Mrs Amanda Asagba, the President of the African Women Lawyers Association (AWLA) has called for stronger laws to protect widows’ rights in Nigeria.
Asagba made the call on the International Widow’s Day celebration, observed every June 23, to draw attention to the voices and experiences of widows and to galvanize the unique support that they require.
The theme for this year’s widows’ day is tagged: “Invisible women, Invisible problems,”
In a statement on Wednesday, Asagba, called for urgent action to protect widows against various forms of violence, including harmful widowhood practices.
”A majority of widows are subjected to torture, inhuman and degrading treatment after the loss of their spouses, which consequently, makes it imperative for favourable policies to be implemented to safegaurd their rights.
”For many women around the world, it is a devastating loss and that loss is magnified by a long-term struggle for basic needs, as well as their human rights and dignity.
” They may be denied inheritance rights to the piece of land that they relied on for livelihood or evicted from their homes, forced into unwanted marriages or traumatizing widowhood rituals and subjected to other harmful cultural practices.
” They are stigmatized for life, shunned, shamed and isolated. and many of these abuses go unnoticed, even normalized.
“Therefore this theme of Widows’ Day 2021, urges us to identify those women and make their problems visible to society,” she said
According to her, the purpose of celebrating International widows’ day is the acknowledgement by the UN, that widows are invisible to policy makers.
“Policies focus upon common citizens, labourers, jobless youths, and other suffering segments of society; however, nothing is specifically discussed about widows in policy-making meetings.
“Such an ignoring attitude means that issues of more than 258 million widows worldwide remain unaddressed,” she said
Asagba noted that in many Nigerian culture, widows” are often accused of killing their spouses, until they proved their innocence through some forms of traditional rituals like sleeping in a room with their husband’s corpses, drinking the bath water of their husband”s corpses, and many other demeaning practices.
“These widowhood practices are acts of trauma which has negative impact on her children because when a widow is denied her inheritance rights, the children become homeless,” she said
She noted that there exist the legal framework to protect widows such as the Constitution, the Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Act, and the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women( CEDAW) described as an international bill of rights for women.
She added thhat there is also the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, popularly known as the Maputo Protocol as well as the Child’s Right Act which protects the woman and children.
She, however, observed that while all these laudable legislation exist, there is the problem of enforcement.
“Yes, we have the laws but how accessible are the widows to justice?
“We at AWLA lend our voices to say, “stop the violence against widows, don’t abuse widows, don’t stigmatize widows, don’t oppress widows, widows are not witches, widowhood is not a curse,
“We advocate for subsidized accommodation, school fees, legal aid and welfare packages for widows and their children.
“We advocate for the establishment of a specialized agency for widows- to follow up on them and ensure they’re protected and given access to benefits available for them and their children,” she said
Asagba said that AWLA is properly poised to render free legal services to widows and would go the extra mile to stop indignity to women and children.