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LAWYERS ALERT PARTNERS WITH THE GENDER UNIT (GU) OF THE NIGERIA POLICE FORCE AND POLICE DUTY SOLICITORS SCHEME (PDSS) OF THE LEGAL AID COUNCIL IN ADDRESSING WOMEN’S RIGHTS IN NIGERIA

Background

Over the years, there have been serious increase in Gender Based Violence (GBV) in the society. The upsurge in these violence manifests in the forms of forced marriages, mental and sexual assaults, rape, harmful traditional practices, socio-economic Violence, Female Genital Mutilation etc.  GBV has resulted in a lot of psychological and mental trauma for Victims. Statistics have shown that 3 out of every 10 Nigerian experience GBV at age 15. It is from this view that GBV can be seen as a form of discrimination that seriously inhibits women’s’ ability to enjoy rights and freedom on the basis of equality with men. In other words, GBV is anything done to put a woman at a position of not being able to enjoy some rights as provided by law equally with men.

The Gender Unit and PDSS.

In responding to the rise in GBV, the Nigeria Police Force created the Gender Unit at the Force Criminal Intelligence & Investigation Department (Force CIID) across the six geo-political zones of the country on 21st October, 2014. The major task before this unit is to encourage survivors of GBV to report incidence of violations for possible prosecution of perpetrators anyone culpable of such offences. A former Inspector General of Police, Solomon Arase once said that the gender unit of the Force CIID was set up due to the predominant rate of sexual and gender based violence in the society. Through the years, the GU has brought justice to the door steps of Nigerians faced with these issues.

By the establishment of the GU, the Police Force is no longer hesitating to prosecute anyone found culpable of a GBV to serve as a deterrent to other perpetrators. This has helped to curb Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in Nigeria and the menace of the Violence. Force ‎Gender Unit had since its inception embarked on full campaign against SGBV due to the daring dangers it portends.

Violence against women is the most pervasive, yet a less recognized human right in the world. A lot of cultures and traditions in the society, unconsciously or ignorantly support violence against women and girls. As a result of this, the so-called inhabitants of these cultures and traditions harbour the perpetrators of these crimes and condemn the victims with tirades, thereby, encouraging impunity and recurrence. Most perpetrators have succeeded in sending most women and girls to emotional and psychological torments by their actions.

Working hand-in-hand with the GU is the Police Duty Solicitors Scheme of the Legal Aid Council of Nigeria which was established in 2004 to help reduce the excessive use of partial detention by providing free legal advice to suspects at the police stations, the points at which the decision to detain or release pending trial are being made. Services of young Lawyers completing their compulsory national services are being deployed as duty solicitors to various police stations in the states.

Challenges Identified by Partners.

Lawyers Alert, a Rights Based Organization is partnering with the GU and the PDSS in addressing the challenges faced by both the GU and the PDSS in the course of discharging the duties imposed by the tasks here. The partnership began with meetings held in three project states of Plateau, Niger and the FCT on the 10th and 17th of September 2020. The first Meeting was held in FCT to address some of the challenges being faced in delivering the respective mandates that include:

  1. Obtaining sustainable Evidence
  2. Inadequate synergy between the Police /stakeholders
  3. Lack/Inadequate Funding
  4.   Lack of shelter for survivors
  5.  Inadequate Professionalism
  6.  Discrimination and Stigmatization
  7.  Partiality
  8.  Survivors Stigmatization
  9.  Inadequate sensitization of members of the public/survivors of violence(SGBV)
  10. Religious Influence/Societal Norms and Practices
  11. Silence Culture.
  12. Exclusion of Religious Bodies in active Stakeholders meeting
  13. Poverty.
  14. Family Influence(Societal/School).
  15. Environmental Factor.
  16. Rigor of Judicial Processes.
  17. Political Interference.
  18. Unwillingness of Survivors of Violence.
  19.  Media.

The second meetings were also held in the three project states on the 5th and 12th November 2020. The purpose of the meetings is to introduce women groups to the GU and the PDSS. It was also to create a network of organizations that work together to address issues of SRHR and GBV in Nigeria. it was in the course of these meetings that they identified the challenges that Women groups faced in reporting violations. At the end of the meetings the following challenges clearly standout:

  1. Awareness creation/sensitization on SGBV.
  2. Professionalism/Non Descrimination(Police and  other security)
  3. Non stigmamtization of Survivours of SGBV
  4. Synergy between Police,PDSS and other Women Groups
  5. Inadequate Funding.
  6. Media.
  7. Lack of Shelter for Survivours
  8. Transfer of an Office.

Conclusion

Trainings should be given to police officers working on SRHR and GBV issues. LA believes if the capacity of officers working in these areas is built the challenges identify by the women groups will totally be eliminated

Apart from all that have been said so far, All the partners in this relationship recognise the need to develop a Women Satisfaction Index. This tool aims to monitor women’s satisfaction with the services rendered. From time to time, analysed results from this tool are shared with the GU & the PDSS towards addressing gaps noticed for improved service delivery. This will be ongoing even as LA & its partners continuously provide free legal services & document violations. LA believes that as the GU & PDSS begin to effectively address VAWG alongside, these issues will be reduced & access to justice enhanced for women. This model of interventions in the 3 states can be replicated in the other states towards effectively addressing VAWG in Nigeria.

 
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Posted by on November 19, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

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Celebration of Motherhood: The Human Rights Perspective

Sunday Adaji Esq

black-mother

On behalf of Lawyers Alert, we join other NGOs, CSOs and the entire womenfolk to say Happy Mother’s Day. March 31 of every year is commemorated as the Mother’s Day.

As an NGO that protects the rights and welfare of vulnerable groups, including women, we consider the Mother’s Day as very important as it reminds us of the need to redouble our efforts in promoting the rights of women and girls and ensuring that that they enjoy equal rights under Nigerian constitution, under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and under the United Nation’s Declaration of Human Rights.

Since 2000 when Lawyers Alert was founded, Lawyers Alert has been in the forefront of promoting women’s rights in Nigeria. We have carried out many projects which impacted positively on the lives of thousands of women and children. Presently, we are implementing projects aimed at eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls, eliminating sexual and reproductive health and rights violation and providing free legal services to victims.

From experience and based on Lawyers Alert’s statistics, one out of every three women and girls are constantly abused. This statistics shows that women and girls are among the most vulnerable groups in Nigeria. Our customs, tradition and religions are not helping matters as they encourage practices that relegate women to the background.

Lawyers Alert and indeed other NGOs and CSOs have been doing a lot to ensure that women’s rights are respected, but as it is, we still have a long way to go. We still have a lot of violations to contend with – denial of right to family planning, gender based violence, female genital mutilation, physical, verbal and emotional assault, denial of right to inheritance, harmful widowhood practices, forced economic and financial dependence, denial of sexual and reproductive health rights, rape, sexual assault and so on and so forth.

Notwithstanding, Lawyers Alert’s vision remains clear: A DEVELOPED NIGERIA WHERE THE RIGHTS OF VULNERABLE GROUPS, ESPECIALLY WOMEN ARE RESPECTED. Similarly, her mission has not changed: TO PROMOTE THE RIGHTS OF VULNERABLE GROUPS, ESPECIALLY WOMEN THROUGH ADVOCACY AND THROUGH PROVISION OF FREE LEGAL SERVICES. We are not relenting. We will keep doing the best we can to ensure we carry out our mission and achieve our vision. Denial of an individual’s rights is denial of the rights of all. We will always have mothers, wives, aunt, sisters and daughters with us. They are all entitled to their rights. We should individually and collectively stop violating their rights. And we should do the best we can to protect and defend their rights. This is the mark of an egalitarian society. This is our yearning for Nigeria. And together we can achieve this and celebrate motherhood everywhere women are found.

 

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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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Suit on Harassment of Women in Abuja, Lawyers Alert wins Round 1

Recall Lawyers Alert had sued the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and the Commissioner of Police of the FCT seeking Orders of Court stopping them from the continuous harassment of women at nights in Abuja on suspicion of prostitution.

Lawyers Alert argues that the practice is not only discriminatory against women but also an affront on their right to free movement amongst others. Women get molested and even raped in the course of this. Women cannot move freely while men can.

The Federal Capital Minister and the Commissioner of Police had filed preliminary objection to the suit, questioning the locus standi of Lawyers Alert or ordinary parlance, the interest of Lawyers Alert in the matter.

In a considered ruling today, 19th June 2013, following arguments , the Presiding Judge of the Abuja High Court 26, Justice O. A Adeniyi, ruled for Lawyers Alert, and throwing out the preliminary objection.

He opined that as a Human Rights NGO, Lawyers Alert need not show any interest in any matter of human rights, as they as automatically involved where the issue is the enforcement of such rights.

We will be posting the full Ruling of Court in due course.

Barr Chigozie Onah represented Lawyers Alert while Ivoke Hezekiah from the office of the Attorney General of the Federation represented the Minister and the IGP.

16th July is for substantive Hearing

 
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Posted by on June 19, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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