Okwe Obi, Abuja
The recent raid, arrest and parade of women suspected to be commercial sex workers in Abuja sparked a massive protest that disrupted vehicular movement and business activities last week.
Donning black and red, the visibly aggrieved protesters walked from Eagles’ Square to the Federal Capital Territory Development of Authority (FCTDA) to register their worries with the FCT minister. Amid songs characterising problems the country is currently facing, they defiled the scotching sun and as they matched with placards inscribed: “Sex for bail is rape”; “My body my right” and “Us today, you tomorrow.” Others were “Don’t rape us protect us”; “Respect my existence or expect my resistance” and “Being a woman is not a crime.”
Dorothy Njamenze, who narrated how she was raped many times, called on the Federal Government to implement judgement delivered by the Court of Economic Community of West African State (ECOWAS) parliament, partly stopping the raid and arrest of women walking at night. She insisted that a lady’s style of dressing should not be a yardstick for harassment:
“We cannot continue to condone the reckless harassment of women in Abuja. Our bodies are our rights. Sex without consent is rape, which should be punished. “The Federal Government should implement the ECOWAS judgment criminalising illegal arrest and parade of women in the night suspected to be sex workers.”
A human rights activist, Ezenwa Nwagwu, suggested that the Federal Government should tender an unreserved apology to women around the world. He argued that the continuous intimidation and unwarranted fiddling with women’s body parts should be tackled forthwith:
“The liberty of citizens should be respected. I think the FCT leadership should apologise to women residing in the FCT and by extension the world for the violations of their bodies by men of the Nigerian police. Until that happens, this protest will continue to recall.
“What is even more annoying is that you went to take a problem that you should not have been involved in. How does the business of Nigerians concern you? Now you are running helter-skelter to see who to beg to resolve this problem.
“Nigeria is a free country and we must make a demand and say never again. If we do not get the police and FCT minister to suspend this harassment and release those in detention and by extension stop the violations of the rights of women this protest will go on.”
Their attempts to enter the FCDA were frustrated by security personnel. But that did not deter them from intensifying their agitations.
After about 30 minutes, Director, Security, in the minister’s office, Adamu Gwari, addressed the agitators with the promise of ensuring those who harassed women were brought to justice. But before handing over the letter to him, Chioma Ajuwubo, resident of Abuja, demanded immediate release of about four ladies still held up at the Maitama Police Station, adding that women should not be degraded:
“Leave women alone. If you arrest women, arrest men. We want the Federal Government to make an injunction stopping the raid because some women were indiscriminately picked up the streets last night.
“We are aware of policemen who have raped women and even want to sleep with them releasing them. Bail is free! All those who have raped fiddled with the body of women should be brought to justice. We want punishment.
“They should not be redeployed or sacked, they should be punished, and the women should be compensated. If our needs are not met we will continue to protest.”
Gawri assured them of government determination to arrest and prosecute perpetrators, but added that the raid was not meant to disrespect women but to ensure that the city was not littered with commercial sex workers.