Sexual violence in nigeria: #justiceforvera

After the deaths of several young women, Nigeria is debating rape and abuse. Many are calling for perpetrators to be punished.

No means no: Women protest against sexual violence in Abuja on May 5 Photo by Afolabi Sotunde/reuters.

The death of 22-year-old Vera Uwaila Omozuwa has sparked a wave of outrage in Nigeria, especially on social media. The microbiology student had been raped and murdered at the end of May. The crime scene: a church in Benin City in the south of the country, of all places.

Nigeria is considered a very religious country, and religion is a constant topic of conversation. The young woman, who was very interested in theology, had withdrawn to the church to study and to find peace. At some point, a guard found her lying in her pool of blood. She died a few days later from her injuries. The last photos of her show a radiant young woman who still wanted to achieve a lot in her life.

This is not an isolated case, on the contrary: less than a week later, 18-year-old Barakat Bello was attacked in her parents’ home in Ibadan. She too was raped and stabbed to death. Since then, there have been new Twitter posts with the hashtags #JusticeForUwa and #JusticeForBarakat sometimes every minute.

Meanwhile, more and more names are popping up. Under #JusticeForTina, people are remembering 16-year-old Tina Ezekwe, who was shot dead by a police officer in the commercial metropolis of Lagos for standing at a bus stop during the Corona curfew. In April, 18-year-old Jennifer died after being gang raped in Kaduna, northern Nigeria.

Taboo subject in Nigeria: estimates put rape at two million per year Photo: Afolabi Sotunde/reuters

Women in Nigeria in particular no longer want to tolerate the violence and are calling above all for better protection, clarification of the acts and punishment of the perpetrators. At the same time, contacts of state and private organizations that help victims are shared. The Human Rights Commission (NHRC), meanwhile, appeals to men in a short video, advising them to see a psychologist if they are thinking about rape. An important step last year was the national register for sex offenders, which was launched at the end of November. Previously, this had only existed in Lagos and Ekiti states.

Human rights organizations had also lobbied for a nationwide database operating under the National Authority against Trafficking in Persons (Naptip). Currently, however, the website mentions just 21 confirmed cases. No one knows how often and intensively data is entered at all.

In 2019, it was estimated that there are two million cases per year in Nigeria (200 million inhabitants). The fact that rape and abuse have hardly been talked about so far is also due to the fact that many families are afraid of stigmatization. Often they say: Nobody marries a woman who has been raped. Despite online campaigns, the taboo remains strong.