Why We Do What We Do

Simply stated? Because the dehumanization and subjugation of women and girls in the developing world is an atrocity of epic proportions.

  • In September 2014, a UNICEF report found that 120 million girls and female adolescents under 20 have endured rape or other forced sexual acts, with such experiences especially common in some developing countries, including Democratic Republic of Congo and Equatorial Guinea (70% of girls under 20), and Uganda, Tanzania and Zimbabwe (50% of girls under 20). (Hidden in Plain Sight: A Statistical Analysis of Violence Against Children, UNICEF September 2014.) Globally, one third of the world’s girls are married before the age of 18 and 1 in 9 are married before the age of 15, with over sixty million girls and women being affected by child marriage. Child marriages are particularly prevalent in Western and Sub-Saharan Africa, where 41%-75% of girls in some countries are married before the age of 18. In Nigeria, that figure stands at 43%. (International Center for Research on Women: Child Marriage Facts and Figures; UNICEF State of the World’s Children, 2013.)
  • Worldwide, 40-47 percent of sexual assaults are perpetrated against girls age 15 or younger. (Heise L. Violence against women: the missing agenda. In: Koblinsky M, Timyan J, Gay J, ed. The Health of Women: A Global Perspective. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1993.) More specifically, in Sub-Saharan Africa, more than 10% of all girls in 13 of its 18 States for which there is data report being forced to have sex. In Nigeria, one in every four girls is a survivor of child sex abuse. (Hidden in Plain Sight: A Statistical Analysis of Violence Against Children, UNICEF September 2014.)/li>
  • Recent global prevalence figures indicate that 35% of women worldwide have experienced either intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime. (WHO Fact Sheet No. 239 (October 2013).)
  • Human trafficking, or modern day slavery, involves the illegal trade of people for exploitation or commercial gain and is a $150 billion global industry. Estimates indicate that there are anywhere between 21-45 million victims of human trafficking worldwide, 55% of whom are women and girls and 5.5 million of which are children (International Labor Organization, June 2012).  According to the Global Slavery Index (2016), Nigeria ranks 23/167 of the counties with the highest number of slaves – 875,500 – and its National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) reports that the average age of trafficked children in Nigeria, now a Tier 2 Watchlist country (2017), is 15. It is the third most common crime in Nigeria after drug trafficking and economic fraud (UNESCO, 2006). Benin City (Edo State, Nigeria) is an internationally recognized sex trafficking hub, with built in infrastructures and networks which support the sale of human bodies. An astounding 90% of all Nigerian women trafficked to Europe for prostitution hail from Edo State (UNDOC, 2016), with Italy being the number one destination country (11,009 women trafficked by sea in 2016). The souls and bodies of survivors are turned into commodities for financial gain while the survivors themselves are held in debt bondage, severely abused (often gang raped and physically assaulted), starved, tortured or infected with various sexually transmitted diseases before being deported back to Nigeria. Others who are victims of organ trafficking are murdered and never make it back to Nigeria.
  • In a Nigerian survey, 81 percent of married women report being verbally or physically abused by their husbands. Forty-six percent report being abused in the presence of their children (Odunjinrin O. Wife battering in Nigeria. Int J Gynaecol Obstet 1993; 41:159-164), while one third believe that spousal abuse by their husbands is justified. (The World Bank Demographic and Health Surveys and Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys Report, 2013.) Other than in the Federal Capital Territory, marital rape is not criminalized.
PJI believes that it is the various forms of systemic injustice imbedded in government institutions and archaic patriarchal cultural “norms” that perpetuate the intentional abuse and marginalization of women and children. Unfortunately, there is little accurate documentation of statistics reflecting what is largely accepted to be the chronic underreporting of the widespread sexual exploitation of women and girls in the developing world. More specifically, data shows that nearly half of all girls aged 15-19 who said they had faced physical and/or sexual contact had never told anyone about it. (Hidden in Plain Sight: A Statistical Analysis of Violence Against Children, UNICEF September 2014.) Multiple reasons, including:
  • the fear of stigmatization and victim blaming;
  • economic dependency;
  • fear of retribution;
  • lack of confidence in the judicial system/low conviction rates; and
  • the lack of knowledge/awareness of the reporting process
continue to perpetuate the secrecy and shame of sexual abuse. In addition, most sex related crimes against this population go unreported because of existing cultural barriers which routinely classify the sexual exploitation of women and children as a “family issue” which does not warrant institutional time, resources or intervention.

For example, cultural acceptance and social tolerance of child brides often circumvents Federal law (2003 Child’s Rights Act) which bans marriage or the betrothal of children before the age of eighteen (18) and as such, non consensual sex with an underage minor does not carry the stigma or legal ramifications that it should.  In addition, other than in its federal capital via the recently passed Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act (2015), Nigerian law currently does not criminalize marital rape. These archaic laws reflect a profound revelation of the soul of many developing countries, as they reveal a callus disregard for a population which has been intentionally rendered vulnerable. Ironically, these laws also simultaneously affirm, to the survivors of gender based violence and abuse, that systematically, little or nothing can or will be done to alleviate their marginalization.

PJI strives to turn the developing world right side up by providing sustenance in the shadows and demanding accountability and justice on behalf of survivors. Community Transformation and Empowerment, two of PJI’s Core Values, are required if any lasting change of the status quo is to be achieved.