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Campaigning for Gender Justice – Challenges and Opportunities

A young woman was brutally gang raped by men believed to be students of Abia State University in Nigeria and the act posted online (http://goo.gl/Yezdy). A girl of 6 years old was sexually molested and arrested by the police for questioning instead of the perpetrator. A young mother is dead as a result of horrific knife wounds inflicted on her by her husband – a case of domestic violence. These are real cases of women and girls that come before us regularly, indicating the unbelievably high tolerance for sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) in Nigeria considering that we are not in a ‘conflict situation.’

Cultural and religious values discourage women and girls from talking about SGBV and a lot of stigma is attached. The poor legal response to investigating, prosecuting and punishing SGBV offenders further victimise the victims, expose them to ridicule and discourage them from obtaining justice. The major challenge is breaking the cycle of silence within the community on SGBV. Another barrier is limited access to justice within the legal system.

A young bride is expected to be pure, a virgin without blemish in character. It is therefore a big shame to discuss rape of women as in the eyes of the community, rape impacts negatively on women’s chances of getting married or reduces their respect in the community. A big step to changing this perception is through awareness raising campaigns, engaging with community leaders to cooperate with NGOs and legal officers to resolving SGBV. However, most of these cases are dealt with informally and in many cases compensation in kind or money are paid by offenders to escape justice. No one thinks about the mental and physical health of the victims. Training is offered to justice and law enforcement officers to respond in a gender-sensitive manner to reports and cases of SGBV. However, where access to lawyers and other support is lacking, many victims, give up before prosecution begins or concludes.

Social media and advocacy tools can help to draw local, regional and global attention to the issues. Resource Exchange on PulseWire and resources available elsewhere online can provide information on how to implement the cultural and justice reforms necessary for stopping SGBV. In particular, planning an action online with the support and advice of other community members can help develop strategies to articulate our demands for reform and build support for victims of SGBV. Increased reporting of such cases, followed by sustained monitoring of the legal process can lead to gender justice for the victims.

Comments

Adepeju's picture

Dear Osai

Thank you for this piece. Sexual and gender based violence is a serious matter in Nigeria. Due to the culture of the police in turning victims to suspect or even accomplices (like the case of a 12yr old girl i handled who was detained as an accomplice in her sexual assault matter) For me when issues related to this occur, the failure isnt that of the law but that of enforcement. Most laws never take off from the sheets in which they are published. Well done dear! Keep up the good work

Osai's picture

Thanks

Dear 'Peju,

Thanks. What can we do about the enforcement? It can be so frustrating. I would like to move the system forward for victims.

Thanks again.
Osai

Twitter: @livingtruely

katyrdz's picture

Good work

Osai, everything you say sounds very familiar to me. Here in Mexico, women are also treated not as victims, but as the ones who caused the sexual assaults because they were dressed inaccordingly or because it is their duty as wives, or stuff like that, all because of the misoginy of the society and police. We need to do more sensibilization and bring attention to these issues jut like you said! Thumbs up for the good work you are doing!

Osai's picture

Re: Good Work

I think the legal system is not gender friendly all over the world since women in both Nigeria and Mexico face the same challenges in proving sexual crimes. We need more work to change this injustice for victims of sexual violence.
Thanks.

Best wishes,
Osai

Twitter: @livingtruely

MaDube's picture

I read about it too

A dear sister and friend of mine wrote this piece on the incident of the rape which was posted on you tube. That was a disgusting act. It is one thing to publicise the campaign against rape and condemn it as an evil act but you do not do that by showing a live recording of the act. The people who recorded the rape and those who publicised it are all guilty, the one of raping her and the other of re-victimising her. In fact you should probably read this piece that talks about this case too. http://www.blacklooks.org/2011/09/nigeria-online-online-responsibility-v...

Thank you for your story.

Osai's picture

I agree with you

You are spot on. I refused to watch the tape and I do not think people should circulate it further for more people to see it to believe. Many people still have a lot to learn about responsibilty for victims and it is unfortunate that most reacted first and thought about it afterwards. Thanks for sending the article link - it was well written and straight to the point.

Best wishes,
Osai

Twitter: @livingtruely

amymorros's picture

Very Powerful

Thank you for sharing. I recently met a young girl who I was told was gang raped in a refugee camp. I will keep in mind your thoughts on working for justice so that this never happens again.

Amy
@amyinstl

Osai's picture

Looking forward to hearing

Looking forward to hearing from you. World leaders are talking about impunity for crimes but the greatest impunity is for violence done to women's minds and bodies. Thanks!

Best regards,
Osai

Twitter: @livingtruely

laurabstull's picture

You've tackled a pervasive

You've tackled a pervasive and overwhelming problem for women on a global scale. But you've articulated well how we can begin to change the culture of silence in regard to the abuse and rape of women.

I enjoyed reading your Week 3 assignment, keep up the good work!

Laura

Osai's picture

Thank you

Hello Laura, Thanks for your comment and support. We need all the help we can get to resolve this global epidemeic of violence.

Best wishes,
Osai

Twitter: @livingtruely

Hannah B's picture

Thank you

Osai,

Thank you for speaking out and sharing your thoughts and information about issues in Nigeria. It is clear that gender based violence is pervasive in most of our societies, and it makes me happy that at least we can come together here to speak out, to gather strength to go back into our communities and push for change.
It seems you are facing and almost overwhelming array of problems in the legal/justice system, and I admire you for continuing on this path!!

Take care,
Hannah

Osai's picture

Thank you

Hello Hannah,

This is why I am glad that we have a platform to speak about it without fear or shame.

Thanks,

Osai

Twitter: @livingtruely

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