Sexual Violence in Nigeria: A Silent Epidemic – Book review

Image credit: OumissaInspire

Long before the contemporary levels of awareness and progress of the #MeToo era, the menace of sexual violence has been a normalized part of life for far too many women, girls, and some boys and men in Nigeria.

For a nation which places culture, religion and good values on a tower with its spire in the clouds, the impunity with which sexual offenders commit crimes and get protected for it is incongruent. The hypocrisy brings bile to the throat. Victims suffer many times over and the damage is often irreparable. As if the turmoils of being a Nigerian weren’t enough to make life bleak, these victims and survivors have to contend with stigma, emotional and physical effects their entire lives. In some cases, the cycle of abuse continues as they go on to be perpetrators.

This book is a short read but is packed with facts and research on the problem of rape and other sexual crimes in Nigeria. It debunks myths that have kept the problem alive for this long and counters the societal acceptance of sweeping it under the carpet. Solutions are highlighted on how to achieve a society free of these horrific acts via taking precautions, preventing sexual violence and changing the poisonous mindsets that cause it.


kangbch from Pixabay “>
Image credit:  kangbch from Pixabay “>



We are shown that rape is an act of violence, a display of power and control over a victim’s body and life that includes injury and sometimes death and thus should not be chalked up to the simplism of sexual attraction. We see that women as old as ninety and girls as young as three have been victims of rape. There have even been newspaper stories about eight-month-old female infants being raped.
The list is endless. A case was reported just this morning by LinkaNG, a Nigerian health communication start-up.

Contrary to what some would like us to believe, staying at home is not a guaranteed way to avoid being raped in Nigeria. Many victims are attacked by their closest relatives and supposed loved ones. The home is therefore not the safe haven it should be. Boys and men are victims too. There are numerous heart-wrenching accounts of boys as young as four being violated. In addition, the statistics show that the overwhelming majority of perpetrators are men.

the shame associated with
the crime is borne not by the
perpetrators but the victims.

One needs not to be an academic to appreciate the value of research. And this particular one is a feat considering that in this country, the shame associated with the crime is borne not by the perpetrators but the victims. The victims and families who reported these cases must be commended for their bravery. It is extremely traumatic to relive events like this and the law isn’t always on their side. Not too long ago Nigerian Twitter was awash with a report of a father whose young daughter was raped at school and during the process of making a case, he had to pay for the medical tests of not just his daughter but that of the perpetrator!


Image credit: Lum3n.com from Pexels


This book draws on work by Project Alert and Mirabel Centre two of the organizations making strides in ending sexual violence in Nigeria. The stigma attached to the victims makes it difficult for bodies like theirs to get data for this research. Another Nigerian organization leading change in mental health and sexual violence is She Writes Woman founded by Queen’s Young Leader,

Hauwa Ojeifo, a survivor herself who has shared her experience and works tirelessly to help countless women.

With this, hopefully, more awareness will be raised and more progress would be achieved. It wouldn’t take up to an hour for most readers. Which is just as well as everyone would benefit from this. Sexual violence is closer to home than most of us want to admit. Let’s work together to have a nation and world free of this evil. Nigerian writer and social critic, El Nathan John provides a synopsis of the pervasion of violence in the country in this poignant Twitter thread.

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Rating: 4/5 stars

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Thanks to Oyinkansola Momoh of Muslimah Style Guide for lending me this book for a quick read and of course providing access to a valuable library.
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With love,
Oumissa
040419

Of Prevention and Cures – Fighting Cervical Cancer



On either side of the Atlantic, two passionate individuals are taking the fight to cervical cancer. Both are women, have earned the Dr. title and are working tirelessly to save women from a preventable killer disease. What is particularly intriguing is the possibility that neither of them has met the other but are using different means to achieve a common goal; saving lives. These two are a source of inspiration for many. More crucially, they have become role models for millions of young women in developing countries and will motivate them to take up careers in STEM.Two days ago, the UN marked itsInternational Day for Women and Girls in Science.
For centuries, the immense contribution of women to science has been obscured. It is both illuminating and painful to discover advances in physics, chemistry, mathematics, health, programming, space science etc made or contributed to by women whose names have been buried in the footnotes. It is therefore imperative to celebrate those in our time doing such revolutionary work.


Meet our Women Crush Wednesday: Dr Onyedikachi Chioma Nwakanma and Dr Eva Ramon Gallegos.




Dr Nwakanma is a Nigerian doctor using storytelling for health advocacy. She is one of the foremost health advocates in a country where lack of health information increases the burden of disease and leads to thousands of death. She is a strong campaigner for cervical cancer awareness providing prevention, screening and treatment information to half a million people online.











Her impact is not restricted to the intricate highways of the internet. She is as tireless offline where she works on a variety of health programs. She organizes free health outreaches taking quality healthcare to underserved communities. Earlier today, Her Smile With Me NGO carried out a successful free cervical cancer screening program for hundreds of women in Lagos and Abia states. You can find her here on Twitter.




Dr Eva Ramon Gallegos is a Mexican scientist who has been working for two decades to find a cure for human papillomavirus, the pathogen implicated as the known cause of cervical cancer. She is a researcher at the National Polytechnic Institute. How does one keep up such determination and hope for that long? Many would have been discouraged but Dr Gallegos trudged on until a couple of days ago, she achieved her dream. Using photodynamic therapy, she and her team completely eliminated HPV in 29 infected patients. This article details the groundbreaking achievement that we must celebrate given its potential of saving millions of women.



We have a personal interest in this disease and thus all efforts and news like this make us jump for joy. It has always bothered us that something that can be easily treated and prevented still kills so many women. It feels like rainbows to know we now have a cure for the causative infection. There are valid concerns that historically, medical science has not given equal importance to women’s health. It is therefore of striking significance when women achieve feats that close that gap. This cure needs to be made accessible globally so it reaches those who need it the most.


To all the nerds and geeks out there you rock! Your work saves lives and its impact is felt around the world. To all who are working on an innovative solution to the problems facing us, hang in there and be patient. Learn from Dr Gallegos- stay strong, believe in your dream no matter what, keep working at it and don’t accept defeat.

The world awaits your work.

Oumissa,
Lagos Nigeria,
130219







The Future Is Female- IWD 2018

Gone are the days when deadlines prevented me from lending my voice to causes I believe in.

It’s 8 March, a day dedicated for International Women’s Day. There is a deluge of messages and events all meant to improve lives and conditions of women because sadly, these are still very poor in most places on earth. I’d like to add mine.

WOMEN

•Support, empower and uplift one another.

•Don’t aid patriarchy by enforcing false beauty standards, body shaming, racism, and religious hatred.

•Remember all the women caught up in conflict and natural disasters. They suffer more in these conditions, often have the responsibility of caring for children and relatives and are subject to extra horrors like rape. Use your money, influence and talent to help them.

•Self-love should be a priority. Learn it, teach it, and practice it.

•Don’t wait for a man to validate your existence. Build your dreams. If you find a man who supports you, that’s lovely. But if you don’t, be awesome still.

•Respect men. Feminism does not mean man-hating or generalising. Recognise the good ones and work together with them to achieve gender equity and basic human rights for all women.

•Develop yourself. Read more books. Read more books by women. Write! Speak! Inspire young girls!Your mind is just as important.

•Value your health and well being. Book that mammogram, pap smear and general check up. Live a healthy life.

•Don’t be afraid to push out negativity , no matter the source. Embrace positive vibes only.

•In spite of all the ills, don’t be afraid to love. Let your inner radiance shine through. Be kind and happy.

•Don’t let anyone make you feel small. It is okay to be weak sometimes. You can always get back up.

•To women breaking barriers in leadership, health, business, tech, science, arts and more, please continue to shine. You inspire millions of young girls.

•To women in places from Myanmar, Syria, to Puerto Rico, your strength is unparalleled. We hope for peace, justice and an end to all you go through.

•To all mothers, sisters, aunts, grandmothers, cousins, colleagues, friends, neighbours of all colours and creeds, keep up the good fight. You have survived this far.

MEN

•To our partners in the fight for better rights for women, thank you. Together, we would achieve our goals.

•Recognize your privilege and be conscious of its evil.

•Don’t let culture and ego make you into monsters.

•Being fair and just to women makes you stronger not weak.

•Make life better for the all women you know.

•Do all you can to end rape, discrimination and exploitation of women.

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We can have a world free of gender-based violence.

T H E F U T U R E I S F E M A L E

A Choice ,A Right

“My major concern is the approval of Hijab so that every person coming behind me will be able to use it for the call to bar (ceremony).” Amasa Firdaus- Premium Times Much vitriol has been directed at her for standing up for her rights protected by the Nigerian constitution. For this, Amasa Firdaus, a law graduate of the University of Ilorin, Nigeria was denied entry into the Call to bar ceremony. It is ironic that a country with a significant Muslim population still has Islamophobia. However this is in a wider background of rife religious intolerance with secularity being used as a smokescreen often used to discriminate against other religions. In addition, it is another example of disregard for the rights of women. While the support of Muslim leaders is appreciated, more needs to be done, especially by those in the top echelons of the legal profession. The ignorance being displayed by some Muslims when such matters arise highlights the problems facing our religious education. It would have been great if the other Muslim barristers stood with Firdaus. It was indeed difficult and would have taken lots of courage but might have brought about swift resolution. One also wonders why this was kept in obscurity until now. The much-touted clamour for unity should be for matters like this and not to accept innovations in our Deen.

US Army National Guard officer Saudat Al-Maroof-Bakare faced a similar struggle and she secured her rights. Women in different fields like Ginella Massa, Ibtihaj Muhammed, Kadra Muhamed, Amal Chammout, Sultan Tafadar and Raffia Arshad have shown that the hijab does not diminish professional ability. Firdaus also brings to mind all the men and women who fought slavery, segregation and other forms of discrimination…. all of which were legal at the time. She is following in the footsteps of Rosa Parks, Nelson Mandela and Desmond Doss whose sacrifice have helped countless others after them. Like them, she will be criticized and insulted and told to let it go, asked why she chose that line of action and will be left to bear the consequences. Like them, I hope she goes down in history as a change maker. Like many Nigerian Muslim women who observe the hijab, I have faced many instances of anti-hijab sentiment and policies. I will share a couple of them. During my general practice rotation in medical school, we were posted to private hospitals. When I showed up at mine, I was told in a derisive tone that ‘this’ (the HR lady pointed at my hijab) will not be allowed. I told her ‘this’ is called a hijab and is part of my identity. It had never disturbed my training. I was hurt, disturbed and felt like I had to choose between my faith and my medical education both of which were very important to me. At the time, I was a volunteer at an international organization here in Nigeria. Prior to that I had lived in the UK and in both settings had never been told to remove my hijab for work, school, services or any other reason. My choice was respected and accepted. To make the situation even more incongrous, a non-Muslim relative of mine owned an excellent hospital and some of the nurses wore hijab with their uniform. I went back to school with my colleague (who was not wearing a hijab). I made enquiries about the marks for the rotation so I could plan how to make a passing grade if I had to forfeit it. After I explained how important my hijab was, she was supportive and I appreciated her for this. Most importantly, my family, like Firdaus’s were on my side throughout the episode. I did not expect the reaction of my lecturers. They made an announcement in class that any discrimination faced by any of us should be reported and such hospitals would subsequently be excluded from the rotation. My colleague and I were then posted to other hospitals. I ended up under the tutelage of a medical director who made the experience memorable and beneficial to my career. My colleague also enjoyed her new place. Contrary to what many of the social media comments say, there are numerous Muslim women who practice medicine with their hijabs including surgeons who wear sterile hijabs with their scrubs in theatre.

Recently at NYSC camp, an official tried to humiliate me by pointing derisively at my hijab and saying in front of hundreds of fellow corps members that she was not going to accept this dressing at parades. I smiled and did not engage her because I knew she was wrong. Thankfully, many Muslim women wore their hijab and completed the compulsory youth service orientation with no incident. I tell my story because Firdaus needs to know she is not alone. Her actions have shown the enormous task we have as Nigerians to eschew hatred and intolerance. Peaceful coexistence can work and is what we need to achieve development.

To those who still think she was wrong, I ask that you watch the movie Hacksaw Ridge and google Pfc Desmond Doss, the Conscientious Objector. #istandwithAmasa #AmasaFirdaus

LINKS

Interview with Amasa Firdaus: https://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/headlines/252618-hijab-controversy-affected-law-graduate-amasa-firdaus-speaks.html

Nigerian-born US soldier with a similar experience. http://legendlens.com/fridausa-amasa-vs-nigeria-law-school-nigeria-lawyer-shares-wifes-experiences-in-us-military-training-school/

Opinion by Ashraf Akintola: http://legendlens.com/fridausa-amasa-vs-nigeria-law-school-is-she-the-only-one-by-ashraf-akintola/ Analysis of Nigerian laws allowing Hijab: http://legendlens.com/prohibition-of-the-use-of-hijab-veil-in-some-public-institutions-what-is-the-position-of-the-law-by-o-g-chukkol/

UN Petition: https://www.change.org/p/united-nations-stop-the-religious-bias-against-hijab-in-the-nigerian-law-profession?recruiter=210341501&utm_source=share_petition&utm_campaign=share_page&utm_medium=whatsapp

A critical look at neo-colonialism in the profession. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/africa/its-been-50-years-since-britain-left-why-are-so-many-african-judges-still-wearing-wigs/2017/09/14/6dc03b50-7ea6-40f8-9481-7f034498a790_story.html BBC article http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-42371525 Nigerian Bar Association President: http://www.lawyard.ng/justiceforfirdaus-argument-over-hijab-needless-we-will-address-it-nba-president/?utm_campaign=shareaholic&utm_medium=twitter&utm_source=socialnetwork#JusticeForFirdaus

Al-Jazeera article http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/12/nigerian-law-graduate-denied-call-bar-hijab-171216084329791.html