OPINION | The War On Women In Abuja
May. 03, 2019
There is an open war against women in Abuja and the justification is a moral crusade against so-called prostitutes but not their male customers, who are apparently considered as the moral pillars of contemporary Nigerian society.
Over the past two weeks, raids have been organised in different locations, leading to the arrest of over 100 women by agents of the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) Joint Task Team.
The first raid about two weeks ago was at a popular night club, Caramelo, where 34 females, alleged to be nude dancers, were arrested. This was followed by the arrest of another 70 women in different clubs on Wednesday and Friday last week. The women were taken to Utako police station, Abuja and detained.
It is important to note that in the past two decades, this task force has been systematically arresting women in the streets after 10 p.m. and any woman seen outside is assumed to be a criminal and prostitute, and treated as such. Independent Nigeria has therefore fully restored the colonial rule of arbitrarily arresting people in the streets for “loitering and wondering” but this time the targets are exclusively female.
This enforcement agency has made complete nonsense of our Constitution, which protects the human rights of all Nigerians, including the right to walk in the streets, day and night.
They are also disregarding the right that you cannot be assumed to be a criminal simply because you are found at a location at a certain time.
Concordant reports indicate that some of these women were sexually assaulted and released after the “moral policemen” had sex with them.
Others paid bribes and were released and it was the few who refused to be blackmailed that were taken to court and charged with prostitution.
It is really shameful that this would occur in the capital city of Nigeria. The charge of prostitution has become an instrument for committing terrible crimes against women.
All the clubs had men and women in them but they picked on only the women, in a blatantly discriminatory approach. Some of the women were professionals, AND YES RESPONSIBLE PROFESSIONAL WOMEN ALSO HAVE THE RIGHT TO GO AND ENJOY THEMSELVES IN CLUBS, JUST AS MEN DO.
The women who resisted arrest and made the argument that they have the right to go to clubs were thoroughly beaten up for daring to stand for their rights.
The Federal Capital Authority has claimed that one of the night clubs in which arrest where carried out is supposed to be a clinic and was illegally turned into a night club.
If that was the case, the authorities should have no issue with the guests, and their case should have been with the proprietor, whose business could have been closed and prosecuted.
They did nothing to the proprietor and just arrested the women who were there enjoying themselves.
The Abuja authorities justify their war on women on the basis of the implementation of the Abuja Environmental Protection Board Act 1997, which is a statutory act applicable in the Federal Capital Territory.
The law gives them powers to: “Keep owned or occupied tenements clean, neat, keep grass low and trim, cut and trim flowers; keep drainage running through the tenement free from blockage.
Provide adequate dust bin and sanitary convenience; must not dry cloths in front of the balcony or in front of his premises or on hedges or sidewalks, must not keep animals or birds likely to cause nuisance; must not use residential premises for the sale of alcoholic drinks or as a restaurant or for other commercial activity.” Out of all these responsibilities, their only focus is skimpily dressed women.
The law provides as punishment the payment of N5,000 and or imprisonment from one month to six months or both, depending on the offence. This is the basis on which they collect N5,000 from all the women they arrest and sexually abuse them when they do not have the money or refuse to pay.
This blatant violation of human rights in Abuja must stop and the officials involved prosecuted for their crimes against so many women. The women still in detention must be released immediately.
When I raised this issue in the social media, many people intervened, telling me that I am supposed to be a responsible man, and as such should not be defending prostitutes engaged in illegal acts.
The act in question is dancing and I do not know how dancing can be defined as prostitution. Secondly, even if some prostitutes attend such clubs, other women also attend. One of the women arrested, for example, is a youth corp member visiting Abuja for the Easter vacation.
In Nigerian law, you are innocent until proved guilty. The most important issue for me, however, is that the task force calls every woman they see at night a “prostitute” because they know that in our sexist society defined by bigotry and hypocrisy, “responsible” men will keep quiet and watch the way as soon as a woman has been labelled a “prostitute”.
All responsible men should have a different attitude, they should come out and defend any woman who is labelled a prostitute without proof. When such men start doing the needful, the task force will be forced to stop the massive violations of the rights of women they are engaged in.
The recent raids are being organised on the basis of an unholy alliance between an Abuja-based NGO, the Society Against Prostitution and Child Labour in Nigeria (SAP-CLN), in collaboration with Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB) on a moral crusade to rid Abuja of prostitutes.
This NGO should ask itself the ethical and moral basis of declaring every woman out at night as a prostitute.
They should ask themselves the basis on which they provide support for rape and sexual assault on women. I understand their concern that “innocent” men are being dragged into sin by prostitutes, but should they not focus their attention on moral and ethical reinforcement of the men to resist the said temptation?
Prostitution, according to the police, is said to be illegal under AEPB law and offenders risk fines and jail terms. The problem however is that there is no definition of who is a prostitute. In the absence of a definition, two criteria have been developed – a woman in the streets or in a club must be a prostitute.
This is lawlessness of the highest order. The worst aspect is that many of the women taken to court are forced to “confess” being prostitutes to get a smaller fine and then have the conviction in their records for the rest of their lives. All those who have suffered this indignity should sue SAP-CLN for its role in spoiling their names.
The organisation’s activities violate the rights of women guaranteed in our Constitution. Once again, I call on all responsible men to stand up and defend all these innocent women who are baselessly and illegally declared to be prostitutes without evidence. FCDA, STOP THE WAR AGAINST WOMEN!
A professor of Political Science and development consultant/expert, Jibrin Ibrahim is a Senior Fellow of the Centre for Democracy and Development.
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