older when she was kidnapped. She couldn’t stand and let the same evil that befell her and caused her, her entire life befall her precious baby.

By this time her tears had become groans and her tears like a torrential rain fall luckily, Samson is not home. As Agnes fights in her heart frantically for a solution, her mind wanders to what she could have become if only one adult had fought for her fourteen years ago, she could have been an enlightened graduate and would have every form of security any woman could dream of, be it mental, economic or even marital.

These and many more she wanted desperately for her children. She would fight tooth and nail and sacrifice anything to ensure that all her children would get the things she could only dream of. She is still thinking of a way out of this dilemma.

This is currently the plight of hundreds of young women somewhere in Northern Nigeria today. They transit from girlhood into womanhood in a nightmare they have no choice but to call home. The many unheard voices filled with anguish and pain still abound. Their Sexual, Reproductive and Health Rights are still violated thoughtlessly. Some of these young women and girls lose their lives during child birth or from domestic violence. Others contract Vesico-Vaginal Fistula (VVF) and are left to suffer until they are either helped or they eventually die. Some others who are bold enough to escape may never see their babies again. Others just endure the precarious situation due to fear and pressure from family and friends. These are the ones who cannot even cry silently, because of the burden in their hearts. I can hear the cries of this young girls; “Save us, the ones we were entrusted with, have failed to protect us. Rather, they have let us out to the wolves to devour. But, I am only a child.”

We see how Child Bride practices foster and sponsor Gender Based Violence and other Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) violations. This is the reason why this menace must be strongly hunted down and stopped. We must lend our voices to victims of Child Bride and reinvigorate their broken spirits and bodies. They have the right to dream as much as the rest of us do. We must also do our best to ensure that Parents and members of the society recognize child bride for what it is so that together we can discourage it, stop it and have a better Nigeria. A Child Bride Free Nigeria is a great Nigeria.

 

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SEXUAL AND REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH AND RIGHTS (SRHR) VIOLATIONS OF SEXUAL MINORITIES

By Doris U Innocent Esq

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Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights or SRHR is the concept of human rights applied to sexuality and reproduction and these rights are protected by international laws. SRHR guarantees a number of rights to individuals, some of these rights are; The right to equality and non-discrimination, the right to life, liberty and security of the person, the right to autonomy and bodily integrity, the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, the right to be free from all forms of violence and coercion, the right to privacy, the right to the highest attainable standard of health, including sexual health; with the possibility of pleasurable, satisfying, and safe sexual experiences. In our society today, there are sexual minority groups which these laws seek to protect and among them are the Sexual minorities.

The concept of Sexual minorities is fairly new to our continent Africa and our country Nigeria. It is proven that man fights and opposes anything he is not familiar with. The concept is alien to our society’s tradition, culture, religion and beliefs. Thus the concept is met with hostility and adverse opposition. Most communities are part of the sexual minority groups presently, in Nigeria. Due to the peculiar nature of their circumstance, Sexual minorities suffer a lot of Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) violations in the hands of members of the society. The passage of the Same-Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Bill (SSMPA) 2014 into law in Nigeria has heightened the rate of violations suffered by members. Over the years many of these groups have experienced homophobic stigma, discrimination and violence. This has driven sexual minorities to hide their identity and sexual orientation. Many fear a negative reaction from members of the society. Reports of indiscriminate arrests by law enforcement officers were also made from different parts of the country. These acts of injustice, discrimination and violence have led to the intervention of some civil society organizations in ensuring that the human rights of these affected persons are protected. It has also led to the rise of the SRHR movement in the country, which has consequently led to the nationwide awareness and sensitization programs held by different Civil Society Organizations (CSOs). This write up is aimed at giving you credible information on the SRHR violations of communities in Nigeria.

In partnership with AmplifyChange, Lawyers Alert an NGO, in the last two years has been monitoring and documenting Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights violations in Nigeria. Within these two years, they have released findings on these rights violations with regard to the sexual minorities. Their findings are published and updated every six months. Their reports can be found at http://www.lawyersalertng.org/res.php

This documentation is done via their online tool styled “LadockT” http://colahr.org/lawyersalert/index.php  which automatically analyzes these violations across locations with regard to State and Local Government.

It is important to note that, as it relates to Nigeria as a geographical entity, the findings here may not represent the entire facts nationally. The project that birthed this tool is focused in 12 states.

Nevertheless, these findings are critical owing to their veracity and mode of collation.

Based on the analysis on communities, Ikeja in Lagos State has the highest reported violation rate, followed by Kosofe in the same Lagos State, while Gboko in Benue State ranks third on violation rate. Damban in Bauchi State and Gwagwalada in the Federal Capital Territory both rank forth. Lastly Biu in Bornu State ranks the least with regards to MSM violation rate.

On the analysis of age range with regards to these groups, 25-40 years and 20-24 year both have the highest violation rate with 38% while 10-19 years with 24%.

Information gotten from the Lawyers Alert’s tool shows the report of violations as regard to the group, within the time range ( July, 2017 – April, 2019) 20-24 years and 25-40 years has been leading age group in the increase to reported violations in local government areas in States, followed closely by 10 – 19 years age group. From the tool it is also shown that, Physical abuse and Verbal Abuse have the highest reported violation rate with 13%. Followed closely by Emotional Abuse having 12%, Blackmailing and Sexual Expression both rank third with 11% each. Personal Security and Freedom to Associate both rank fourth with 10% respectively. Forced Detention has 7%, Freedom of Movement and Economic Abuse both have 6% each. Quality Healthcare has 4%, Harassment has 3%. Privacy has 2%, Sexual Exploitation and Rape both have the least amount with 1% each. These facts are stated more clearly in the table below.

VIOLATION TYPES – MSM JULY 2017 APRIL 2019
Physical Abuse 13%
Rape 1%
Verbal Abuse 13%
Harassment 3%
Emotional Abuse 12%
Freedom to Associate 10%
Economic Abuse 6%
Blackmailing 11%
Privacy 2%
Freedom of Movement 6%
Quality Healthcare 4%
Sexual Expression 11%
Personal Security 10%
Forced detention 7%
Sexual Exploitation. 1%

 

It is hoped that this document will help to highlight the dangers of communities exposed to. It should also be stated that the data represented in this report is based only on that obtained from the Lawyers Alert online portal. It is important to note that, all violations recorded were verified. Flowing from all of the above it is clear that members of  communities, are beginning to speak up and that the society is becoming a more SRHR conscious one with regard to communities. Nevertheless, there is still need for more awareness programs as many victims of these violations are still stuck in their shells and many more members of the society need to be enlightened.

 

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SRHR with Regards to LGBTI Community

by Solumtochukwu P. Ozobulu  Esqlgbti

Sexual and reproductive health right (SRHR) is a growing movement around the world and in Nigeria. The movement is borne out of the need to encourage individuals to explore their sexuality without fear of stigmatization, physical abuse or any other kind of violation as a matter of Right.

The growing nature of SRHR movement is aimed at protecting the vulnerable and Key Affected Persons including the LGBTI community. LGBTI is an acronym for Lesbians, Gay, Bisexual, Trans- gender and Inter- sex. This community with a different and peculiar kind of sexuality has been viewed with negative and discriminatory tendencies especially in Nigeria and other African Countries. This unfortunate trend has sent the LGBTI Community into hiding due to the legal, social and religious environment in our country with attendant consequences.

It is no news in Nigeria that many LGBTI Persons are still being denied key sexual and reproductive health rights and services i.e. their right to enjoy control over and make decisions on their sexual and reproductive health without discrimination.

The homophobic nature of the citizenry draws its link from socio-cultural and religious beliefs and practices. The culture of the people of Nigeria largely frowns at homo sexual practice as it is said to be foreign to the indigenous practices and beliefs. The religious beliefs and teachings also view same sex practice as sinful, unnatural and therefore unacceptable.

The aggregate Socio Cultural opposition to same sex practice and relationships in Nigeria led to the enactment of the same sex marriage (prohibition) Act 2014. The same sex marriage (prohibition) Act together with the criminal and penal code totally criminalizes homosexual activities in Nigeria. According to the words of the criminal/ Penal code,  homosexual act is regarded as “an act against the order of nature”. The maximum punishment in the northern states that have adopted the sharia law is death by stoning among other punishments. That law applies to all Muslims and to those who have voluntarily consented to application of the sharia courts. In the southern Nigeria the maximum punishment for same sex sexuality activity is 14years imprisonment. The various laws forbidding gay practice providing different punishment varying from the state of commission did not take into cognizance the sexual and reproductive health rights of the LGBTI community.

The provision/ enacting of the laws led to an unprecedented violations of the Rights of the LGBTI community in Nigeria even on grounds of suspicion and hearsay.For example in Lagos Nigeria, over 40 Young People were arrested on the suspicion of holding a gay party. The different violations range from physical abuse, verbal abuse, denial of freedom of association, denial of privacy, emotional abuse, rape, denial of quality healthcare among others. These various violations of the LGBTI community prevailed in Nigeria as both the law enforcement agencies and individuals took justification from the various laws prohibiting homosexuality to violate the rights of the sexual minorities at random.

Since most members of the LGBTI community  are seemingly oblivious of their sexual and reproductive health rights, they find it difficult to open up by reporting these violations due to fear of stigmatization. This has led to strong need for  massive sensitization and awareness creation in the area of sexual and reproductive health right and reporting of violations for effective interventions by Civil society organizations and Nongovernmental organizations both local and international in Nigeria.

Part of this sensitization is currently being carried out by Lawyers Alert in its legal literacy project for vulnerable groups in Nigeria. The positive effect of the sensitization is that more awareness of the Rights of KAPs is being recorded across Nigeria, leading  to a decrease in some violations. This can be clearly seen in the Lawyers Alert published findings on Sexual and Reproductive Health Right violations in Nigeria between 2017 and 2019. These findings can be accessed at http://www.lawyersalertng.org/res.php.

 

According to the recent released report of Lawyers Alert on its website in April 2019, Benue state seems to have the highest rate of LGBTI violations among other states in Nigeria. It can be deduced from the published finding that the age bracket more susceptible to be violated in the LGBTI community are those between 20-24years which can be categorized as youth with 58% of violations in 2019 and 63% in 2017. Although the statistics shows a level of decrease yet it is alarming. A critical analysis of the reports brings to limelight the occurance of these right violations, while some are on the increase others are on the decrease. Violations like physical abuse breach of privacy, denial of freedom to associate, sexual expression and  rape seems to be on the increase with 2%, 3%, 4%,1% and 4% respectively while blackmailing, verbal abuse and emotional abuse are on the decrease with 5%, 1% and 2% respectively. Regardless of the increase and decrease of each of the violations emotional abuse still top the chart as it represents 20% of the violations followed by verbal abuse and denial of sexual expression with 18% each. Although some of the right violations like rape and breach of privacy e.t.c represent a little fraction of the violation but it is important to know that every little piece matters when it is in relations to a person’s sexual and reproductive health right.

It is trite to know that the published finding is not all inclusive as just reports from 12 states out of the 36 states in Nigeria were used. Nevertheless, it shows the growth of SRHR movement and the need to deepen and expand the scope in other to curb the menace.

As we all aspire to be part of a society where individuals have knowledge, skills and resources to enjoy their sexual and reproductive health right without violations and subsequently bequeath same to future generations; there is a need to deepen sensitization on sexual and reproductive health right.

 

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USER FEE CHARGE: A HINDRANCE TO HIV CONTROL IN NIGERIA

Ayomide Joshua

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Over the years, a lot have been done to exterminate or reduce the spread of HIV to the barest minimum. Many drugs have been invented to treat HIV. One drug that immediately comes to mind is the anti-retro viral (ARV). The ARV has been known to be very effective in HIV treatment as constant dosage reduces the viral load to zero. What this means is that any person living with HIV who is constantly taking the ARV will continue to enjoy sound health for as long as he keeps taking the drug. Another drug that has been found to be effective is one which injection a person takes once in a year. As the HIV positive person keeps taking this injection yearly, he keeps enjoying sound health. The injection reduces the viral load in his/her body system to zero level. However, this injection is very expensive and not very much available like the ARV.

STRATEGY FOR HIV CONTROL

Prior to the invention of the ARV, especially in the 80s and 90s, the world witnessed rapid spread of HIV infections and many people died of AIDS.  During these periods, some drugs were invented which were helpful in the treatment of HIV but they were expensive and only few people afford to pay for them. As a result, the condition of majority HIV positive persons who could not afford those drugs worsened from HIV infection to full blown AIDS, leading to their eventual death. Worried by this development, the United Nations came up with two strategies for HIV response and control.The strategies are;

  1. The ARV should be made available everywhere;
  2. The ARV should be free so that every person living with HIV should obtain the drug regularly.

No doubt, these strategies have gone a long way in helping to treat and contain the spread of HIV. A front liner in the campaign for the right and welfare of persons living with HIV/AIDS once testified: “I am a living testimony to the effectiveness of the ARV. I have been taking the ARV for over 13years and I have been enjoying sound health.”

Currently, statistics shows that 63.9 million persons are living with HIV/AIDS in the world while 3.1 million persons are living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria and of the 3.1 million persons, 28% of them are children.

 

ACCESS TO HIV TREATMENT AND THE USER FEE CHARGE

The strategies for HIV control has been effective in Nigeria. For instance, the ARV are very much available in our health institutions and PLWHIV are accessing the drug. However, there are many people living with HIV who are finding it difficult to obtain ARV regularly due to the fact that they are being compelled to pay user fee before they can obtain it.

“User fee” means an amount that a person living with HIV is asked to pay before accessing HIV treatment. Towards the end of December 2018, a large number of persons living with HIV trooped out with various banners and posters to protest against the user fee charge. One of them who was interviewed by a journalist said that the user fee that is imposed by public health institutions was worsening his condition of health. He said each time he went to the public health institution where he normally obtain ARV, they would ask him to pay N1, 000 and sometimes N500 before giving him the ARV. He said further that anytime he didn’t have money to pay for the treatment, they will not give him the ARV. And once there is no ARV for him to take, his condition of health would start deteriorating. While they kept demonstrating against the user fee charge, the person living with HIV appealed to the government to remove the user fee charge so that they could have access to HIV treatment and enjoy sound health.

REMOVING HINDRANCE TO HIV CONTROL

The fact is, if we are going to make any head way in our national HIV response, we must remove anything that will act as a cog in the wheel of our progress

In Nigeria, we are very good at shooting ourselves in the foot or working agent our self. We always want to make things difficult for ourselves. HIV treatment have been made available for fee, yet our public health institutions have made user free mandatory for persons living with HIV to pay before obtaining the drugs.

Whatever may be the reason for introducing the user fee, the fact is that persons living with HIV are finding it difficult to access HIV treatment. Even the little amount of N500 and/or N1,000 they are been asked to pay before accessing treatment, are amounts which persons living with HIV/AIDS find it difficult to pay.

If persons living with HIV/AIDS cannot access treatment because of the user fee, how then will we be able to achieve our goal of controlling HIV infection come 2020? Obviously the user fee charge is a hindrance to our national HIVresponse. If we are really serious about controlling the spread of HIV infection, we should not hesitate to remove the user fee charge.

WAY FORWARD

Lawyers Alert is therefore appealing to the Federal Government, the 36 States Government, the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, the NACA (National Agency for the Control of AIDS), the SACA (States Governments for the Control of AIDS),Ministries of Health and other relevant agencies and institutions to expedite action to remove the user fee charge so that persons living with HIV can access treatment and enjoy sound health. It is when this is done that we can hope to achieve our goal of controlling HIV infection come 2020.

 

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Employers of labour must comply with HIV/AIDS non discrimination Act

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A Civil Society Organisation in Nigeria, Lawyers Alert has insisted that employers of labour in the public and private sector must comply with the HIV/AIDS non discrimination Act to protect workers who that are infected with Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), a chronic, potentially life-threatening condition caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

The President of Lawyers Alert, Mr Rommy Mom told Daily Trust that the HIV/AIDS non discrimination Act that was passed into law in Nigeria five years ago was not implemented and that his organization has dragged the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami to court to demand full implementation and total adherence to the law.

He said the HIV/AIDS non discrimination Act mandates the Attorney General of the Federation to ensure that work places have HIV/AIDS policies to protect workers that are HIV positive.

He said the law was passed in 2014 and that it mandates the AGF to ensure that employers of labour in public and private sector in Nigeria have the policy within three months.

Mr Rommy expressed concern that the law was not implemented five years after and that no policy in work places to protect people living with HIV.

He lamented that majority of workers that are HIV positive are facing all forms of discrimination and stigmatization in their places of work.

 

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