The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) has adopted its concluding observations and recommendations on the implementation of the provisions of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women in Nigeria.
This was during its sixty-seventh session in Geneva.
Among the issues discussed in relation to women’s rights and well-being were Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights(SRHR)- Access to Contraception, Safe abortion, Gender-Based Violence and harmful practices including Female Genital Mutilation and Child marriage. Women in conflict situations also formed part of the conversations.
The submissions were made in writing and orally by Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC) who served as the spokesperson for the Nigerian NGO coalition, and the Center for Reproductive Rights.
The committee made recommendations for the following issues under reproductive health and rights;
- Access to contraception
The Committee observed that there was a limited use of modern forms of contraception by women and girls in Nigeria and recommended that;
The State party ensures that all women and girls have affordable access to modern forms of contraception and intensify efforts to raise awareness on contraceptive use and sexual and reproductive health and rights.
The State party address the resistance to the delivery of age-appropriate education on sexual and reproductive health and rights, through awareness raising on the significance of such education for combating early pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases among adolescent girls and boys.
- Safe abortion
The committee noted with concern that despite the existence of various policies such as the National Health Policy 2016 geared towards improving the health status of women and girls, there were still high rates of maternal mortality partly attributed to the high number of unsafe abortion.
It also observed that the high incidences of unsafe abortion were due in part to the State party’s restrictive laws which only permit abortion in order to save a pregnant woman’s life.
The Committee recommended that;
The State party amend relevant Penal Code provisions of federal States, with a view to legalizing abortion in cases of rape, incest, risk to the physical or mental health or life of the pregnant woman, and severe impairment of the foetus, and de-criminalize abortion in all other cases.
- Child marriage
The Committee was concerned that although the Child Rights Act, 2003, sets the legal age of marriage at 18 for both women and men in Nigeria, yet is only applicable in a limited number of Federal States. It was noted that in some States, particularly the Northern region of the State party, child marriages are prevalent.
It therefore recommended that;
The State ensures that the Child Rights Act, 2003, is applicable in all parts of the State party and eradicate child marriage through awareness raising and by prosecuting and punishing perpetrators and accomplices.
- Boko Haram Conflict
The Committee noted the efforts of the State party to rescue and rehabilitate women and girls who have been abducted and subjected to sexual slavery by Boko Haram and recommended that;
The State party provide psychosocial and medical support to girls and their families who were affected by the Boko Haram insurgency.
In addition, the committee recommended that the State party does the following;
- Intensify its efforts to rescue all women and girls abducted by Boko Haram insurgents, ensure their rehabilitation and integration into society and provide them and their families with access to psychosocial and other rehabilitative service.;
- Ensure that counter-terrorism measures employed by the military and law enforcement authorities, including de-radicalisation programmes, respect women’s rights to dignity and comply with the provisions of the Convention.
- Continue to investigate, prosecute and punish perpetrators of alleged sexual exploitation;
- Ensure the effective regulation of conventional and illicit arms, including small arms and light weapons, in the State party.
- Involve women in the development of strategies to counter the violent extremist narrative of Boko Haram and in addressing the conditions conducive to the spread of violent extremism, particularly in the North-east of the State party; and
- Ensure the participation of women in conflict prevention, peace building and post-conflict reconstruction, including in decision-making, in line with United Nations Security Council resolution 1325 (2000).