The South-East Human Rights Situation Room (SEHRSR) has decried the alleged dehumanizing abuse and stripping naked of a widow in Awgu community Enugu State for picking snails in a ‘sacred land’.
The group comprising coalition of Non Governmental Organizations, made its feelings known in a statement issued in Enugu on Saturday.
The statement signed by the convener of SEHRSR, Prof. Joy Ezeilo, said the incident took place at Agulese Affam-Mmaku Autonomous Community in Awgu Local Government Area of Enugu State on Oct. 28.
She said: “The information available to us revealed that the victim received jungle justice for merely collecting snails from a sacred site.
“This caused the boys and men in that village to subject her to this humiliation, while the women watched and urged them on.
“The vile act was further recorded and the video was shared on the internet.
“The trending video showed that the woman was seen beaten, stripped naked, and paraded in the community like a common thief,” Ezeilo said.
She described the act as “barbaric, dehumanizing, satanic, and a violation of the human rights of this poor widow”.
The convener added that the victim was currently hospitalized as a result of the injuries caused by the physical and emotional torture she received from the errant youths of the community.
She regretted that, “a community in this 21st century can commit this heinous crime on their daughter, and wife all in the name of culture, speaks volumes of their level of backwardness”.
Ezeilo noted that the incident was not the first time that such flagrant desecration of women was perpetuated in the same community.
According to the group, the cultural practice that is anti-human, in conflict with the constitution of the Federation Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended, the Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Law of Enugu State 2019, and the Widowhood Law of Enugu and also repugnant to natural justice will not stand.
“We have noted that in recent times, there has been a spike in such nauseating acts of man inhumanity to women as recorded in our communities, especially in Igbo land.
“There is need for urgent action to be taken by the stakeholders toward stemming the tide.
“It is disheartening and condemnable that in spite of the high-level advocacy interventions carried out by CSOs in the country to create a gender-friendly environment where women and girls feel safe just like their male counterparts.
“Women in Nigeria especially in the South-East geopolitical zones have continued to suffer huge physical, emotional, and psychological abuses, due to harmful cultural practices.
“Enough is enough. The traditional ruler and the cabinet members of the Agulese Afam-Mmaku Autonomous community should take urgent steps to check the excesses of their subjects, so as to prevent a repeat of such injustices against women.
She also appealed to the concerned authorities especially the Awgu Local Government chairman, as well as the state government to do everything within the ambit of the law to ensure that the perpetrators of these monstrous prosecuted.
“Igbo leaders should as a matter of critical urgency speak out in unison in condemnation of harmful cultural norms, that bring shame to the Igbo race, and perpetually project them in bad light before the community of nations.
“It is our earnest desire as a group that communities and law enforcement agencies continue to raise the accountability stakes and proactive actions to protect the poor, and the vulnerable members of our society such as the woman in the viral video
“We want to sincerely commend the Divisional Police Officer (DPO), other officers, and men of the Awgu Divisional Police for their swift action that led to the arrest of seven perpetrators,” SEHRSR convener said.
While calling for their prompt prosecution under the extant laws of the land, Ezeilo commended the resident of the community, for his effort in ensuring that the victim had access to medical treatment and for reporting the matter to the police.
NAN reports that SEHRSR is a coalition of like-minded NGOs working in South East Nigeria with the core objective of protecting human rights of all residents of the zone through Advocacy, Dialogue, and Sensitization.
Its membership is drawn from NGOs working in the area of Gender and Human Rights in the zone. (NAN)