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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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Islam and feminism: A battle of viewpoints

This article was posted on March 25, 2014 at indexoncensorship.org

By Morgan Meaker

islamandfeminism

This month, British charity Maslaha launched the website “Islam and Feminism”– a new project which aims to unite the two belief systems. “Muslim women have the same core concerns as white, secular, British women: the workplace, discrimination [and] childcare” says the charity’s Latifa Akay, yet they have long been excluded from the feminist debate. This is what the project wants to change by promoting the idea that women of all religions can push for gender equality.

Inna Shevchenko, leader of topless protest group Femen, strongly disagrees. “I will never have a discussion about Muslim feminism because it doesn’t exist. It cannot exist. It’s oxymoronic.” Femen’s intolerance has seen them labelled as “white colonials” and “cultural imperialists” but the group’s real fault is the way it forces women into a mould, leaving no space for individualism.

In 2012, Femen protested against the International Olympic Committee’s collaboration with Islamist regimes. As a demonstrator was led away by police, she screamed “I fight for women who are not free. We are not free”. She had elected herself as spokesperson for women around the globe but the way she spoke for Muslims prompted backlash.

It seemed that many Muslim women did not want to be “liberated” by semi-nude activists. They felt Femen were patronizing and had done little research into the culture of Islam. The Facebook page “Muslim Women Against Femen” was founded and a series of selfies, emblazoned with slogans appeared – “hijab is my right”, “nudity does not liberate me” and “I do not need saving”. A feeling of resentment was prominent; these women did not want western ideals imposed on their faith.

Artist Sarah Maple considers this idea in her current exhibition, “God is a feminist”. Her work turns the tables on common perceptions of Muslim women as trapped and victimized. “In the West there is an obsession with being sexually attractive in a very limited and narrow way. I was looking at how this may be seen as a form of oppression and that there may be a freedom in covering up”.

Feminism should never be rooted in the idea of whitewashing society. Surely nothing is more backward than the mind-set; “to be free, you must look like me, think like me and live like me”. Equality is about giving all genders absolute choice, no matter their religion.

Recently it has become a trend for far right groups to hijack feminist rhetoric – alienating Muslims from feminist dialogue. During an anti-Islam rally in Munich, The Freedom Party’s Michael Stürzenberger furiously revealed to the crowd that Sharia instructs men to hit women. “We don’t want that in Bavaria!” he bellowed. Yet he is not concerned with women’s rights, instead he channels his efforts into spreading Islamophobia. He’s already lead over 100 anti-Islam demonstrations.

British groups like the English Defence League and the British National Party also rush to condemn Islam’s lack of feminist values. But their opinions in this area seem entirely self-serving, especially when they are associated with candidates like the BNP’s Nick Eriksen.

Feminism must separate itself from inflammatory politics. Instead, its focus should be on educating women and empowering them to make their own choices – making sure no one is trapped in any lifestyle. However freedom and tolerance should always be on the same side.

Feminism should mean that women can work in any industry, receive the same pay as their male colleagues and demand respect from their husbands, whether they wear the hijab or not. Of course Muslims can be feminist and their views should be welcomed into the debate.

 

 
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Posted by on June 13, 2014 in Women Rights and Gender

 

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Lawyers Alert Protecting Women’s Rights in Abuja

 

At the dark corners across Abuja popular streets, away from the street lights, men in uniform allegedly commit rape under the guise of clamping down on prostitutes.

By midnight some women are still in a police station at Garki. They look all tired. Some of them make distress calls to convince their friends to bring money to secure their release through bail.

Others seem paralyzed and gaze aimlessly around the reception of the police station. The women were arrested at Gimbiya Street, a well known red light district in Abuja. A female police officer in the station tells them they were captured as prostitutes. “If they will not cooperate, they are going to be prosecuted and possibly imprisoned for up to six years,” she threatens, to the hearing of an undercover Weekly Trust reporter. The captured women negotiate on what to give.

Incidents like this happen frequently in Abuja, where women are allegedly arrested and harassed by regular police officers, military personnel or task force officials of the Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB).

Actress and social activist, Dorothy Njemanze, claims that she had fallen victim to such a raid. She complained that during such raids, it is impossible for the security and law enforcement agencies to differentiate between commercial sex workers and decent women. According to her, “every woman is a prospective victim”. Dorothy Njemanze explains that last year September, she left her car in Wuse II heading towards a park to meet up with her brother. “I was suddenly stopped and pushed into a bus. When I struggled my way outside, the soldiers began to beat me up. Passersby were told that I am a prostitute” According to her the bus was labeled with society against child labor in conjunction with AEPB.

Such raids have become common-place after the FCT-Administration began the fight against commercial sex workers. The Director, Department of Social Welfare of the Social Development Secretariat, Mrs. Folashade Ayileka, explains that they started the fight because Abuja is the window of the country. “These ladies constitute a kind of embarrassment and nuisance”. She explained that the FCT Minister has given a verbal directive to the Social Development Secretariat to get the ladies off the street during an internal meeting. In the fight against prostitution the Secretariat collaborates with the AEPB and a Non Governmental Organization called Society against Child Labor and Prostitution (SACLP).

Barrister Rommy Mom is an activist confronting the fight against prostitution. He currently leads a court case that has sued the FCT minister and the police over the continuous, night arrests of women. “Men go around freely at night. The offence of the citizens arrested is simply that they are women. It is a shame the FCT Administration is carrying out such discriminatory acts.” He says that the intention is to intimidate perceived sex workers. “But in the process, hundreds of women are affected and traumatized by arbitrary and dragnet arrests.” Barrister Mom raises the question on how to identify commercial sex workers. Mrs. Ayileka argues that during an operation undercover-staff will investigate the scene. She states: “One can identify commercial sex workers because everybody knows where they hang out at night. Through their dressing one will know who they are”.

Such criteria are insufficient, Barrister Mom argues. According to him there has to be a customer to proof the allegation of prostitution. “Prostitution is selling of sex to a buyer, and there must be some sort of negotiation and agreement on the terms. A woman walking on the street cannot therefore be said to be carrying out the act of prostitution.” Thus he argues that the male customer as the constitutive part of prostitution necessarily has to be arrested also.

Barrister Mom does not only criticize the conduct of the fight against prostitution but also questions its legitimacy entirely. He says: “Prostitution per se is not a crime in Nigeria. Nowhere in our law is there a ban on prostitution mentioned.” According to Barrister Mom there is no legal basis for conviction and prison term as the female police officer in Garki Police Station has claimed.

However the director of the Social Welfare Department Mrs. Ayeleka explains: “Our legal backup is the government that has given us the mandate to do it. I want to believe that the government is armed to do that.” Nevertheless she later adds: “The AEPB Act of 1997 has Section 35 that prohibits all nuisances. And for us prostitution constitutes such a nuisance.” The Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the AEPB, Joe Ukairo further specifies: “We only look at the environmental nuisance that evolves out of the act of prostitution and public soliciting for men. We don’t have anything against prostitution as such.”

Barrister Mom disagrees with claims that the AEPB Act provides a justification for the fight against prostitution: “Hawking of wares on public streets, parking on pedestrian lanes and non-disposal of waste can be described as public nuisance. A lady on the street at night certainly does not constitute such a nuisance. The offence of public nuisance cannot supersede the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which guarantees freedom of movement.”

It however appears that the rot goes deeper than unjustified extortion of money. Our reporter met a woman who alleged that she was raped by policemen conducting a raid in front of Eden Garden at Jabi. “They accused me of being a prostitute, dragged me into a car and took me to a bush. There they raped me and left me behind.” A survey by Weekly Trust at three red light districts in Abuja reinforces the woman’s allegation. According to several commercial sex workers it has happened on several occasions that staff of security and law enforcement agencies has given sex as a condition for bail. One of them complains: “Are we not human beings? Those men who think they can rape prostitutes with impunity should consider that also their wives could have hustled before. Do they know what their daughters who they believe to be in universities are doing. One should always treat his counterpart like his own blood.”

Recently three women had the courage to report how they were abducted in the night by soldiers and raped at River Plate Garden in Wuse II last year December. A Radio Nigeria Report on January 14, raised the issue to public’s consciousness. After the report was broadcast two more victims contacted Radio Nigeria and four soldiers of the Guard’s Brigade who were identified by the victims were dismissed and are now in the hands of the police for prosecution.

However it appears that these cases of rape are only the tip of the iceberg. A security guard of a restaurant witnessed the rapes and disclosed to our reporter that there have been a couple of periods by the end of last year when the soldiers raped there on a daily basis. According to him the last rape was committed on January 3. Ensuing from his observations far more than five rapes were committed at River Plate Garden. It is also a matter of debate whether there are still unidentified perpetrators among the military apart from the four dismissed soldiers.

Confronted with these incidents the PRO of the AEPB, Joe Ukairo argues: “I don’t say that every staff of AEPB sent out has done the right thing. But it is not possible that someone was raped. The system would not warrant that because it is teamwork.” He adds that no security agency is permitted to go out on their own to checkmate commercial sex workers. “The AEPB maps out the strategy and staff for the operation. The police detachment is the last batch to join the team. Soldiers have never been attached to an AEPB mission”.

However investigations show that the police conduct operations against commercial sex workers independently from the AEPB. Also the soldiers who allegedly committed the rapes in Wuse II were on permanent night watch at the Airtel-mast in Wuse II and not directed to arrest alleged prostitutes. The activist, Dorothy Njemanze complains thus: “It happens that in their spare time soldiers or police just use any vacant vehicle to abduct women. Nobody will wonder because catching is what they usually do.” It thus appears that under the guise of the fight against prostitution security and law enforcement agencies in Abuja go out on their own account to extort money and sexually assault women.

 Story culled from Daily Trust, February 16, 2013.
 

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