By Ken Asinobi

As the global commemoration of World Widows Day wrapped up on Friday, June 23, 2023, the Rivers State chapter of African Women Lawyers Association (AWLA) has made a firm commitment to prosecute individuals who violate the rights of widows.

The organization, known for its dedication to supporting and
empowering widows, says it is determined to bring justice to those who exploit or mistreat vulnerable widows in Rivers State and beyond.

Speaking at the Palace of His Imperial Majesty, Eze (Amb) Sir Kelvin
Ngozi Anugwo, PhD, Eze Ekpeye Logbo III at Ulo-Ekpata during the
event, Rivers Coordinator of AWLA, Dr Hilda Desmond-Ihekaire said a
law known as Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act, has been
adopted by many states, and criminalized most of the inhuman and
degrading treatment meted to widows.

The AWLA boss however regretted that the problem has persisted due to
ignorance, apathy, weak enforcement mechanism and atimes, slow
judicial system.

She said they were at the event to make the widows understand that
these laws existed, vowing to explore the statutes to prosecute any
person or group of persons who violate the laws against widows.

Dr. Desmond-Ihekaire named four laws that have also been enacted to
protect the widows namely The Administration of Estate Law of Rivers State 1999 (it provides for succession for widows married under the Act); The Rivers State Dehumanizing and Harmful Traditional Practices (Abolition) Law, 2003 and the (Amendment) Law No. 11 of 2019.

There are also the Violence Against Persons Law, 2020; and the Rivers
State Wills Law, 1999, (most states have similar provisions) .

According to her, the good news is the partnership AWLA in Rivers
State had with the O. B.Lulu-Briggs Foundation, to provide free legal
services to widows who are victimized, to get justice.

“The widows project is fully funded by the Foundation with the solid
support of the Chairman, Board of Trustees, Dr. (Mrs) Seinye O. B.
Lulu-Briggs”, she said.

The Rivers AWLA boss disclosed that the association is currently
prosecuting some persons who have infringed on widows’ rights. They
have also helped many widows regain their dignity and right of inheritance.

She appealed to widows to always speak out and call for help,
regretting that their traducers thrive on their silence.

“Widows’ rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human
rights! Let us join hands to protect them. You are not alone. May the
fact that we care and share the burden you bear help ease your pains”, she prayed.

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