Violence Against Women in Elections has become globally pervasive and a major threat to the integrity of electoral and democratic processes. It has been identified as a major constraint for the participation of women in politics and governance both globally and more specifically, in Nigeria. The electoral process in Nigeria is not free from violence, and women face significant gender-based vulnerabilities. In the year prior to the elections, Nigeria experienced more political violence than it had during its previous election cycle in 2011, when over 1000 fatalities were reported. These numbers only reflect the violence that is either reported or visible to the election monitors. Unfortunately, violence against women in politics and elections often goes unreported and unmonitored but remains a troubling issue with far-reaching implications for democracy, human rights, gender equality and security.
The participation of women in terms of contesting for electoral positions in the act of governance in Nigeria has been minimal compared to their male counterparts and this could be termed as a way of cutting down women’s involvement in the electioneering process. This impacts the decision taken against women in the various decision making arms of the government. A typical example is the recent rejection of all five (5) pro-equality bills by the 95% male-dominated National Assembly.
STER with support from ActionAid has thoroughly conducted a survey titled “Vulnerable and Outside the Margins: From Challenges to informed Inclusion” which obtains information on the level of violence against women across various geopolitical zones in Nigeria. The survey examined the troubling, multidimensional phenomenon of violence against women in politics and elections with a specific focus on Nigeria, where historic presidential elections were held on March 28, 2015, followed by local elections on April 12.
This report brings to the fore incidences of violence against women in politics and elections and intensifies campaigns and advocacy efforts targeted at making politics safer and inclusive of women as a means of encouraging female political participation. In ensuring a substantial report, STER has worked on different research and documentaries geared toward ensuring women’s safety in producing this report.
STER firmly believes that findings from this study will inform prevention programming, policies, and practices that will mitigate sexual violence against women in the political space.
Key findings from the research highlight the following;
- A staggering (46%) of the respondents of this study are the female citizens with the right to vote, this is followed by the electoral management (NYSC) ad-hoc staff (20%); relatives (wife/mother/daughter/sister) of a politician, 10%; active and direct participant, 6% and political activists as 4% of the respondents.
- 50% of respondents in Osun State who are active participants in the political space reported having injuries inflicted on them as a result of their participation in the election process and having threats of divorce from their spouses. Furthermore, 67% of the respondents in Osun state report that they have been raped as a result of their relatives’ involvement in politics. This represents the highest percentage of respondents among all the selected states.
- 83% of respondents in Osun State, 61% in Gombe state and 40% of the respondents in Cross River reported having their properties destroyed due to their familial affiliation to a politician. Moreover, Osun state has the highest percentage (78%) of political activists who report that they have been raped or sexually harassed.
- Among the respondents for this study who identify as electoral ad-hoc staff, particularly the Corp (NYSC) members, about 11% of them reported that they have either been raped or sexually harassed based on their involvement in the electoral process. Similarly, about 21% of the Corps members reveal that violence has been perpetrated against them by law enforcement officials as a result of their affiliations with electoral management agencies.
Charter of Demand
From the findings contained in this study, STER hereby places the following charter of demand:
- Review of the VAPP Act by The Human Rights Experts established in November 2015 and mandated to compile a list of laws to be reviewed for compliance with human rights norms and standards. This would be done under the purview of the National Human Rights Commission which is vested in national human rights institutions in receiving and investigating complaints of human rights abuses, with the power to enforce decisions.
- Domestication and implementation of the CEDAW and the Maputo Protocol and other international and regional human rights treaties to protect women’s rights.
- The State Houses of Assembly should ensure the adoption and proper implementation of the Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Act and Child Rights Act.
- Women’s rights must be prioritized in allocating funding and training government officials, including police officers and court officials. Members of the police force should receive in-depth training while in and after graduating from the Police Academy on adequate and survivor-centred response to gender-based violence.
- Nationwide Sensitisation Efforts by The National Orientation Agency, Independent National Electoral Commission and other stakeholders, including CSOs. This would also include training for election/political/security stakeholders by the Electoral body.
- National and state governments and communities should leverage technology to tackle electoral violence. A nationwide awareness-raising initiative on the use of platforms to report apps and training should be implemented across the country. This will aid data tracking on incidences of violence during elections in real-time and also equip security agencies to track persons in precarious situations, intervene and ensure they receive prompt support.
- Adequate security, welfare and logistics should be provided for Corp members involved in election duties. STER reiterates the call for security reinforcement for all the Adhoc staff involved in elections, as a preventive strategy, especially NYSC members in volatile areas.
In closing, we extend our sincere gratitude to the project donor, partners, CSOs and media houses present for honouring our invitation. Thank you very much.