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Q: Nigerian Women Prisoners ( Answered,   0 Comments )
Subject: Nigerian Women Prisoners
Category: Miscellaneous
Asked by: deeyou-ga
List Price: $100.00
Posted: 29 Oct 2004 12:53 PDT
Expires: 28 Nov 2004 11:53 PST
Question ID: 421788
My question concerns the treatment of women in the prisons of Nigeria.
 For example, are they frequently raped by prison guards or otherwise
tortured?  Can you provide information or links on this subject? 
Subject: Re: Nigerian Women Prisoners
Answered By: pafalafa-ga on 30 Oct 2004 07:05 PDT

Despite substantial oil revenues,  Nigeria remains one of world's most
impoverished and troubled countries.  It is a difficult country for
virtually all its inhabitants, and even moreso for those who become
embroiled in the country's penal system, which has a reputation for
being harsh, brutal and corrupt.  Women who are imprisoned fare no
better -- and may well fare far worse -- than their male counterparts.

There have been a number of fairly comprehensive reports on human
rights issues in Nigeria.  They cover numerous issues, including the
welfare of prisoners, and the status of women in Nigeria.  To the
extent that information is available (and information access in
Nigeria can be a real problem in itself), these reports will provide a
good overview of the situation in the country.

I have provided information on these reports in my answer, below.  I
trust they will provide you the information you're looking for.

Before rating this answer, however, please let me know if you need
anything else.  Just post a Request for Clarification, and I'll be
happy to assist you further.



The United States Department of State issued a Human Rights status
report for Nigeria earlier this year.

This is fairly comprehensive and up-to-date report that covers a
wide-variety of human rights topics in Nigeria, including the
treatment of women and children, human trafficking, legal rights,
prisoners, religious and social freedoms, voting rights, and several
other key areas of concern.

You can see the full report here:
Country Reports on Human Rights Practices  - 2003
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
February 25, 2004

and I suggest reviewing the report in its entirety.  I've provided
here some key excerpts on the treatment of prisoners and women, along
with some information that provides additional context, when

--[Here is a good overview, and you can see that prison issues are
featured prominently]:   The Government's human rights record remained
poor, and the Government continued to commit serious abuses. Elections
held during the year were not generally judged free and fair and
therefore abridged citizens' right to change their government.
Security forces committed extrajudicial killings and used excessive
force to apprehend criminal suspects, and to quell some protests.
There were several politically-motivated killings by unknown persons
during the year. Security forces regularly beat protesters, criminal
suspects, detainees, and convicted prisoners; however, there were
fewer reported incidents of torture by security agents than in
previous years. Impunity was a problem. Shari'a courts sentenced
persons to harsh punishments including amputations and death by
stoning; however, no amputation or stoning sentences were carried out,
and one of the judgments was dismissed on appeal during the year.
Prison conditions were harsh and life threatening, and conditions
contributed to the death of numerous inmates. Security forces
continued to arbitrarily arrest and detain persons, including for
political reasons. Prolonged pretrial detention remained a serious
problem. The judicial system often was incapable of providing criminal
suspects with speedy and fair trials.

--[brutality by the authorities is commonplace]:  
The Federal anticrime taskforce, also known as "Operation Fire for
Fire," was among the most frequent human rights offenders. Operation
Fire for Fire was established in response to widespread public calls
for the Government and police to address violent crime more
vigorously. Police and anticrime taskforce personnel involved
committed extrajudicial killings in the apprehension and detention of
suspected criminals, and were instructed to use deadly force to subdue
violent criminals. According to Inspector General of Police Tafa
Balogun, from March 2002 until November, police killed more than 1,200
criminals and arrested more than 2,800. There were widespread
complaints that Operation Fire for Fire has given a largely untrained
police force broad latitude in using deadly force. In most cases,
police officers were not held accountable for excessive or deadly
force, or for the deaths of persons in custody. They generally
operated with impunity in the apprehension, illegal detention, and
sometimes execution of criminal suspects

--[Although the gender of prisoners isn't always specified, prison
conditions are uniformaly harsh]:
Criminal suspects died from unnatural causes while in official
custody, usually as the result of neglect and harsh treatment... There
were only a few cases in which members of the police were held
accountable for abuses. Harsh and life-threatening prison conditions
and denial of proper medical treatment also contributed to the deaths
of numerous inmates.

...during the year, police, military, and security force officers
regularly beat protesters, criminal suspects, detainees, and convicted

--[the imposition of extremely harsh sentences by Shari'a courts in
Nigeria have received noteriety around the world...the harshest
sentences are often directed at women]:
Different formulations for criminal law of Islamic Shari'a were in
place in 12 northern states... Shari'a courts delivered "hudud"
sentences such as amputation for theft, caning for fornication and
public drunkenness, and death by stoning for adultery....Caning is
also a punishment under common law in the Northern region Penal Code
and has not been challenged in the courts as a violation of the
Constitution...In violation of mainstream Shari'a jurisprudence, some
Khadi judges subjected women to harsh sentences for fornication or
adultery based solely upon the fact of pregnancy, while men were not
convicted without eyewitnesses unless they confessed....During the
year, there were at least 44 cases in 5 states with sentences of
stoning or amputation pending appeal or sentence implementation....

--[More on prison conditions]
Prison and detention conditions remained harsh and life threatening.
Most prisons were built 70 to 80 years ago and lacked functioning
basic facilities. Lack of potable water, inadequate sewage facilities,
and severe overcrowding resulted in unhealthy and dangerous sanitary
conditions. Some prisons held 200 to 300 percent more persons than
their designed capacity. The Government acknowledged overcrowding as
the main cause of the harsh conditions common in the prison system.

Excessive pretrial detention contributed to the overcrowding...Disease
was pervasive in the cramped, poorly ventilated facilities, and
chronic shortages of medical supplies were reported. Prison inmates
were allowed outside their cells for recreation or exercise only
irregularly, and many inmates had to provide their own food. Only
those with money or whose relatives brought food regularly had
sufficient food; petty corruption among prison officials made it
difficult for money provided for food to reach prisoners. Poor inmates
often relied on handouts from others to survive. Beds or mattresses
were not provided to many inmates, forcing them to sleep on concrete
floors, often without a blanket. Prison officials, police, and
security forces often denied inmates food and medical treatment as a
form of punishment or to extort money from them. Harsh conditions and
denial of proper medical treatment contributed to the deaths of
numerous prisoners. According to the NGO Prisoners Rehabilitation and
Welfare Action (PRAWA), dead inmates promptly were buried on the
prison compounds, usually without notifying their families. A
nationwide estimate of the number of inmates who die in the country's
prisons was difficult to obtain because of poor record keeping by
prison officials. PRAWA and other NGOs alleged that prison conditions
were worse in rural areas than in urban districts.

--[women prisoners were often detained with men, and with hardened criminals]
In practice, women and juveniles were held with male prisoners,
especially in rural areas. The extent of abuse in these conditions was
unknown. In most cases, women accused of minor offenses were released
on bail; however, women accused of serious offenses were detained.
Although the law stipulates children shall not be imprisoned, juvenile
offenders were routinely incarcerated along with adult criminals.
There was no formalized procedure regarding the separation of
detainees and convicted prisoners, and the method of confinement
depended solely on the capacity of the facility; as a result,
detainees often were housed with convicted prisoners.

--[once in jail, women and men may stay almost indefinitely with no
action taken on their pending charges]
Lengthy pretrial detention remained a serious problem. Serious
backlogs, endemic corruption, and undue political influence continued
to hamper the judicial system...On September 23, the
Controller-General of prisons stated that 25,380, approximately 63
percent, of prisoners were detainees awaiting trial who had not been
charged; other sources placed the number as high as 80 percent. Some
had been waiting as long as 12 years, while many had approached the
maximum length of their sentences.

--[violence appears to be part of the official culture]
No investigation occurred in...the 2002 alleged beating of 800 women
trespassing on the grounds of the headquarters of Shell and
Chevron-Texaco by security forces.

[Although not directly related to the penal system, the report also
provides horrific details on ritualized mutalation of young women, and
also covers human trafficking of women]


Amnesty International is a very well-respected international rights
group that has also amassed a good deal of information on the plight
of prisoners in Nigeria, with a particular focus on women prisoners.

Again, I would certainly recommend that you look at this report in full at:
NIGERIA:The Death Penalty and Women under the Nigeria Penal Systems

I'm including some excerpts here, but since this is not a US
government report (and is thereby protected by copyright) I cannot
quote as extensively as I did above for the State Department report:

--The recent extension in parts of Nigeria of the death penalty to
areas many consider to be private aspects of life has focused the
debate on both the appropriateness of the death penalty in general and
on the use of the criminal justice system as a way to regulate sexual

--One of the convicted was a woman charged with culpable homicide
after having had a still-born baby which event the court termed as an
illegal abortion...

--The new Sharia penal codes which came into force in 12 states(5).in
northern Nigeria since 1999, define someone who has committed zina
as"whoever, being a man or a woman fully responsible, has sexual
intercourse through the genital [sic] of a person over whom he has no
sexual rights and in circumstances in which no doubt exists as to the
illegality of the act" (6). Zina was previously punishable by flogging
for Muslims under the Penal Code. However, in the States that have
introduced Sharia penal laws, zina carries a mandatory death sentence
if the accused is married,...

--The application of the death penalty for zina offences combined with
the gender-discriminating evidence rules within the Sharia penal codes
have meant that women have disproportionately been sentenced to death
for zina in northern Nigeria since the introduction of new Sharia
penal codes

--Many abortion-related offences are, in the cases known to Amnesty
International, deemed to fall under the capital offence of culpable
homicide under the Penal Code and the Criminal Code

--IJ, 35, conceived a baby out of wedlock after she had divorced her
husband. According to her testimony to Amnesty International, the
stillborn baby was delivered during the eight month of pregnancy. A
villager reported the delivery to the traditional leader who in turn
reported it to police. IJ says she was alone at the delivery. It is
not clear if she put her thumbprint on a statement or not, and whether
she was properly informed about the charges. She neither had legal
representation at the police station nor during the trial. The police
allegedly withheld medical evidence from the court that corroborated
IJ?s account. She was convicted of culpable homicide under the Penal
Code in 1993 and sentenced to death by hanging two years later. She
has been in detention and prison in Katsina prison for 10 years in

--Regarding the situation of the women cited in this report, generally
when they were arrested as suspects for capital cases they were
remanded in prison waiting for the file to be transferred from the
police to the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions who takes
the decision whether to initiate a judicial process. In many cases
known to Amnesty International, these files go missing and the
detainees remain in detention without trial for years, thus seriously
violating basic fair trial rights

[A section of the Amnesty report that might be of particular interest to you]:

4.5 The right not to be subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment

The situation of overcrowded pre-trial detentions and prisons, as
exemplified by a report from four prisons in Lagos State from March
2003 (92), may in itself amount to cruel, inhuman and degrading
treatment. Regarding the pre-trial aspect for women in capital cases,
the fact-finding visit revealed several issues of concern. the prisons visited by the Nigerian Special Rapporteur on
Children to the Nigerian National Human Rights Commission there is a
general lack of medical facilities for common ailments such as
malaria, tuberculosis, scabies and hypertension but also specific
medical provisions for women, including pregnant women and women with
babies. Amnesty International is concerned that the crowded prison
conditions as reported here amount to cruel, inhuman and degrading
treatment contrary to international human rights standards.


Although dated a few years ago, this United Nations report
specifically addresses the physical and sexual abuse of women
prisoners in Nigeria:
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights


...the Special Rapporteur advised the Government that he had continued
to receive information that police and security officers seeking to
extract confessions regularly beat suspects, detainees and convicted
prisoners. Forms of torture reported to be used include whippings,
suspension by limbs from the ceiling, burning with candles and
extraction of teeth. Detainees are often reportedly kept incommunicado
for long periods. Relatives and friends of wanted suspects are
regularly placed in detention without criminal charge to induce
suspects to surrender...

...police use flogging, stripping and acts of public humiliation, such
as duck-walking or crawling, as punishment for minor offences or
public disturbances. Caning remains a form of punishment for some
crimes, and four men were publicly caned in 1997 with 100 strokes
after a court convicted them of adultery under the Penal Code. It is
also reported that the police frequently intervene in personal
disputes and publicly strip or whip alleged offenders...

...Prison and detention conditions remain life-threatening. Lack of
potable water, inadequate sewage facilities and severe overcrowding
result in unhealthy and dangerous sanitary conditions. Disease is
reportedly pervasive in the cramped, poorly ventilated facilities, and
there are chronic shortages of medical supplies. Prison officials,
police and security forces often allegedly deny inmates food and
medical treatment as a form of punishment or to extort money from
them. Reports of sexual abuse of women prisoners is common...


Overall, these reports paint a very grim picture for anyone caught up
in the Nigerian penal system.  This appears to be especially true for
women prisoners, as they are already regarded as second-class citizens
in many respects, and this lessened status carries over to the prison
population, where they are accorded little respect, and very little
access to the protections of civil society.

I hope the information here fully meets your needs.  As I said above,
before rating this answer, please let me know if you need any
additional information.  Just post a Request for Clarification, and
I'll be happy to assist you further.

All the best,


search strategy:  Google searches on --

[ nigeria women prisoners ]
[ nigeria women prisoners site:org]
[ nigeria "human rights" ]
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