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64 percent of women with disabilities at risk of sexual abuse in Nigeria ― Report

The December 2021 report on sexual and gender-based violence among Persons Living With Disabilities(PLWD) in Nigeria concluded that 64% of women with disabilities are more vulnerable to sexual abuse, while about 36% of males are also vulnerable.

The report also showed that 29 per cent of 84 million PWDs in Africa are in Nigeria alone of which more than half of the 25 million are female, as 25 million Nigerians live with one form of disability or the other, while 36 per cent of these experience difficulties in going about their business due to their chronic conditions.

The Minister of State for Health, Joseph Ekumankama in his speech at the commemoration of the 2022 International Day of Persons with Disabilities in Abuja said that the Federal Government of Nigeria has ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities since Sept 2010 and government is duty-bound to ensure that policies and programs comply with this as a signatory to the Convention and its provisions.

Ekumankama also explained the convention on the rights of persons with disabilities is an international human rights treaty of the United Nations intended to protect the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities.

He said parties to the convention are required to promote, protect, and ensure the full enjoyment of human rights by persons with disabilities and to enjoy full equality under the law.

“The convention serves as a major catalyst in the global disability rights movement enabling a shift from viewing persons with disabilities as objects of charity, medical treatment and social protection towards viewing them as full and equal members of society, with human rights.

“Top among the rights is the ‘Right to Life’ that guarantees our population ‘’access to quality health services’’.

Ekumankama further disclosed that in 2018 the Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH) in collaboration with the Disability Rights Advocacy Centre, and Civil Society Organizations(CSO) developed the National Policy on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights of Persons with Disabilities (SRHR PWDs) with emphasises on Women and Girls.

According to him: “The FMoH worked with Deaf Women Aloud Initiative, to develop a handbook on Sexual and Reproductive Health Sign Language in Nigeria supported by partners.

“As part of this intervention, a total number of 90 health workers were trained on a comprehensive behavioural change in the FCT and Nasarawa state to address the gaps identified in 2020 and 2022”.

“Government, through the Ministry of Health will continue to invest in training programmes for different levels of health professionals; doctors, nurses, midwives, community health workers, and others”.

“This is because health professionals play a critical role in supporting women and men with effective needed appropriate knowledge, such as knowledge of the health outcomes associated with different illnesses, combined with positive, non-judgmental attitudes and effective communication and practical support skills”.

The Cluster Lead of World Health Organization(WHO) Universal Health Cluster, Dr Kelias Msyamboza who represented the Country Director, Dr Walter Kazadi Mulombo said the aim of this day is to promote the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities at every level of society and development and to raise awareness of the situation of persons with disabilities in all aspects of political, social, economic, and cultural life.

He said the WHO Joins the world in observing this day each year, to reinforce the importance of securing the rights of people with disabilities, so they can participate fully, equally and effectively in a society with others, and face no barriers in all aspects of their lives. The theme for 2022 The theme for this year is “Transformative solutions for inclusive development: The role of Innovation in fueling an accessible and fair world.”

“The theme tends to find solutions by modifying the already available resources and searching for equal opportunities for these differently-abled persons to pave the way for their effective inclusion in the progressing societies”.

He said it enlightens the valuable stature of innovation and describes the pivotal role that modernity can play in achieving an unbiased living environment for disabled persons.

“This idea discusses the innovation for disability-inclusive development, like sports, a site of equity, innovation, and employment. It aims to identify the linkages between knowledge and skills required to access innovative and assistive technology work. This theme also explains the creation and good practical tools to reduce inequality.”

In her goodwill message, the Deputy Representative of the United Nations Population Fund(UNFPA), Erika Godson said as Nigeria celebrate a world of 8 billion, people must consciously be inclusive of the more than a billion people living with a disability making up around 15% of the global population.

Godson noted that for these 1 billion person with disabilities, bodily autonomy is a right but not always a reality.

“Too often, persons with disabilities go unprotected from violence or are prevented from making decisions about their own bodies and lives.

“In addition, they are often forgotten in terms of responsive prevention and health services to meet their gender and sexual and reproductive health needs.

It is estimated that about 50% of the estimated 25 Million disabled people in Nigeria are Women and Girls, a number too large to ignore.

“While in Nigeria, we can say progress is being made in addressing gender inequalities, in policy formulation, high-level advocacy and legislature, as well as an increase in prevention and response services. Often persons with disabilities are forgotten in these processes. In reality, however, we are still a far cry from the world we want.

“Beyond laws and safety checks, as important as those are, we also need to radically transform how we view the rights of women and girls, including those with disabilities to make choices about their bodies and to live free from violence.

“This means disrupting harmful social and gender norms and dismantling every single barrier to these rights, starting with the most marginalized people who are subjected to the most acute violence and discrimination.”

Godson, therefore, said UNFPA takes the issue of disability inclusion extremely seriously, stressing that securing the rights of persons with disabilities is necessary for upholding the values and principles of the United Nations Charter.

“Through the implementation of the disability inclusion strategy, UNFPA is walking the talk in ensuring that vulnerable groups such as persons with disabilities also have their gender and sexual and reproductive health and rights needs addressed.”

Meanwhile, the Executive Secretary of the National Human Rights Commission, Chief Tony Ojukwu in his goodwill message said this year’s commemoration theme focuses on empathy, and respect as well as lending a listening ear to persons with disabilities as an avenue for inclusion, equitability and sustainable development as envisaged in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Ojukwu through his Representative said this Agenda pledges to ‘leave no one behind by recognizing disability as a cross-cutting issue to be considered in the implementation of the Seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs are in tandem with the Commission’s mandate of promotion, protection and enforcement of the human rights of all persons irrespective of the circumstances of their birth or abilities.

“For the Commission that serves as an extra-judicial mechanism for the enhancement of the respect for and enjoyment of human rights for all persons, we view the exclusion and discrimination against Persons with disabilities (PWDs) as very serious human rights issue. This violates the inherent dignity and worth of their humanity.

“While Nigeria has made progress in the provision of the legal framework for the protection and promotion of the rights of Persons with Disabilities through the signing and ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) (2010) and its Optional Protocol in 2007, the enactment into law of the Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act 2018, as well as the establishment of a National Commission for Persons with Disabilities.

“Despite the commitments of government, persons with disabilities have continued to experience exclusion from many aspects of activities of the society.

“The notable example is the issues of accessing healthcare, transportation, education, employment and information to mention a few of the endless list. They are also faced with harmful practices, prejudices, and stereotypes which have dire implications for their enjoyment of human rights.

“The commission calls on all persons of goodwill to continue to amplify the rights of persons with disabilities and the importance of mainstreaming disability issues as an integral part of the relevant strategies for inclusive development.

“In this regard, the commission is fully committed to ensuring the promotion, protection and enforcement of rights of PWDs through the full instrumentality of a robust mandate and linkages,” He added.

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