The International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) Nigeria is drumming support for the Arewa Women Me Too initiative (#ArewaMeToo Initiative) which is aimed at giving women in the Northern part of the country a voice to share their stories of sexual violence, child molesstation and domestic violence.
In a statement issued by FIDA, the theme of the initiative is the need to highlight the negative cultural and religious barriers that have oppressed and cowed women into silence.
“Over the past few weeks the #ArewaMeToo initiative has been gaining momentum on social media, with numerous women from Northern Nigeria, coming out to share their stories of sexual violence, child molestation and domestic violence. The Arewa women have taken a cue from the #MeTooinitiative which began in America and the #HearMeToo campaign which started during the 2018 16 days of activism against gender based violence and turned to naming and shaming as a form of justice.”
“An underlying theme of the initiative is the need to highlight the negative cultural and religious barriers that have oppressed abused women into staying silent and not holding their perpetrators accountable. The #ArewaMeToo initiative is looking to break the culture of silence which notoriously surrounds cases of sexual and gender based violence. Survivors of sexual and gender-based violence often do not seek help for fear of stigma by both their community and law enforcement officers who are supposed to provide the support base.”
“FIDA Nigeria is in support of initiatives like these which challenge the negative cultures that allow abuse to remain rampant in society. As such we were shocked to hear that one of the most notable campaigners of the #ArewaMeToo initiative, Maryam Awaisu was recently arrested for undisclosed reasons. Though she was released after only a few hours, it can be argued that such a move further intimidates and discourages women from speaking up about the violations they have faced. Furthermore, it discourages activists from getting involved with such cases. Human rights activists should not be deterred by any such challenge obstructing this our nobel mission, and must all remain focussed on the goal. We cannot allow violators of women and children’s rights to continue to go unchecked. We must work to see that justice is being done.”
“Despite the availability of legislations like the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) [VAPP] Act which criminalises the various forms of violence, Nigeria still has an underwhelming rate of conviction when it comes to perpetrators. As such, it is ridiculous that it is the woman working on behalf of survivors that will be subject to the wrath of law enforcement officers. Law enforcement officers must not be misguided and must rise up to defend it’s citizens and protect their fundamental human rights. Gender based violence cases are peculiar because they are so underreported and under prosecuted that there is an extra burden on the officers handling these cases to take a more victim centred approach.”
“FIDA Nigeria remains committed to protecting, promoting and preserving the rights of woman and children and so proudly lends her support to the #ArewaMeToo initiative and encourages more women to speak up and break the culture of silence that has gone on for too long. FIDA applauds and supports the progressive initiative which encourages northern women to speak out and not be deterred by culture or religion; which stops the shaming culture and give backbone to victims.”
“Furthermore, FIDA Nigeria is adding her voice to the calls for proper legal investigation of ALL allegations that have come out of the #ArewaMeToo initiative, so that perpetuators are brought to book in accordance with the law while victims are protected and compensated. We use this opportunity to urge all states which are yet to domesticate the VAPP Act to do so forthwith because of it’s advantages which include – the broad definition of ‘violence’ covering physical, psychological, sexual, harmful traditional practices, socio and economic violence in both public and private places, increased penalties and the provision of protection and compensation for victims.”
“Nigeria is a signatory to and is bound by the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and in the CEDAW General Recommendation 19, the UN has outlined that “Gender-based violence is a form of discrimination that seriously inhibits women’s ability to enjoy rights and freedoms on a basis of equality with men.” As such the Nigerian government must be proactive in ensuring that Gender Based Violence is curbed in society.”