This is why I fight for Women

By Evans Ufeli Esq

A teenage girl. Two young boys. Uncompleted building. Rounds of forceful sex. Acts recorded with a phone. Girl left alone, covered in shame.

A three-year-old school girl. A school bus driver. An uncompleted building. Girl is raped. Vagina, ruptured. Her life changed forever.

Mother advised to stay off sex after a surgery. Father, sex-starved. Mother helps father to part the thighs of their nine-year-old daughter. Why? She does not want him to look outside. Daughter caught between two devils, literally.

Forty-five year-old father. Fifteen-year-old daughter. Series of rape. Absent mother who is a casual worker. Father gives daughter drugs to prevent pregnancy. “It was the devil at work”, Father pleads. Daughter’s trust in humans shattered.

My name is Evans Ufeli. I am a lawyer who fights for the rights of women. I am a man but I fight for women. Above are instances of cases I deal with daily, examples of human inhumanity to another.

You may want to know: What is a man doing fighting for women?

I was born in the Air Force Base, Port Harcourt. My father was a Senior Air Force Officer. He was transferred to several Nigerian cities, and the family went with him. In these different places, one thing was constant – ill-treatment of women.

How did it manifest? Girls were raised with prepared scripts, first endorsed by society before birth. For some, they had to sacrifice education so that their brothers could go to school. For others, they were married off before they had a voice; before they could say anything, they were betrothed to men older than their fathers.

I hope that by my work, I will give these girls a voice to speak to their parents, to the society that a girl’s head should not be shaved before she is aware of hair or its purpose. She should not be betrothed without her consent, and no, the parent’s consent does not matter here.

The same society that hands these girls out in marriage does not teach the men how to treat women with respect. The same society makes no provision for the girl’s education. Yet, it decides what kind penis they want to find in her tender vagina.

There are many regulations and customs enacted for the womenfolk. In some communities, women are circumcised to prevent them from promiscuity. Many bleed to death from the cut of the blade. In other places, once a man dies, his wife is forced to drink the water used to wash his corpse to prove her innocence. But when a woman dies, not much is said or heard about her.

I saw these practices as a child and I wept but couldn’t’ change them. So as a lawyer, I hope that I will not only shine light on these dark practices but will ensure that legislations are in place to stop them.

In senior secondary school, I started “fighting” my male classmates for maltreating girls. My grades were good but my mind was messed up because of what I saw boys do to girls. So I became violent. I fought for the female gender until I was dismissed from school. I went to another school and continued the fight.

As a law student at the University of Jos, I didn’t stop. There was a lady who was being victimised by a lecturer who wanted sex for grades. The man had vowed she would not pass his course. I wrote my first petition against the lecturer and submitted it to the Vice Chancellor. The university authorities investigated the matter and disciplinary actions were taken against him. During the Jos crisis, I also led a group to rescue girls from their hostels to the safety of the Army Barracks.

I see clearer when a women is in the picture, not for any gain or commendation but because women give so much to society but get little or nothing in return. The gender discrepancy and the unwholesome neglect of the female gender is a threat to the ecosystem.

Once I was called to Bar, I took up the defence of rape victims. As a lawyer, everyday, I encounter man’s inhumanity against women.

A trado-medical quack doctor made a lady believe she had cancer. During her medical examination, he inserted a “medical instrument” into her vagina. Later, he took out the “instrument”, inserted his erect penis and raped her. She became pregnant afterwards. I took up the case and fought it through. He was prosecuted; sent to prison and the “hospital” was shut down.

In Abia state, some women ran a baby factory where young girls were kept. They invited men to impregnate them. After birth, their babies were taken away for N50, 000. These babies were then sold to rich men, ritualists and sometimes trafficked. I wrote petitions against the perpetrators; they were arrested and charged to court.

I do this because the Nigerian state does not treat women right. They are the last we think of in policy formulation. Women must know the truth about our society. It doesn’t care much about them; it encourages silence once a woman is abused. Let’s break the silence. Women! Girls! Children! Speak up on rape! Tell us! Tell me and you will be fine!

Community leaders have no jurisdiction to hear rape cases. The law says so. Only the courts have that power. Rape is not a family affair, it is a criminal offence. It is not a communal affair, it is a criminal offence punishable by law. It’s life imprisonment under our law!

“Oga are you driving?” The first question police officers ask after every petition. Why? There may not be fuel in their van. Yet, the job has to be done. When I get on the road to arrest a rapist, no one, nothing, can stop me because I am passionate about this cause. This passion to see a better Nigeria where women are seen as complete human beings, where they are treated with respect drives me. With the help of Joy Isi Bewaji, we continue to mobilise the police to effect arrests of rapists across Nigeria. There may be challenges but we will keep fighting, we will keep moving.

My name is Evans Ufeli. I am a lawyer who fights for the rights of women. All the cases cited have been charged to court. I hope that one day, we will no longer have the headlines used in opening this article in our newspapers. I hope that they will become history…and that is why I will continue this fight till my last breath. What about you? Support me and let’s lay these demons to rest in our society.

– Evans Ufeli is a devoted Legal Practitioner and the Founder of Cadrell Advocacy Centre, Nigeria.