Women’s Rights Coalition Demands Public Apology from Minister of Women Affairs

Womanifesto, a coalition of women’s rights organizations, is demanding a public apology from Nigeria’s Minister of Women Affairs, Uju Kennedy-Ohanenye, for allegedly downplaying a sexual harassment case at the University of Calabar. The coalition accuses the minister of working against the interests of women and children and calls for her to retract her statements and focus on supporting victims of sexual harassment and gender-based violence.

Minster for women Affairs  Women's Rights Coalition Demands Public Apology from Minister of Women Affairs

Women’s Rights Coalition Demands Public Apology from Minister of Women AffairsIn a significant development, Womanifesto, a coalition comprising over 500 women’s rights organizations, has issued a stern demand for a public apology from Nigeria’s Minister of Women Affairs, Uju Kennedy-Ohanenye. The coalition accuses the minister of allegedly working against the interests of women in Nigeria and making controversial statements regarding the sexual harassment scandal at the University of Calabar (UNICAL).

The controversy erupted when Minister Uju Kennedy-Ohanenye allegedly made statements that downplayed the severity of the sexual harassment case at UNICAL. In response, Womanifesto expressed grave concerns about her comments and their potential implications for the protection of vulnerable women and children in Nigeria.

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One particularly contentious statement attributed to the minister was her insinuation that the female students involved in the case were not sexually harassed because they admitted they were not raped. Furthermore, she purportedly suggested that some individuals were manipulating the students to remove Prof. Ndifon from his position at UNICAL.

However, Womanifesto had previously met with Minister Kennedy-Ohanenye and reportedly warned her against interfering in the sexual harassment case or attempting to silence the female student victims. In a letter dated September 15, 2023, addressed to the minister, the co-Convener of Womanifesto and Executive Director of Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre, Dr Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, called for a public apology.

The letter, which has been obtained by journalists in Abuja, was copied to several key figures, including President Bola Tinubu, Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other-Related Offences Commission, Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye, Executive Secretary of the National Human Rights Commission, Tony Ojukwu (SAN), Attorney-General Federation and Minister of Justice, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), and First Lady, Senator Oluremi Tinubu.

Womanifesto stated, “Your utterances, Honourable Minister, have no doubt done a lot of damage to the collective of Nigerian Women and girls, and we hereby demand that you publicly apologize for meddling in the UNICAL sexual harassment case against Prof. Ndifon and attempting to silence the voices of the students who are victims of the harassment. We expect your commitment to justice and fair play.”

The coalition further clarified its stance on sexual harassment, emphasizing that it should not be narrowly reduced to penetrative sex or rape. They called on the minister to retract her statements and apologize to the affected students, who have faced bullying and trauma.

Womanifesto urged the Minister of Women Affairs to focus on supporting victims and survivors of sexual harassment and gender-based violence while working to eliminate factors that exacerbate the vulnerability of women and girls. Additionally, they called on the National Human Rights Commission, the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other-Related Offences Commission, and other law enforcement agencies to ensure the protection and justice for victims of sexual violence who bravely speak out.

The coalition’s plea to well-meaning Nigerians is to join efforts to rid educational institutions of sexual predators who exploit their positions of power to harm young women and children pursuing academic aspirations.

This demand for a public apology from the Minister of Women Affairs has sparked a renewed debate on the handling of sexual harassment cases and the role of government officials in addressing gender-based violence in Nigeria.

In a significant development, Womanifesto, a coalition comprising over 500 women’s rights organizations, has demanded a public apology from Nigeria’s Minister of Women Affairs, Uju Kennedy-Ohanenye. The coalition accuses the minister of working against women’s interests in Nigeria and making controversial statements regarding the sexual harassment scandal at the University of Calabar (UNICAL).

The controversy erupted when Minister Uju Kennedy-Ohanenye allegedly downplayed the severity of the sexual harassment case at UNICAL. Womanifesto expressed grave concerns about her comments and their potential implications for the protection of vulnerable women and children in Nigeria.

One contentious statement attributed to the minister was her insinuation that the female students involved in the case were not sexually harassed because they admitted they were not raped. Furthermore, she suggested that some individuals were manipulating the students to remove Prof. Ndifon from his position at UNICAL.

However, Womanifesto had previously warned Minister Kennedy-Ohanenye against interfering in the sexual harassment case or silencing the female student victims. In a letter dated September 15, 2023, addressed to the minister, Dr. Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, the co-Convener of Womanifesto, and Executive Director of Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre, called for a public apology.

The letter, obtained by journalists in Abuja, was copied to several key figures, including President Bola Tinubu and others. Womanifesto stated, “Your utterances, Honourable Minister, have done a lot of damage to Nigerian Women and girls, and we demand that you publicly apologize for meddling in the UNICAL sexual harassment case against Prof. Ndifon and attempting to silence the voices of the students who are victims of the harassment. We expect your commitment to justice and fair play.”

The coalition emphasized that sexual harassment should not be narrowly reduced to penetrative sex or rape and called on the minister to retract her statements and apologize to the affected students who have faced bullying and trauma.

Womanifesto urged the Minister of Women Affairs to focus on supporting victims and survivors of sexual harassment and gender-based violence while working to eliminate factors that exacerbate the vulnerability of women and girls. Additionally, they called on law enforcement agencies to ensure the protection and justice for victims of sexual violence who bravely speak out.

This demand for a public apology has sparked a renewed debate on the handling of sexual harassment cases and the role of government officials in addressing gender-based violence in Nigeria.

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