The National Human Rights Commission says 90 per cent of women awaiting trial in prisons across the country today are either nursing mothers or pregnant.
The Executive Secretary of the commission, Prof. Bem Angwe, made this known when he received the National President, National Council of Women Societies, Mrs. Gloria Shoda, in his office in Abuja on Monday.
Angwe said that the percentage was derived from the commission’s recent prison audit in the country.
He said that the commission needed the collaboration of the NCWS to provide an immediate intervention in this regard.
“In our prisons today, we have a lot of nursing mothers who are being locked up with their children and are nursing these children in the prison cells.
“We also have instances where such women who are still carrying babies in prison are also pregnant.
“It is also sad to note that more than 90 per cent of these nursing mothers are still awaiting trial. These are women that should have been released on bail while awaiting their trial.
“But they are kept there in prison with their children who are made to serve prison terms when their mothers are not yet convicted,’’ Angwe said.
Angwe said that the commission was particularly concerned because there was no amount of compensation that would be given to such a child or even the mother that would be commensurate with the hardship endured.
“One therefore wonders how in a situation where such mothers are eventually discharged as innocent citizens, how much compensation can be given to a child who is made to pass through the conditions that we presently have in our prisons.’’
The executive secretary also said that in spite of several campaigns both internationally and nationally to end discrimination against women, it still existed in form of cultural practices.
“We must recognise the fact that in spite of the huge campaign toward eliminating all kinds of discrimination against women, we still have in existence some form of discriminatory acts against women.
“Many of these acts are hidden under what we call culture and this has contributed largely to the huge number of cases we receive that represent the violation of the rights of all women.”
He also said that some parents were still preventing their female children from going to school, saying that this was unacceptable.
Angwe advised the executive of the NCWS not to allow politicians to use the association to score cheap political points.
“The society which comprises of over 80 million women should not be used for political purposes.
“The NHRC will not stand back and watch the leadership of the NCWS follow politicians during campaigns because you are supposed to be neutral.’’
Earlier, Shoda had said that they were at the commission in light of an MoU the association signed with the NHRC on the protection of the rights of women, youths and children in June.
She said the visit was specifically to evolve the best ways to execute the MoU, particularly with regards to issues of gender-based violence and the Child Rights Act.
The NCWS president gave the assurance that the association would work with the commission to promote the rights of women, youths and children, particularly sensitisation campaigns.