Rape and Domestic Violence: There is no comprehensive law for combatting violence against women. As a result, victims and survivors had little or no recourse to justice. While some, mostly southern, states enacted laws prohibiting some forms of gender violence or seeking to safeguard certain rights, a majority of states did not have such legislation.
The Violence against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Act addresses sexual violence, physical violence, psychological violence, harmful traditional practices, and socioeconomic violence. Under the VAPP, spousal battery, forceful ejection from the home, forced financial dependence or economic abuse, harmful widowhood practices, female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C), other harmful traditional practices, substance attacks (such as acid attacks), political violence, and violence by state actors (especially government security forces) are offenses. Victims and survivors of violence are entitled to comprehensive medical, psychological, social, and legal assistance by accredited service providers and government agencies, with their identities protected during court cases. Until adoption by the states, however, the provisions of the VAPP Act are only applicable to the FCT.
The law criminalizes rape. The VAPP provides penalties ranging from 12 years’ to life imprisonment for offenders older than 14 and a maximum of 14 years’ imprisonment for all others. It also provides for a public register of convicted sexual offenders and appointment of protection officers at the local government level to coordinate with courts and ensure victims receive various forms of assistance (e.g., medical, psychosocial, legal, rehabilitative, reintegrative) provided by the VAPP. The act also includes provisions to protect the identity of rape victims and a provision empowering courts to award appropriate compensation to victims of rape.
Rape remained widespread. According to a study, almost 20 percent of college students surveyed reported at least one incident of rape committed against them. In 2013 Positive Action for Treatment Access, an NGO focused on HIV treatment, released a countrywide survey of 1,000 preadolescents and adolescents (ages 10 to 19), which noted three in 10 girls reported their first sexual encounter was rape.
Societal pressure and the stigma associated with rape reduced the percentage of rapes reported and the penalties imposed for conviction. Sentences for persons convicted of rape and sexual assault were inconsistent and often minor.
No laws of nationwide applicability criminalize gender-based violence. The VAPP provides for up to three years’ imprisonment, a maximum fine of 200,000 naira ($635), or both for spousal battery. It defines spousal/partner battery as the intentional use of force or violence upon a person to include touching, beating, or striking with the intention of causing bodily harm. The act provides up to one year’s imprisonment for anyone found guilty of intimidation by conveying a threat that induces fear, anxiety, or discomfort. It also authorizes courts to issue protection orders upon application by a victim and directs the appointment of a coordinator for the prevention of domestic violence to submit an annual report to the federal government. Notwithstanding these federal provisions, only the states of Cross River, Ebonyi, Jigawa, and Lagos had enacted domestic violence laws.
Domestic violence remained widespread, and many considered it socially acceptable. The CLEEN Foundation’s National Crime Victimization and Safety Survey for 2013 reported 30 percent of male and female respondents countrywide claimed to have been victims of domestic violence.
Police often refused to intervene in domestic disputes or blamed the victim for provoking the abuse. In rural areas courts and police were reluctant to intervene to protect women who formally accused their husbands of abuse if the level of alleged abuse did not exceed local customary norms.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): According to a UNICEF 2016 report, among women 15-49 years of age, 25 percent had undergone the practice. Mothers reported 17 percent of girls age 14 and younger had similarly undergone FGM/C. The age at which women and girls underwent the practice varied from the first week of life until after a woman delivered her first child. Most victims underwent FGM/C before their first birthday. In 2014 UNICEF reported the highest prevalence among women 15 to 49 years of age was in the Southwest (approximately 51 to 80 percent), followed by the Southeast and South (approximately 26 to 50 percent), and on a smaller scale in the North.
The VAPP penalizes a person who performs female circumcision or genital mutilation with a maximum of four years in prison, a fine of 200,000 naira ($635), or both. It punishes anyone who aids or abets such a person with a maximum of two years’ imprisonment, a fine of 100,000 naira ($317), or both. For purposes of the act, female circumcision means cutting all or part of the external sex organs of a girl or woman other than on medical grounds. By law an offender is a person who performs FGM/C; engages another to perform it; or incites, aids, abets, or counsels another person to perform FGM/C.
Federal law criminalizes female circumcision or genital mutilation, but the federal government took no legal action to curb the practice. While 12 states banned FGM/C, once a state legislature criminalizes FGM/C, NGOs found they had to convince local authorities that state laws apply in their districts. The Ministry of Health, women’s groups, and many NGOs sponsored public awareness projects to educate communities about the health hazards of FGM/C. Underfunding and logistical obstacles limited their contact with health-care workers.
Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Under the VAPP, any person who subjects another to harmful traditional practices may be punished with up to four years in prison, a fine not exceeding 500,000 naira ($1,590), or both. Anyone subjecting a widow to harmful traditional practices is subject to two years’ imprisonment, a fine not exceeding 500,000 naira ($1,590), or both. For purposes of the VAPP, a harmful traditional practice means all traditional behavior, attitudes, or practices that negatively affect the fundamental rights of women or girls, to include denial of inheritance or succession rights, FGM/C or circumcision, forced marriage, and forced isolation from family and friends.
Despite the federal law, purdah, the cultural practice of secluding women and pubescent girls from unrelated men, continued in parts of the North. In some parts of the country, widows experienced unfavorable conditions as a result of discriminatory traditional customs. “Confinement,” which occurred predominantly in the Northeast, remained the most common rite of deprivation for widows. Confined widows stayed under social restrictions for as long as one year and usually shaved their heads and dressed in black as part of a culturally mandated mourning period. In other areas communities viewed a widow as a part of her husband’s property to be “inherited” by his family. In some traditional southern communities, widows fell under suspicion when their husbands died. To prove their innocence, they were forced to drink the water used to clean their deceased husbands’ bodies.
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment remained a common problem. No statutes prohibit sexual harassment, but authorities may prosecute violent harassment under assault statutes. The VAPP criminalizes stalking, with terms of imprisonment of up to two years, a maximum fine of 500,000 naira ($1,590), or both. It does not explicitly criminalize sexual harassment, which it legally defines as physical, verbal, or nonverbal conduct of a sexual nature, based on sex or gender, which is persistent or serious and demeans, humiliates, or creates a hostile or intimidating environment. The act criminalizes emotional, verbal, and psychological abuse and acts of intimidation.
The practice of demanding sexual favors in exchange for employment or university grades remained common. Women suffered harassment for social and religious reasons in some regions. Women’s rights groups reported the Abuja Environmental Protection Board took women into custody under the pretext of removing commercial sex workers from the streets of the capital. According to activists, the board then forced women to buy their freedom or confess to prostitution and undergo rehabilitation. With the support of several civil society organizations, four women filed a joint lawsuit against the board with the ECOWAS Court of Justice. As of November the case was pending.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the legal right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of children. Information on reproductive health and access to quality reproductive health services and emergency obstetric care was not widely available. The World Health Organization (WHO) reported the maternal mortality rate was 814 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2015 due to factors including lack of access to antenatal care, skilled birth attendants, emergency obstetric care, and other medical services. During the year WHO reported the percentage of births attended by skill health personnel between 2006 and 2014 was 35 percent. The UN Population Division estimated 16 percent of girls and women ages 15-49 used a modern method of contraception in 2015. The UN Population Fund reported as of 2010 that 28 percent of women ages 20-24 had given birth before the age of 18.
Discrimination: Although the constitution provides the same legal status and rights for women as for men, women experienced considerable economic discrimination. The law does not mandate equal remuneration for work of equal value, nor does it mandate nondiscrimination based on gender in hiring. No laws bar women from particular fields of employment, but women reportedly faced challenges in obtaining employment in heavy manufacturing and construction. Women often experienced discrimination under traditional and religious practices.
Women generally remained marginalized. No laws prohibit women from owning land, but customary land tenure systems allowed only men to own land, with women gaining access to land only via marriage or family. Many customary practices also did not recognize a woman’s right to inherit her husband’s property, and many widows became destitute when their in-laws took virtually all the deceased husband’s property.
In the 12 states that adopted sharia, sharia and social norms affected women to varying degrees. For example, in Zamfara State local governments enforced laws requiring the separation of Muslim men and women in transportation and health care. In 2013 the Kano State government issued a statement declaring men and women must remain separate while using public transportation.
The testimony of women received less weight than that of men in many criminal courts. Women could arrange but not post bail at most police detention facilities.
Birth Registration: Children derive their citizenship from their parents. The government does not require birth registration for either girls or boys, and the majority of births were unregistered. The 2013 Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS), the most recent data available, found that only 30 percent of births of children under age five were registered. Lack of documents did not result in denial of education, health care, or other public services.
Education: Public schools remained substandard, and limited facilities precluded access to education for many children. The law requires provision of tuition free, compulsory, and universal basic education for every child of primary and junior secondary school age. Under the constitution, women and girls are supposed to receive career and vocational guidance at all levels, as well as access to quality education, education advancement, and lifelong learning. Despite these provisions, extensive discrimination and impediments to female participation in education persist.
Most educational funding comes from the federal government, with state governments required to pay a share. Public investment was insufficient to achieve universal basic education. Available estimates for public investment in education ranged from 1 percent to just over 7 percent of GDP.
Of the approximately 30 million primary school-age children, an estimated one-third were not enrolled in formally recognized schools. The lowest attendance rates were in the North, where rates for boys and girls were approximately 45 percent and 35 percent, respectively. According to UNICEF, in the North, for every 10 girls in school, more than 22 boys attended. Approximately 25 percent of young persons between ages 17 and 25 had fewer than two years of education.
In many parts of the country, social and economic factors resulted in discrimination against girls in access to education. In the face of economic hardship, many families favored boys over girls in deciding which children to enroll in elementary and secondary schools. According to the 2015 Nigeria Education Data Survey, attendance rates in primary schools increased to 68 percent nationwide, with school-age boys continuing to be somewhat more likely than girls to attend primary school. According to the survey, primary enrollment was 91 percent for boys and 78 percent for girls; secondary enrollment was 88 percent for boys and 77 percent for girls.
The Northeast had the lowest primary school attendance rate, 45 percent for the entire northern region (43 percent for girls, 46 percent for boys). The most pronounced reason was the Boko Haram insurgency, which prevented thousands of children from continuing their education in the states of Borno and Yobe (due to destruction of schools, community displacement, and mass movement of families from those crisis states to safer areas).
Child Abuse: Child abuse remained common throughout the country, but the government took no significant measures to combat it. Findings from the Nigeria Violence Against Children Survey released in 2015 revealed approximately six of every 10 children under age 18 experienced some form of physical, emotional, or sexual violence during childhood. One in two children experienced physical violence, one in four girls and one in 10 boys experienced sexual violence, and one in six girls and one in five boys experienced emotional violence.
In 2010 the Ministerial Committee on Madrasah Education reported 9.5 million children worked as “almajiri,” poor children from rural homes sent to urban areas by their parents ostensibly to study and live with Islamic teachers. Instead of receiving an education, many “almajiri” were forced to work manual jobs or beg for alms that were turned over to their teacher. The religious leaders often did not provide these children with sufficient shelter or food, and many of the children effectively became homeless.
In some states children accused of witchcraft were killed or suffered abuse, such as kidnapping and torture.
So-called baby factories continued to operate, often disguised as orphanages, religious or rehabilitation centers, hospitals, or maternity homes. They offered for sale the newborns of pregnant women–mostly unmarried girls–often held against their will and raped. The persons running the factories sold the children for various purposes, including adoption, child labor, prostitution, or sacrificial rituals, with the boys’ fetching higher prices. In August police in Aba, Abia State, rescued five pregnant women from a house, alleging its owners were engaged in child trafficking. In October police in Asaba, Delta State, rescued seven pregnant women ranging in age from 18 to 20 years, alleging the proprietor and his wife sold the children upon delivery.
Early and Forced Marriage: The law sets a minimum age of 18 years for marriage for both boys and girls. According to UNICEF’s State of the World’s Children 2016, 43 percent of girls were married before age 18, and 17 percent were married before age 15. The prevalence of child marriage varied widely between regions, with figures ranging from 76 percent in the Northwest to 10 percent in the Southeast. Only 24 state assemblies adopted the Child Rights Act of 2003, which sets the minimum marriage age, and most states, especially northern states, did not uphold the federal official minimum age for marriage. The government engaged religious leaders, emirs, and sultans on the problem, emphasizing the health hazards of early marriage. Certain states worked with NGO programs to establish school subsidies or fee waivers for children to help protect against early marriage. The government did not take legal steps to end sales of young girls into marriage. According to credible reports, poor families sold their daughters into marriage to supplement their incomes or for reasons pertaining to social and religious traditions.
According to an NGO, education was a key indicator of whether a girl would marry as a child–82 percent of women with no education were married before 18, as opposed to 13 percent of women who had at least finished secondary school education. In the north, parents complained that the quality of education was so poor that schooling could not be considered a viable alternative to marriage for their daughters. Poor families sold their daughters into marriage to supplement their incomes. Families sometimes forced young girls into marriage as early as puberty, regardless of age, to prevent “indecency” associated with premarital sex or for other cultural and religious reasons. Boko Haram subjected abducted girls to forced marriage.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): See information for girls under 18 in the Women’s section above.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The 2003 Child Rights Act prohibits child prostitution and sexual intercourse with a child, providing penalties of up to seven years’ and life imprisonment, respectively, for any adults involved. Two-thirds of the states adopted the act. While the majority of them retained the act’s definition of a child as a person under 18, some lowered the minimum age to accommodate local betrothal and marriage practices.
The VAPP criminalizes incest and provides prison sentences of up to 10 years. The Cybercrimes Act of 2015 criminalizes the production, procurement, distribution, and possession of child pornography with prison terms of 10 years, a fine of 20 million naira ($63,500), or both.
Sexual exploitation of children remained a significant problem. Children were trafficked for sex, both within the country and to other countries. In late 2013 Project Alert on Violence against Women released a study showing that children under age 10 faced a 39 percent risk of being victims of sexual violence.
Displaced Children: In December the IOM reported there were approximately 1.8 million persons displaced in the states of Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Taraba, and Yobe. Children under 18 constituted 55 percent of the IDP population, with 48 percent of them under five years of age.
Many children were homeless and lived on the streets, although the government had no reliable statistics. Major factors behind child homelessness were instability in the home, poverty, hunger, parental abuse, and displacement caused by clashes in the community.
International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.
An estimated 700 to 900 members of the Jewish community, who were foreign employees of international firms, resided in Abuja. Although not recognized as Jews by mainstream Jewish communities, between 2,000 and 30,000 ethnic Igbos claimed Jewish descent and practiced some form of Judaism. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt.
Persons with Disabilities
No federal laws prohibit discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, or mental disabilities in employment, education, air travel and other transportation, access to health care, or the provision of other state services. The law does, however, prohibit discrimination based on the “circumstances of one’s birth.” Plateau and Lagos States have laws that protect the rights of persons with disabilities, while Akwa-Ibom, Jigawa, Osun, and Oyo States took steps to develop such laws. The Ministry of Women’s Affairs and Social Development has responsibility for persons with disabilities. Some government agencies, such as the NHRC and the Ministry of Labor and Productivity, designated an employee to work on issues related to disabilities.
Mental health-care services were almost nonexistent. Officials at a small number of prisons used private donations to provide separate mental health facilities for prisoners with mental disabilities. All prisoners with disabilities stayed with the general inmate population and received no specialized services or accommodations.
Persons with disabilities faced social stigma, exploitation, and discrimination, and relatives often regarded them as a source of shame. Many families viewed children with disabilities who could not contribute to family income as liabilities and sometimes severely abused or neglected them. Many indigent persons with disabilities begged on the streets. Persons with intellectual disabilities were stigmatized, sometimes even within the community of persons with disabilities.
The government operated vocational training centers in Abuja and Lagos to train indigent persons with disabilities. Individual states also provided facilities to help persons with physical disabilities become self-supporting. Persons with disabilities established self-help NGOs such as the Hope for the Blind Foundation in Zaria, Kano Polio Victims Trust Association, the Albino Foundation, and Comprehensive Empowerment of Nigerians with Disabilities. The Joint National Association of Persons with Disabilities served as the umbrella organization for a range of disability groups. In 2008 the Ministry of Education estimated that, of 3.25 million school-age children with disabilities, only 90,000 were enrolled in primary school and 65,000 in secondary school.
The ethnically diverse population consisted of more than 250 groups. Many were concentrated geographically and spoke distinct primary languages. Three major groups–the Hausa, Igbo, and Yoruba–together constituted approximately half the population. Members of all ethnic groups practiced ethnic discrimination, particularly in private-sector hiring patterns and the segregation of urban neighborhoods. A long history of tension existed between some ethnic groups. The government’s efforts to address tensions between ethnic groups typically involved heavily concentrated security actions, incorporating police, military, and other security services, often in the form of a joint task force. The National Orientation Agency, the government body responsible for communicating official policy, occasionally organized conferences and issued public messages in support of tolerance and national unity.
The law prohibits ethnic discrimination by the government, but most ethnic groups claimed to be marginalized in terms of government revenue allocation, political representation, or both.
The constitution requires the government to have a “federal character,” meaning that cabinet and other high-level positions must be distributed to persons representing each of the 36 states or each of the six geopolitical regions. President Buhari’s cabinet appointments reflected this federal character. Traditional relationships were used to pressure government officials to favor particular ethnic groups in the distribution of important positions and other patronage.
All citizens have the right to live in any part of the country, but state and local governments frequently discriminated against ethnic groups not indigenous to their areas, occasionally compelling individuals to return to a region where their ethnic group originated but where they no longer had ties. State and local governments sometimes compelled nonindigenous persons to move by threats, discrimination in hiring and employment, or destruction of their homes. Those who chose to stay sometimes experienced further discrimination, including denial of scholarships and exclusion from employment in the civil service, police, and military. For example, in Plateau State the predominantly Muslim and nonindigenous Hausa and Fulani faced significant discrimination from the local government in land ownership, jobs, access to education, scholarships, and government representation.
Land disputes, ethnic differences, settler-indigene tensions, and religious affiliation contributed to clashes between Fulani herdsmen and farmers throughout the Middle Belt (the central part of the country). Determining the motives behind any single attack remained difficult. “Silent killings,” in which individuals disappeared and later were found dead, occurred throughout the year. Reprisal attacks at night in which assailants targeted and attacked individual homes or communities occurred frequently.
Conflicts over land rights continued between members of the Tiv, Kwalla, Jukun, Fulani, and Azara ethnic groups living near the convergence of Nasarawa, Benue, and Taraba States.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
The 2014 Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act (SSMPA) effectively renders illegal all forms of activity supporting or promoting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) rights. Under the SSMPA, anyone found to have entered into a same-sex marriage or civil union may be punished by up to 14 years’ imprisonment. In addition anyone found guilty of aiding “the solemnization of a same-sex marriage or civil union, or supports the registration, operation, and sustenance of gay clubs, societies, organizations, processions, or meetings,” or “registers, operates, or participates in gay clubs, societies, organizations, or directly or indirectly makes public show of same-sex amorous relationship” commits an offense punishable by 10 years’ imprisonment. There were no reports the government enforced these provisions during the year.
Following passage of the SSMPA, LGBTI persons reported increased harassment and threats against them based on their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. News reports and LGBTI advocates reported numerous arrests, but detainees were in all cases released without formal charges after paying a bond, which was oftentimes nothing more than a bribe. In a report published in October, HRW found no evidence of any prosecutions under the SSMPA. According to HRW, however, the law had become a tool used by police and members of the public to legitimize human rights violations against LGBTI persons such as torture, sexual violence, arbitrary detention, extortion, and violations of due process rights. Other effects of the SSMPA reported by HRW included increased isolation of LGBTI persons and self-censoring behavior, which in some cases led LGBTI persons to marry opposite-sex partners and have children in an attempt to conform to socially acceptable gender norms.
According to a study published in 2015, since passage of the SSMPA, gay and bisexual men were increasingly reluctant to access HIV health-care services due to fear of being “outed.” The 707 gay and bisexual men surveyed were receiving HIV prevention and treatment services from a community-based clinic in 2013 and 2014. They made 756 visits to the clinic before the law passed but only 420 after its enactment.
In the 12 northern states that adopted sharia, adults convicted of engaging in same-sex sexual activity may be subject to execution by stoning. Although sharia courts did not impose such sentences during the year, in previous years individuals convicted of same-sex sexual activity were sentenced to lashing.
In August sharia police in Sokoto arrested two men, accusing them of attempting to celebrate a gay marriage. Authorities released both of them and later issued a statement acknowledging they mistakenly arrested them while the two men were taking part in a traditional ceremony featuring cross-dressers.
Because of widespread societal taboos against same-sex sexual activity, very few LGBTI persons were open about their sexual orientation. Several NGOs provided LGBTI groups with legal advice and training in advocacy, media responsibility, and HIV/AIDS awareness, as well as providing safe havens for LGBTI individuals. The government and its agents did not impede the work of these groups during the year.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
According to the 2013 NDHS, administered to a broad cross section of society throughout the 36 states and the FCT, 50 percent of women and 46 percent of men reported holding discriminatory attitudes toward those with HIV. The public considered the disease a result of immoral behavior and a punishment for same-sex sexual activity. Persons with HIV/AIDS often lost their jobs or were denied health-care services. Authorities and NGOs sought to reduce the stigma and change perceptions through public education campaigns.
Other Societal Violence or Discrimination
Various reports indicated street mobs killed suspected criminals during the year. In most cases these mob actions resulted in no arrests.
Ritualists who believed certain body parts confer mystical powers kidnapped and killed persons to harvest body parts for rituals and ceremonies. For example, in April police in Ogun State discovered a shrine containing the body of a man allegedly killed for ritual purposes.
Persons born with albinism faced discrimination, were considered bad luck, and were sometimes abandoned at birth or killed for witchcraft purposes.