Joint stakeholder letter to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights for the review of the period report of Nigeria at the 62nd Session, 25 April – 9 May 2018
- Women Action for Gender Equality is a feminist, activist, non-governmental, non-religious and non-profit making organisation located in Nigeria that contributes to the development of an equal and free Nigeria by mainstreaming and integrating feminist ideologies and gender in all its activities using community participatory approaches and resources to strengthen systems for empowerment, ownership and sustainability.
- The Coalition of African Lesbians is a feminist, activist and pan Africanist network of fourteen organisations in eleven countries in sub-Saharan Africa committed to advancing freedom, justice and bodily autonomy for all women on the African continent and beyond. CAL has observer status with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
- WAGE and CAL welcomes the opportunity to make this short submission to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights for consideration as part of the review of Nigeria’s compliance with the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the Banjul Charter) and the Protocol to the African Charter to the African Charter on the Rights of Women (the Maputo Protocol).
- We commend Nigeria on submitting its 6th Periodic Report on the implementation of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, bringing Nigeria up to date with its reporting obligations to the ACHPR.
- We also note the positive developments that have been made by Nigeria in enacting legislation such as the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act (2015), Anti-HIV Discrimination Act, Anti-Torture Act (2017). The government has developed various policies such as the National Guidelines and Referral Standards on Gender Based Violence, the National Housing Policy for improved access to housing.
- We are however concerned that persons from marginalized communities continue to suffer exclusion, discrimination, stigma and violence as a result of specific barriers which the government has not yet removed and in some cases has actually increased, such as the Same-Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act (SSMPA) of 2014. While recommendations to review the SSMPA were made in the previous reporting cycle by the ACHPR, Nigeria did not accept this recommendation. In the case of abortion laws which the ACHPR also recommended Nigeria review and align with the Maputo protocol, even though Nigeria accepted this recommendation, it has failed to make any progress on implementation.
- Discriminatory laws, such as the SSMPA, and the actions of State actors, especially those at the National Agency for Control of AIDS (NACA), undermine meeting the obligation to provide health services for all. As a result HIV care has dropped and national prevalence has risen since 2014.1
- We are also deeply concerned by harmful gender norms, cultural practices and discriminatory laws that persist in the country, and wish to draw the attention of the ACHPR to the violence perpetrated by state actors towards women, the lack of access to HIV and AIDS healthcare services for sexual minorities and marginalised people, as well as the constant state sponsored violence, harassment and intimidation that marginalised people face based on their real or inputed sexual orientation or gender identity.
- WAGE has identified cases in the period covered by the previous report, where women were arbitrarily arrested and unlawfully detained for being on the street at night. Some of the victims brought their case to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Court of Justice in the current period covered by the report of the State of Nigeria. While the Court found that the arrest of the plaintiffs was unlawful and violated their right to freedom of liberty, Nigeria has not taken any steps to provide remedy to the victims and implement the judgement handed by the court.2 Other women are consistently harassed, arrested or unlawfully detained on the basis of their real or inputed sexual orientation or gender identity and expression, their perceived occupation. Poor women are particularly vulnerable to these acts of violence, harassment and detention.
- WAGE and CAL respectfully submits the following questions to the State of Nigeria:
- What are the current measures in place to align existing discriminatory laws with the provisions of the Maputo protocol and the Charter? We make particular reference to laws in regards to access to abortion, SSMP, CSE, age of consent, and the various municipal bylaws and ordinances which are used to police public spaces and disproportionately affect poor women, outdoor sex workers, sexual minorities.
- How does the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act comply to the Maputo protocol? What attempts are underway to ensure that in the Act’s popularization and application that it reaches the originally intended rights holders most at risk of gender based violence and discrimination: women?
- What kinds of measures will the state take to ensure the provision of HIV and AIDS prevention and treatment services without discrimination to marginalised communities such as LGBTQ persons, sex workers, people who inject drugs, young women?
- Considering the conduct of law enforcement services in regards to harassment, extortion, unlawful arrests and arbitrary detention of women belonging to stigmatized groups – including sex workers, lesbian, bisexual and queer women – what measures will the State of Nigeria undertake to provide to redress and reparations to victims? Aside from the Gender Policy for the Nigerian Police that addresses issues related to gender-based violence, does the state of Nigeria intend to provide guidance and sensitivity training to law enforcement agencies, in regards to the respect of the rights of women who do not conform to patriarchal gender norms or cultural practices?
- We thank you for your consideration of our submission.
1 NACA GARPR Country Progress Report, 2015. http://www.avert.org/professionals/hiv-around-world/sub-saharan-africa/nigeria
2 One of the victim confirmed that government has not taken steps on the 27th February, 2018 at a meeting in Abuja with WAGE.