Fast facts

Total population: 227,681,482

Internet penetration rate: 45.5 percent

State bodies tasked with tackling GBV: Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development | Nigerian Police Force | National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) | Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) | Social Development Secretariat | Federal and State Ministries of Justice | Nigeria Cybercrime Working Group | Cybercrime Advisory Council | National Steering Committee on Child Labour (NSCCL) | Child Labour Unit (CLU) within the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment | National Child Rights Implementation Committee (NCRIC)  | Child Protection Network (CPN)

GBV laws and policies in Nigeria


Constitution of Nigeria, 1999

Chapter IV of the Constitution guarantees the fundamental rights of citizens. Section 42(1) particularly provides that no Nigerian shall be discriminated against on the grounds of sex, amongst others.

Criminal Code Act and Penal Code Act (read together with the corresponding laws at the state level)

The Criminal Code Act and Penal Code Act govern Nigeria’s criminal justice system. The Criminal Code is tailored after the English Common law and is applicable in southern states of Nigeria while the Penal Code is tailored after the Sharia Law and is applicable in Northern Nigeria. The legal age of consent differs under both laws, with 18 years being the legal age of consent under the Criminal Code, however, under the penal code consent is dependent on the marital status of the girl.

Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act, 2015 (VAPP)

By virtue of section 44, NAPTIP is mandated to administer the provisions of the Act and collaborate with the relevant stakeholders including faith-based organisations.

Section 1(4) of the Act requires NAPTIP to maintain a register for convicted sexual offenders that is accessible to the public.

The VAPP Act has been wildly welcomed by criminal justice actors, particularly in the way it broadened the definition of rape. Under criminal law, rape is only committed when a penetration is done by a male organ and the criminal law also does not recognise spousal rape. However, the enactment of the VAPP broadened the definition of rape to any form of penetration without consent.

Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), 2015

The ACJA provides a speedy dispensation of justice and contains gender-responsive provisions some of which include, the right of a woman to stand surety, the right to be arrested in lieu, the right to be searched by an officer of the same gender and so on. It is important to note that while some of these practices were not provided in Nigerian laws, they were practised. For clarity, the ACJA provisions clearly prohibit these acts.

•  Child’s Rights Act, 2003 (read together with the laws adopted by 35 states with the exception of Gombe)

Before the passing of the VAPP Act 2015, the Child’s Rights Act was also welcome, particularly for introducing an increase in the punishment for the “defilement” of a child to life in imprisonment.

Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Law Enforcement and Administration Act, 2015

Sections 15 to 18 of the Act deal with sexual exploitation. The Act does not specifically provide for OGBV, however, the Director General, Dr Fatima Waziri-Azi of NAPTIP, leveraged these provisions to address the rising cases of online sexual exploitation and sextortion.


National Gender Policy 2021 – 2026

The 2021 Policy seeks to equip stakeholders with skills and tools to foster the social change required for achieving the empowerment of women, girls, the elderly, persons living with disabilities, and other vulnerable groups. It recognises that a key challenge is the actualisation of policy goals and targets. Some of these targets include increased inclusion of young women into male-dominated industries, reviewed labour laws policies that are gendered, and increased access to renewable energy sources for small and medium-scale enterprises in rural and urban contexts.

National Action Plan for the Elimination of Child Labour 2021 – 2025

This plan of action (PoA) seeks to eliminate child labour by 2030 in line with international and regional law commitments.  The PoA also identifies that many CDWs are engaged in the worst forms of child labour such as quarrying granite and grave, commercial sexual exploitation, and armed conflict. It places responsibility on bodies such as the National Steering Committee on Child Labour (NSCCL), the Child Labour Unit (CLU) within the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, and, the National Child Rights Implementation Committee (NCRIC), for example.


Cybercrime (Prohibition & Prevention) Act, 2015

This Act provides for the prohibition, prevention, detection, prosecution and punishment of cybercrimes Section 23 of the Act deals with the offence of child pornography and section 24 on cyberstalking. Unfortunately, the Act has been criticised for not explicitly criminalising OGBV and for failing to establish clear reporting mechanisms.

A portal to enable and empower

A portal to enable and empower

GBV trends and resources in Nigeria

When the #BringBackOurGirls tag was created in 2014, it was impossible to estimate how impactful the campaign would be. The movement for the rescue of 276 girls kidnapped from a boarding secondary school in northern Nigeria reverberated globally. A decade later, while some have been released after negotiation many of the girls are still missing and, unfortunately, more girls have been abducted from schools in northern Nigeria, highlighting continued challenges with GBV.

In Nigeria, one-third of women have experienced one form of violence and one-fifth have experienced physical violence. The COVID-19 pandemic brought GBV to the fore as cases surged. A UNODC publication referring to data from the Federal and State Ministries of Women Affairs reported a staking 149% increase in sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) cases across 23 states of the federation in the first two weeks of the lockdown in April 2020. Prevalent forms of GBV include physical and verbal abuse, economic abuse, discriminatory inheritance rights, female genital mutilation and cutting (FGM/C), child marriage, cyberstalking, and many more.

There are a plethora of substantive and procedural laws on SGBV at the domestic level, however, implementation has been a challenge occasioned by the inadequacy of structures that promote access to justice. Another primary issue in the adoption of international instruments in Nigeria is the dualist legal system of the country. This negatively impacts the domestication and implementation of international laws, such as the Maputo Protocol which Nigeria ratified in 2004.

The federalism system in which Nigeria operates is also a hindrance in the implementation of laws, as such the law-making powers and functions are shared between two levels of government. The Federal and State government both have the constitutional right to legislate on criminal laws affecting women and children.

With regards to LGBTQIA+ rights, the Same-Sex criminalises same-sex persons entering into a marriage agreement, civil union and, even a person witnessing, aiding and abetting the solemnisation of a same-sex union. Further, the Act criminalises the registering of same-sex clubs, societies, and organisations, and directly or indirectly making a public show of same-sex amorous relationships with sentencing ranging from 10 to 14 years’ imprisonment.

In Nigeria there is a gross disparity, in the number of reported cases against the prosecuted cases, the former Minster for Women Affairs, Pauline Tallen, expressed concern that in April 2021 only 11 out of 3000  reported SGBV cases from six states of the federation were prosecuted. While this is not exclusive to Nigeria, there are various reasons for this, including:

  • limited institutional capacity;
  • poor funding for both State and non-state actors to fight incidences.
  • classification of domestic violence as “family-related” issues;
  • lack of popularisation of the existing laws;
  • destruction of evidence particularly in rape cases; and
  • a culture of silence resulting from stigmatisation and stemming from religious and traditional beliefs.

The above overlaps somewhat with some prevailing socio-economic drivers of GBV including poverty, misinterpretation of religious beliefs, deeply entrenched patriarchal ideas and beliefs, poor response mechanisms, delays in judicial processes occasioned by technicalities and evidentiary rules, and a culture of substance abuse.

Online gender-based violence (OGBV) is becoming more prevalent in Nigeria. Paradigm Initiative’s 2021 policy brief on online violence against women in Nigeria during the pandemic highlights the issues, and legislative frameworks on OGBV, with recommendations on enactment of appropriate legislation, the role of CSOs and, internet intermediaries to inform interventions. Online harassment and stigmatisation demonstrate gendered double standards on perceived sexual activity and behaviours of women, men, and gender minorities. This, together with the non-consensual dissemination of intimate images, are the most common forms of OGBV in Nigeria.

Redress for OGBV is not adequate, however, legislators seem to be moving towards addressing this. For example, in 2022 at a National Assembly public hearing, stakeholders were invited to comment on a Bill to amend the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act, 2015 to make provision for the offence of “image-based sexual abuse”.

The infamous case of Cynthia Osokogu, who was lured to her death in 2012 by her Facebook friends brought to the limelight the dangers and outcome of OGBV. The passage of the Violence of Persons Prohibition Act 2015, particularly in expanding the definition of rape and criminalising harmful widowhood and traditional practices was a great leap for Nigeria in strengthening legislation provisions on GBV.

In 2016, the Gender and Equal Opportunities Bill was thrown out at the National Assembly on the basis that it conflicts with sharia law. In March 2022, five gender Bills were rejected, leading to a protest at the gates of the National Assembly by several civil society organisations (CSOs) seeking to have the Bills reintroduced and passed. The Bills concerned citizenship, indigenship, affirmative action for women, and political participation and inclusion.

During 16 Days of Activism in 2023, CSOs and activists called on the president to expedite the signing into law of the Bill to Prevent, Prohibit and Redress Sexual Harassment of Students in Tertiary Educational Institutions and for Matters Connected Therewith, 2019 which has been passed by the National Assembly but is still awaiting signature.

In recent years, and leveraging social media movements, the government has taken several steps. It has formed an Inter-Ministerial Presidential Task Force on Sexual and GBV, although information on the work of the Task Force is limited. Some notable moments of advocacy events which have called attention to GBV are:

  • Sex for Grades, a BBC documentary on sexual abuse in universities in Lagos, Nigeria and the University of Ghana. A reporter had gone undercover to uncover abuse which has plagued young girls in tertiary institutions.
  • In 2023, a popular Nigerian musician, was ordered by the Lagos State High Court to compensate a victim/survivor ₦5,000,000 for leaking a sex tape which was reportedly recorded without her consent.
  • The rape and murder case of Uwavera Omzuwa, caused a national outcry and led to the hashtag and movement for justice for victims and survivors. Omzuwa was a 22-year-old student of the University of Benin who was attacked and raped inside a church in Ikpoba Hill, Edo state, Nigeria.
  • The #BringBackOurGirls movement, as mentioned above.

Nigeria has the third highest number of child brides in the world and ranks 11th in countries with the highest number of child marriages worldwide. Approximately 31% of women in Nigeria have experienced physical violence from the age of 15 mostly by intimate partners.

Notably, it is estimated that the country has up to 15 million child domestic workers (CDWs) working under exploitative conditions. A third of CDWs work in households where they have a kinship relationship.

The COVID-19 pandemic increased the vulnerabilities of women and girls based on income, age, disabilities, and other socio-

economic factors. Women in small and medium-sized enterprises, daily earners, and market women suffered various forms of loss.   There was a rise in domestic abuse occasioned by economic hardship and prolonged confinements in the home. With resources concentrated on fighting the disease and restriction of movement civil society organisations received numerous reported cases of increased physical, emotional and sexual abuse with little or no capability to respond. Women with disabilities may be more likely to experience GBV but find it more difficult to access help due to marginalisation, social isolation, and dependence on the perpetrator for economic reasons.

Advocacy for essential service provider status should be extended to organisations responding to domestic violence to assist, including legal aid, shelter, and counselling, to SGBV survivors.

A lack of data on the population led to the mismanagement of palliatives. The palliatives distributed by the government during the COVID-19 pandemic were not gender sensitive as they did not cater to the needs of women and girls. They lacked basic amenities such as sanitary towels, and baby formula, to mention a few.

Despite these limitations, several CSOs, individually and collectively, put in place measures to address these abuses. Some of these included media sensitisation on GBV, liaising with civil security agencies to take up emergency GBV cases, provision of psycho-social support services, distribution of relief materials and provision of emergency hotlines to receive complaints of abuse.

As matters currently stand, the government has paid insufficient attention to OGBV. For example, as a starting point, there is little data on the number of individuals who have experienced OGBV, leading to impunity.

On 29 March 2020, a lockdown was effected in three states of the Federation – Abuja, Lagos, and Ogun. This was soon extended to all the other states of the Federation. The lockdown restricted movement, with the exemption of essential service providers. This posed challenges for victims of SGBV in accessing social services and public health facilities for women and girls among other vulnerable groups. Beyond the increase in sexual and gender-based violence, some other impacts were loss of income and a deterioration in mental health.

Unfortunately, in Nigeria, responders to SGBV reports were not considered essential service providers and so were not exempted from the lockdown movement restrictions, making it difficult to respond to reports of SGBV cases in real-time. Despite this, NGOs were still receiving reports but did not have the means to reach victims to provide assistance, victims could not move to the shelters as a result of the restricted movement and detention centres were not taking offenders forcing victims to continually live with their perpetrators. Mobile courts were set up to deal with the lockdown.

Some measures the government adopted during COVID-19 were:

  • Partnership with CSOs. Some states, however, were proactive by partnering with NGOs that had widespread reach and provided them with exemptions pass enabling the extraction of victims and/or survivors from perpetrators.
  • Hotlines for quick referrals and counselling.
  • The establishment of more Sexual Assault Referral Centres (SARC) centres.
  • The establishment of the National Sex Offenders Registry domiciled at the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons and Other related Matters (NAPTIP).

On 17 November 2020, the government and the EU-UN Spotlight Initiative launched the first GBV data situation room and dashboard in Nigeria, to report on violence against women and girls. However, it places the responsibility on accredited organisations to upload cases with no enforcement strategy.  Some information about organisations and their contact details are either outdated, incorrect or not included; and the number of cases on the dashboard is not a true reflection as participation by CSOs is low. If implemented effectively, the dashboard will be a reliable hub for SGBV data in Nigeria.


In 2023, NAPTIP announced the establishment of a Cybersecurity Response Team. At the inauguration, the Director-General of NAPTIP remarked, “We have seen incremental cases of Child Sexual Assault Materials on the internet, child pornography; sextortion, and revenge porn, and these are all forms of sexual exploitation. Which is why as an Agency we must take a proactive and collaborative approach to tackle online threats.”

National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP):

Social Development Secretariat:

National Human Rights Commission:

  • Tel: 6472 (SHORTCODE)

08006472428 (Toll Free)

International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) Nigeria:

Mirabel Centre – Sexual Assault Referral Centre (Lagos):

Women’s Rights Advancement and Protection Alternative (WRAPA):


* This factsheet was prepared with the assistance of Mariam Omeiza.

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