Why on earth should a girl be raped because she uses illicit drugs?

February 4, 2015 8:11 am

Read below…

Abigail,
a 25 year old girl resident in the FCT recounted how she was raped by
some policemen on the account that she admitted to the use of illicit
drugs. In order for her not to get arrested she was made to pay with her
body. In her words ‘They forcefully climbed me to make love with me, so
I was begging that it will just be one person but they refused and took
turns to have sex with me, my body was violated’. Abigail’s case is
just one out of the many cases of human right abuse that young people
who use drugs do experience in the hand of law enforcement officers.

 Someone may want to ask, do drug users have any human right?
Don’t they deserve whatever punishment they receive? This and many similar questions
explained why human right abuse of this group have been normalised in our
society and beclouded a need for us to confront the growing challenge of drug
misuse with humane and evidence-based strategy. Recently, YouthRISE , a
Non-Governmental organisation with support of Open Society Institute of West
Africa (OSIWA) presented an evidence-based report on documented cases of human
right abuse experienced by young people who use drugs in Nigeria. The story of
Abigail was one of the cases. Other cases include arbitrary and prolonged
arrest, denial of access to justice, extortion, being beaten, getting locked up
without food for days, sexual harassment, rape, forced rehabilitation and use
of severe torture to make people drug free. The perpetrators of these abuse are
not limited to law enforcement officers but included family members, religious
centres and many more. 

The challenge of drug use in our society today is a
reality among the youths who use drugs for one reasons or the other inclusive
of escaping the harsh economic problem such as unemployment, poverty and
homelessness.Young people
constitute about 60 per cent of Nigeria population and it is important to take
issues that affect them very serious.

The YouthRISE report clearly showed Nigeria drug policy to be reactive to both internal and external
pressures instead of being a proactive tool based on evidence of what works and
what does not. While drug traffickers are criminals, it is out of place to
treat drug users who are at the receiving end like criminals. The understanding
of drug dependence should also make us to rethink that drug users are supposed
to be referred to treatment and help centres and not getting locked up in
prison asylums or police and NDLEA custody. Even though, it could have been
said that these individuals broke the
law, there fundamental human rights and dignity should be upheld.Moreover, drug
use is a non-violent offence and locking people up because they use drugs is
not really justifiable. This also contributes to over congestions of Nigeria
prisons and detention centres. The findings from the report showed that some of
the young people who were locked up for just using drugs became worse or
hardened after getting out of the custody.

In conclusion, this topic
is rarely discussed but it’s a growing challenge in Nigeria and like a time
bomb among the youth. The continuous use of punishment and force to address
drug use seems counter-productive.While the Nigeria drug law could be said to
have been developed with good intentions, the unintended consequences resulting
from its implementation calls for an urgent review especially for the
protection and holistic development of the youth population who have already
initiated drug use. While law enforcement is still needed, it should be
targeted at the traffickers and those who deal in illicit drugs. The users
should be given required support and not punishment.

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