…Benue state tops list
By Hassan Zaggi
Men who have Sex with Men (MSM) suffer the highest rates of violation of their rights among key populations in Nigeria, study conducted by Lawyers Alert has shown.
Violations against MSM by state and non-state actors concentrated to an all high of 76% as against other groups.
Lawyers Alert is a Human Rights body that works with key populations and vulnerable groups in Nigeria.
The rights violations were collated between April 2017 to March 2018.
In a study it released last week, a copy which was made available to The AUTHORITY, in Abuja, Lawyers Alert noted that out of 37 states of Nigeria, Benue state has the highest violation rate of 25% closely followed by Lagos state at 24%.
Abuja the Federal Capital Territory, the report revealed, ranks third at 18% with Bauchi at 8%. Anambra 1, Edo 1, Kaduna 1 and Sokoto state 1. Delta state however, has 2 per cent while Katsina state has zero.
According to the study, prevailing laws (especially the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Law 2013), cultural, religious factors and the prevailing focus by the media on MSM are some of the major reasons for the high rights violation.
The findings in the report cut across the six geopolitical zones in Nigeria.
“It is instructive to note that 95% of reported violations/cases were resolved at police stations, with less than 5% going to trial, and even at that, prosecution is not diligent. This appears to validate the often held claim that arrests are basically to harass, intimidate and extort victims with no will for proper prosecution.
“The documented violations were verified, legal assistance proffered and to this extent, these violations are accurate and authentic. This report builds on our earlier report that grouped sexual minorities into one group,” Lawyers Alert, reiterated.
According to the study: “From violations report collated within the period- April 2017 to March 2018, it is evident that Men who have sex with men, suffer the highest form of violations amongst key population groups in Nigeria.
“It should be added that approximately 75% of victims were supported with free legal representation either by Lawyers Alert or other organizations in Nigeria.
“The laws and prevailing attention especially by the media, is not flattering. MSM rights violations against other key population groups include PLWH 8%, Female sex-worker (FSW) with 7%, LBTI 5%, VGW 4%.
The report however focused on MSM and data obtained were s analysed with regard to states, local governments, age brackets and types.
“The objective is to create a scientific basis for interventions and advocacy towards progressive laws and policies,” Lawyers Alert noted.
With regards to violations based on age variations, the report noted that, “MSM within the age bracket 20 – 24 years had the highest violation with violation rate of 53%, followed by 10 – 19 years which is 33% and then 25 – 40 years with 14%.
On the other hand, base on types of violations, the study revealed that verbal abuse is the most commonly experienced. This, the study indicated is followed by emotional abuse, sexual expression, blackmailing, personal security, freedom to associate, freedom of movement and force detention.
In another twist, however, Female sex-worker (FSW) popularly referred to as prostitutes interviewed by The AUTHORITY Mararaba and Masaka, two major settlements close to the FCT, have faulted the study, saying that they suffer most of the rights violation than any other vulnerable group in Nigeria.
Speaking with The AUTHORITY in one of the popular brothels in Masaka, a female sex worker who pleaded with our reporter not to mention her name and where she doing her business, said that prostitutes are always visible, hence their rights are easily violated than any other group.
According to her: “This your study is not correct. You don’t easily see men who have sex with men. They operate under cover, but see us here. It is because we are accessible that is why you came to ask me questions. But tell me where can you easily find those men you are talking about. It is only big men and those in their group that knows how to locate them. It is not true that they suffer high rights violation in Nigeria.”
She further revealed that on daily basis two or three prostitutes in the brothel are assaulted by supposed customers and even if they take the case to the police station, nothing tangible will come out of it because of their status.
She, however, advocated that female sex workers and men who have sex with men be given legal backing so that they can operate freely in Nigeria.
“This group that did this study should rather sponsor a bill at the National Assembly so that all of us that practice one form of sex activity or the other can be given legal backing to do our work freely without molestation,” she stressed.