Human rights campaigners have rallied in the federal capital territory to raise awareness about violence against women after a series of high-profile rape cases sparked an outcry in the country. More than 200 protesters marched around police headquarters in Abuja, chanting slogans and holding banners that read “Justice for all Nigerian girls and women” and “No means no”.
This outpouring of anger has been unleashed by the cases of girls who were raped and eventually killed by their rapist in incidents activists say showcase the widespread sexual violence in Nigeria. It was one of many activities planned by campaigners to call attention to the issue and urge politicians to allocate more funds to tackle sexual violence and ensure police independence.
#JusticeForUwa has been one of the hashtags trending on social media in the last week after Vera Uwaila Omosuwa, a 22-year-old student, died two days after she was reportedly raped in a church in the southern city of Benin.
“Children are dying, women are dying, enough is enough,” Dorothy Njemanze, one of the protest organizers, was quoted as saying by Reuters news agency.
Njemanze said she and other campaigners were “watching every step of everything they [politicians] say and do on sexual-based violence”.
Nigeria’s most senior policeman has ordered the immediate deployment of additional investigators to specialist gender violence desks, a police statement said on Tuesday.
“This is to strengthen and enhance the capacity of the units to respond to increasing challenges of sexual assaults and domestic/gender-based violence linked with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and other social ills within the country,” it added.
Two other recent cases have also prompted people to express their anger using the #JusticeForJennifer and #JusticeForTina rallying cries.
In April, an 18-year-old known only as Jennifer was allegedly attacked and raped by a gang of five men in Kaduna, a city in northern Nigeria.
The case gained attention only after her relatives – scared the accused would escape justice – released a video online of family comforting the traumatized teen that was shared tens of thousands of times.
Now, local police say two men have been arrested for the rape and three other suspects are being sought.
Meanwhile, a 16-year-old high school student called Tina Ezekwe was shot and killed after police opened fire at a bus stop in Lagos, the country’s biggest city, during a nighttime coronavirus curfew.
After an outcry online, the police force said two officers had been arrested and were facing disciplinary action and possible prosecution.