Earlier this month, our colleagues in Nigeria sent me a letter sent to the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women.
The letter was sent on behalf of the Gender Rights Initiative (a partnership comprised of our partners at GPI, AHIP, INCRESE and the Community Life Project) in observation of “the impunity with which women’s rights are being violated with no one being brought to book even where there are leads to the perpetrators. This was the case of Grace Ushang.”
On October 1, the same day that Nigeria celebrated the 49th anniversary of its independence, NEXTreported that Ms. Ushang, a young member of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), was raped and killed by a group of men who are still at-large. According to the story, the men took offense “because she was wearing her Khaki trousers” which is the official uniform for young people completing their compulsory year of public service.
These crimes against women have been licensed in part through a bill currently being debated in the Senate that prohibits “indecent dressing.” According to GRI, the bill grants “intolerably dangerous powers of arrest and invasion… to both police officers and ordinary citizens to undertake vigilante actions against women they perceive to be ‘indecently dressed’… If a woman, like Grace Ushang, dressed in regulation clothing prescribed by the Federal Republic of Nigeria is considered to be so [indecent] as to be put to death by the most vile acts of violence imaginable, how do we guarantee the safety and security of Nigerian women in uniformed services, such as the armed forces, police, prison service and immigration?”
The official response has been disappointing at best. Rather than vehemently denounce the crime and work to ensure the safety of Corps members, the NYSC Director-General reportedly advised Corps members to “take their personal security seriously, because whatever we provided is not enough. They must learn to be security-conscious.” And there has been no action from the Nigerian government to prosecute the perpetrators or enact national laws that protect women from senseless violence.
GRI has asked the Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women to force the Nigerian government to take responsibility for failing to arrest and prosecute the perpetrators. To stand strong with GRI, email the Office of the Special Rapporteur and tell them you demand justice: [email protected]