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Sari Laukkanen, Aminu Magashi Garba


Sexual and reproductive health is included in the Construction of Nigeria through, among other, the following articles:

  • Article 17.3: The State direct its policy towards ensuring that all citizens, without discrimination on any group whatsoever, have the opportunity for securing adequate means of livelihood as well as adequate opportunity to secure suitable employment; conditions of work are just, humane, and that there are adequate facilities for leisure, social, religious and cultural life; the health, safety and welfare of all persons in employment are safeguarded and not endangered or abused; that there are adequate medical and health facilities for all persons; that there is equal pay for equal work without discrimination on any account of sex, or any other ground whatsoever; that children and young persons are protected against any form of exploitation whatsoever, and against any moral or material neglect.
  • Article 34.1: Every individual is entitled to respect for the dignity of his person, and accordingly no person shall be subject to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment.

Sexual and reproductive rights implementation

  • Abortion: The abortion explicitly allowed in Nigeria to save the life of the pregnant woman (Penal Code, Art. 232 and Criminal Code Act, Art. 297). In addition, in some states, the abortion may also be performed for the physical and mental health reasons (see R v Bourne, 1939 1 KB 687). A person performing an illegal abortion may be sentenced to imprisonment up to 14 years and/or a fine (Penal Code, Art. 232 and Criminal Code Act, Art. 228). Under Criminal Code Act, if a pregnant woman procures to herself an abortion, she may be sentenced to imprisonment up to 7 years (Criminal Code Act, Art. 229).
  • Polygamy: Both the monogamous marriages and polygamous unions are recognized in Nigeria. Under civil law, the monogamy is permitted (Matrimonial Causes Act). The polygamy is allowed under the customary laws and religious laws.
  • Female Genital Mutilation (FGM):The FGM is forbidden in some of the states in Nigeria. FGM is practiced in the country.
  • Violence against women: Rape is criminalized in Nigeria. The offender may be sentenced up to life imprisonment and a fine (Penal Code, Art. 283 and Criminal Code Act, Art. 357 and 358). However, the marital rape is not recognized. Rapes are seldom reported due to fear and the attached stigma.
    The domestic violence is banned in some of the states in Nigeria.
  • Child marriage: The age limit for marriage is 18 years (Child Rights Act, Art. 21). A person entering into a marriage with a child, to whom a child is betrothed, who promotes the marriage of a child or who betroths a child, may be sentenced to imprisonment up to five years and/or a fine (Art. 23). However, less than a half of the country’s states have adopted the Child Rights Act imposing the minimum marriage age. The child marriage is commonly practiced in Nigeria.
  • Maternal and infant health: Nigeria has a high maternal and infant mortality rate. In addition, the prevalence of the vesico vaginal fistula rate is high. The main cause is the complications of the pregnancy and delivery, especially of the girls. 2013 National Demographic Health Survey (NDHS) reported the maternal mortality ratio of 576/100,000 live births which did not significantly differ from the ratio reported in 2008 NDHS of 545/100,000. The antenatal coverage for at least one visit was 60.6% and for four or more visits was 51.5%. These percentages signify that almost a half of the women were disenfranchised. The percentage of births attended by the skilled health personnel was 38.1%. Nigeria’s national average for immunization coverage in comparison between 2008 (23%) and 2013 (25.3%) has increased by 2%. This means that only 25% of targeted children were fully immunized.
    The high fertility rate, illiteracy, poverty and lack of or poor quality medical care are directly linked to these reproductive health problems. Nigeria has set a National Strategic Framework for the Elimination of Obstetric Fistula in Nigeria to improve the fistula medical care.
  • Contraception: Based on the various reports, quite low percentage of the women in Nigeria use modern contraceptive methods. 2013 NDHS reported contraceptive prevalence rate of 15.1 %. Nigeria is committed to achieve the goal of a contraceptive prevalence rate of 36 % by 2018.
  • Sexual minorities: Homosexuality is not allowed in Nigeria. The person engaging in the homosexual conduct may be sentenced to 14 years imprisonment (Penal Code, Art. 284 and Criminal Code Act, Art. 214). Pursuant to the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act, the same-sex marriage is prohibited. These facts may hinder the prevention of and the protection against HIV/AIDS as the criminalization causes reluctance to reveal this conduct, for instance, to the health-care professionals and may expose the spouses to HIV infection.
  • HIV/AIDS: Nigeria has one of the world's highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rates and related death rate. Nigeria has set a HIV/AIDS Strategic Plan addressing this widespread challenge.

Nigeria has ratified conventions focusing on women’ rights, such as:

  • Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) was ratified by Nigeria in 1985
  • Optional Protocol Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) was ratified by Nigeria in 2004
  • Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (PACHPRRWA) (Maputo Protocol) was ratified by Nigeria in 2004
  • African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR) was ratified by Nigeria in 1983

Nigeria has set up policies, strategies and programmes aiming to improve women’s human rights especially with respect to the sexual and reproductive rights, such as:

  • National Strategic Framework for the Elimination of Obstetric Fistula in Nigeria, 2011 - 2015
  • National HIV/AIDS Strategic Plan, 2010 -2015
  • National Implementation Plan for United Nations Commission on Life-Saving Commodities for Women and Children, 2013
  • Country Accountability Framework for UN Commission on Information and Accountability, 2013

Sexual and reproductive rights challenges

Numerous health care challenges persist in Nigeria, especially in relation to the sexual and reproductive rights. Some of the problems are:

  • Sexual and gender-based violence
  • HIV/AIDS prevalence
  • Child marriage
  • Maternal Health
  • Female Genital Mutilation
  • Lack of comparable laws in all states