AFTER a thorough analysis of violence against women, it was useful to take the media practitioners through the tools they could use to advocate and work towards the elimination of the phenomenon in the Nigerian society. The objectives of the session were to examine specific international, regional and national human rights documents; determine how the UN human rights instruments could be used at the national level to protect and promote women and girls from violence; develop strategies on how best to articulate and apply human rightsprinci in judicial and law enforcement practices.
Having identified the urgent need to till the gap on understanding international human rights instruments, there was an in-depth study of the various International and Regional Treaties that Nigeria has signed and ratified for the promotion and defense of the rights of the citizens. In addition, national documents that serve the same poses were also studied.
These documents were considered as veritable tools for the overall promotion of human rights and provide the framework upon which any violation may be redressed. The session laid emphasis on the importance of understanding the gender disparity women suffer and this is reflective in most of the human rights provisions, which regrettably, do not adequately priorities the specificities of women in different cultural environments.
The media participants in the course of deliberation saw the need for reporting women’s issues and rights from a gender balanced and human rights perspective in order to promote equality, fairness and social justice.
The facilitator informed the participants that Nigeria has a range of existing legislations that state the position of some of the laws applicable in Nigeria vis-à-vis the different aspects of violence against women. These include the Criminal Code, the Penal Code, Sharia (Muslim Personal Laws in Nigeria), and Customary Laws.
It was important to draw attention to the principle of non-discrimination contained in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. This, means that discrimination against women is not acceptable The section on Fundamental Human Rights states that a citizen of Nigeria of a particular community, ethnic group, place of origin, circumstances of birth, religion or political opinion shall not, by reason only that he or she is such a person, be discriminated against.
Furthermore, under the Nigerian Law; the Criminal Code, Penal Code and the
1999 Constitution form the basic legal framework for the protection of women from violence in the private or public spheres. The entrenched provisions of laws were examined to be not properly developed and filled with legal ioop holes which have most often than not been used against women. Some of the situations cited were especially in cases of rape, physical assault and battery, as well as discrimination. For instance it was raised that the Nigerian laws still have many omissions or contradictions which translate to the facts that women are not properly protected against violence. An example of such is in the definition of rape as vaginal penetration, no matter how slight.
The consequence of this definition is that the law does not protect a woman who has been sexually abused with instruments such as bottle, knife, and sticks or raped orally.    This is a lacuna in the law which calls for the need for domestication of more international or regional human rights instruments to fill the lacuna identified in the local laws.
The international and regional human rights instruments identified for discussion were the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) 1948, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) 1981, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAITZ) 1981 Vienna Declaration 1993) Beijing Platform for Action (BPFA) 1995, the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of k in Africa which came into force in 2005.
Participants were informed that by becoming a signatory the government of Nigeria is committed to changing any laws, practices or policies that do not fulfill the tights agreed upon in these international and or regional treaties. It was stressed that it is essential that members of both the print and electronic media are aware of these laws so they could use the provisions to hold the government accountable for the well being of women when and where necessary.
The Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa developed by Africans for Africa has taken into consideration the specificities of African women and is used to supplement the provisions of the African Charter.
Some of the articles from the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa that were considered as the salient provisions and important for the participants to take note of for their future reporting were also considered. On ensuring the implementation of the Protocol on the Rights of Women, there was a particular focus on Article 26 which states that: “States parties shall ensure the implementation of this protocol at national level, and in their periodic reports submitted in accordance with Article 62 of the African Charter, indicate the legislative and other measures undertaken for the full realization of the rights herein recognized The Protocol helps fill the gaps in the regional human rights framework.
One question that arose in the course of the session was ‘why is there so much violence against women, despite the constitutional provisions and the volume of international and regional documents that have been signed and ratified by the Nigerian government?’ Many issues were examined such as law enforcement agents not being aware of the documents because there is no proper orientation for them, the attitude of leaders towards the implementation of policies is poor and the lack of women leaders in strategic positions of leadership is trite. In addition, political instability, level of qualification of law enforcement agents and power structure were all given as factors by the participants to examine why violence against women occurs.
Participants agreed that though these laws are available, regardless of their inadequacies, the greatest challenge is that most women are not aware of the existence of such laws. Those who are aware of such laws hardly report cases of abuses by their husbands or other male partners. This is because the society frowns at any woman who reports such cases to either the court or law enforcement agents. Tn most cases if a woman reports such case of abuse at the police station, she is normally advised to go and settle at home; as such cases are seen as domestic which does not require the interference of an ‘outsider’. This is an expression of the social relations within the society as discussed earlier during the session on gender.
Some of the avenues for redress that were identified include:
• Courts of law
• Public Complaints Commission
• Legal Aid Council
• Social Welfare
• Police Commission
• Non Governmental Organisations
• Paralegals
• Bureau of Public Defenders
Participants analysed the significance of the legal instruments described in the course of the session and stressed the need for government to make the tools for the protection of women’s human rights available and accessible by implementing the International treaties which the Nigerian government has signed and ratified.
The following were suggestions of ways in which to sensitize stakeholders and women on the available tools to curb the incidence of all forms of violence against women both in private and public spaces:
·    Carry out effective media campaign to create awareness of the availability of these tools
·    Give women in strategic leadership position adequate support to be able to draw attention to these documents
·    Partner with government, NGOs, women’s groups and CBOs
·    Enlighten women about the availability of some of these tools where applicable as some of them are still ignorant about the forms of redress
·    Enlighten law makers and law enforcement agents
·    Conduct a research into what members of different communities are doing to protect women from violence
·    Provide a legal framework to protect women from violence by lobbying government to pass the violence against women Bill.
Participants also analysed critically a document which summarises the Papua New Guinea: Violence against Women Report. The essence was to expose the journalists to the manifestations of violence against women in other African countries as well as the strategies for curbing the trend. The document depicts some survivors of gender based violence that were neglected, and the failure of state agents to tackle harmful attitudes and practices in that country.
Courtesy BAOBAB