Nigerians take to streets to protest against sexual violence

Demonstrators in Abuja demand 'justice' after a series of high-profile rape cases sparked outrage in the country.

    Nigerians take to streets to protest against sexual violence
    Protesters wearing face masks carry banners as they stage a demonstration to raise awareness about sexual violence in Abuja [Afolabi Sotunde/Reuters]

    Human rights campaigners have rallied in Nigeria's capital to raise awareness about violence against women after a series of high-profile rape cases sparked an outcry in the country.

    More than 200 protesters marched around police headquarters in Abuja, chanting slogans and holding banners that read "Justice for all Nigerian girls and women" and "No means no".

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    It was one of many activities planned by campaigners to call attention to the issue and urge politicians to allocate more funds to tackle sexual violence and ensure police independence.

    The latest outpouring of anger has been unleashed by the cases of three women and girls who were killed or raped in incidents activists say showcase the widespread sexual violence in Nigeria.

    #JusticeForUwa has been one of the hashtags trending on social media in the last week after Vera Uwaila Omosuwa, a 22-year-old student, died two days after she was reportedly raped in a church in the southern city of Benin.

    "Children are dying, women are dying, enough is enough," Dorothy Njemanze, one of the protest organisers, was quoted as saying by Reuters news agency.

    Njemanze said she and other campaigners were "watching every step of everything they [politicians] say and do on sexual based violence".

    Nigeria's most senior policeman has ordered the immediate deployment of additional investigators to specialist gender violence desks, a police statement said on Tuesday.

    "This is to strengthen and enhance the capacity of the units to respond to increasing challenges of sexual assaults and domestic/gender-based violence linked with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and other social ills within the country," it added.

    Two other recent cases have also prompted people to express their anger using the #JusticeForJennifer and #JusticeForTina rallying cries.

    In April, an 18-year-old known only as Jennifer was allegedly attacked and raped by a gang of five men in Kaduna, a city in northern Nigeria.

    The case gained attention only after her relatives - scared the accused would escape justice - released a video online of family comforting the traumatised teen that was shared tens of thousands of times.

    Now, local police say two men have been arrested for the rape and three other suspects are being sought.

    Meanwhile, a 16-year-old high school student called Tina Ezekwe was shot and killed after police opened fire at a bus stop in Lagos, the country's biggest city, during a nighttime coronavirus curfew.

    After an outcry online, the police force said two officers had been arrested and were facing disciplinary action and possible prosecution.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies