Harsh economy pushing Nigerian women to commercial sex – Rights group

An international women rights organisation under the aegis of Baobab for Women’s Human Rights on Friday said the harsh economic situation of Nigeria has made many girls and women vulnerable to harmful practices including commercial sex and child marriage.

The organisation, therefore, called on the President Muhammadu Buhari to put the economy in the right shape to end all the odd means of escaping from the economic hardship.

The Executive Director of BWR, Bunmi Dipo-Salami, raised this point during an interactive session with the Journalists in Abuja, with the theme: ‘Let’s end violence against women and girls now.’

She also put the number of victims of violence at over 30 million.

Dipo-Salami said women who were reliant on daily wages were mainly victims when the COVID-19 pandemic started in 2019 due to economic decline.

She regretted that the 30 million statistics was more than the population of five African countries when put together.

Dipo-Salami said, “Gender-based violence is one of the world’s most prevalent human rights violations, taking place every day, many times over, in every corner of the globe. Current estimates show that one in three women will experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, perpetrated in private and public arenas by an intimate partner, family, neighbours, employers, instructors, supervisors, colleagues, religious and cultural leaders, or strangers.

“Additionally, the economic decline as a result of the pandemic, which has left many women who are reliant on daily wages in dire economic circumstances, increases women’s and girls’ vulnerability to negative coping mechanisms and harmful practices such as transactional sex and child marriage.

“According to 2021 estimates from the World Health Organization almost one-third of women aged 15-49 years worldwide have experienced some form of violence, whether physical, psychological, sexual, emotional, or economic harm, at the hands of their partner.

“Data from a survey by the National Population Commission with support from UNICEF and the US Center for Disease Control Prevention said approximately, six out of every ten Nigerian children experience some form of physical, emotional, and sexual violence before the age of 18 years.”

She said the increase in domestic violence during the pandemic has adversely impacted women in the world of work, lamenting that it has become a major barrier to women’s participation in the world of work.

“This makes it more important than ever to prevent and develop adequate policy and institutional responses to domestic violence in all spheres. According to the WHO, COVID-19 has increased the risk of domestic violence against women as lockdowns reduced the chances of support or escape, social distancing added to the isolation imposed by abusers, stress, and anxiety from the pandemic may have caused abusers to feel they have less control and thus trigger violence”, the BWR ED emphasized.

She stressed that GBV had significant social and economic repercussions, not just for the survivor, adding that the menace also impacted the communities and the entire country negatively.

Dipo-Salami added that poor emotional and mental health will likely lead to lower productivity among working women and higher dropout rates among schoolgirls.

She, therefore, advocated for the full and immediate adoption of the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act of 2015 into law by the governments of Lagos, Kano, Katsina, Borno, Gombe, Yobe, Zamfara, Imo, Rivers, Kogi, Kebbi, Plateau, Cross River, and Taraba states respectively.