Women in Nigeria are taking action to highlight what they call a “hidden epidemic” of rape and sexual violence in the country. Local campaigners are asking women to take to the streets in a public show of anger provisionally scheduled for 25th November– The International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Through public protest campaigners hope to urge leaders to end a conspiracy of silence surrounding rape and sexual violence.
The issue gained public attention, contributing to the planning of the march, after a horrific ten-minute video emerged on the Internet of a woman being gang raped and begging her assailants to kill her. Levels of reported rape are extremely low in Nigeria, contributing to a culture of silence and shame on the part of the victim. Activists believe that an ineffective justice system and police impunity also discourage victims from reporting sexual abuse. A 2010 study also reported that police officers frequently commit sexual assault and are not reported by fellow officers.
The march hopes to capitalise on recent public interest in violence against women, and encourage the government and legal system to take a more honest and severe approach to rape, sexual violence and accountability. Akiyode-Afolabi, of the Women’s Advocates Research and Documentation Centre in Nigeria stated that: “The Nigerian government has failed to protect women. We need to hold it accountable. There is a need for immediate steps to create laws and institutions that protect women.”