Medical students march to support bill on violence against women

National assembly abuja building
National assembly

The protesters want the removed clause re-introduced.

No fewer than 100 medical students marched to the National Assembly in Abuja on Monday to drum support for the passage of the Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Bill.

The bill was initially introduced in 2008. It was later re-introduced to the 7th assembly on the basis of the house’s standing order on outstanding legislations in 2011.

Two months ago, a clause regarding the reproductive health rights of women was removed from the VAPP bill by the House of Representatives.

The removed Section 37(1) (iii) seeks to address the issue of the rights of women to health, including those related to family planning, particularly in rural women.

The removed section also seeks to address the right to medical abortion in cases of sexual assault, rape, incest and where the continued pregnancy endangered the life of the mother.

Ezie Patrick, Youth Consultant, National Rally on Violence Against Persons said that the essence of the rally was to protest the removal of section 37(1)(iii) of the VAPP bill.

Mr. Patrick added that the youth needed to get involved in the transformation process through advocacy of bills that would improve the health indices and the nation generally.

“As a medical doctor I know personally that in our hospitals we have women dying every day, coming from rape, incest, and all the other challenges that they have as a result of laws that are non-existent and even when they are existing they do not protect the rights of the women and that is another reason that we are concerned that this bill should focus on those things,” he said.

“We were able to gather that when the bill was passing through the House of Representatives, the section on female reproductive rights was removed and we feel that for a country that has increasingly high indexes of maternal mortality rate , it should have been a focal point for debate and for extensive involvement in the current bill.‘’

“It is in the senate now and we are hoping the senate will take a critical look at the issues and forget the sentiments.’’

Mr. Patrick said that the bill if passed should address the issue of terrorism and give strict punishment such as death sentence to offenders.

“Also with regards to terrorism which is now every day present with us as Nigerians, we feel that if the bill when it becomes law can give strict punishment, even death sentence for people who are caught in the act of terrorism or in the act of taking human life or punitive measures,” he said.

Egbon Chinwendu, a medical student, told said that women were important in nation building.

“We want to ensure that the clause concerning the women’s reproductive health is added back because it was removed from the bill, so we want it to be added back,” she said.

“We want to make sure that the right of the woman is protected, she is allowed to make her choice; she should be able to choose things that concern her health and things that concern her life.

“Reproduction is an important part of the woman; if it is not put back in the bill then I don’t know what we are talking about today.’’

The students carried placards with inscriptions such as: “Pass the violence against women bill’’; “Domesticate the AU women’s protocol, give protection to Nigerian women.’’

(NAN)

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