When a woman gets sexually assaulted, the first thing that goes into the minds of the people is what was she wearing?, when we have information on the type of clothing she had on we can determine if she asked for it. We proceed to wait for information about the time period she was raped and if her outfit suited the environment she was in, we go ahead and wait for journalists and the media to give us an idea on what type of person the victim was so we can determine whether or not she deserved it, the length in which her story would be described and how much of it was her fault. If a sex worker/ fraternity girl was raped, she would be accused of refusing to do her job or not doing her job right, the opposing council would use the terms wild, party-animal, uncontrolled just so the behaviour of the perpetrator would be invalid, dismissed and all attention would be focused on how the victim lived her life prior to the incident.
The victim becomes the object of focus with no one sympathizing.
We wonder whether or not the victim was intoxicated before she got raped, if she was then her statement could be counted as formulating lies and the opposing council definitely would accuse her of consenting to sex and forgetting. Alcohol often dismisses the victims case but it sure is a good reason to justify the rapist’s action.
Actions under the influence of alcohol is more acceptable for male rapists than it is for female victims.
Nigerian women are often sexually assaulted by Nigerian men in broad daylight often in the market. In Nigeria, Lagos is one of those places where men’s rapey behaviour is justified and supported heavily by other Nigerian men. In Lagos, Yaba market is the number one place for women to be sexually assaulted by the male traders either by continuously shoving the goods down the buyers throats and rubbing their shoulders, rubbing the women’s skin as they make way into the market, squeezing their buttocks in tight spaces or out in the open and tapping the women’s breasts. Nigerian women are also sexually harassed verbally by refusing the advances of the Nigerian man especially by the Igbo men in Lagos state. The street markets in Nigeria normalizes rape culture and the men laugh about it, they bond over it and they promote it. I’ve never been to Yaba market but I’ve been to Eko market and I know what it’s like to be felt up, girls and women of all ages are harassed, no exemptions whatsoever. I’ve had the Igbo men say “na this one I wan marry” as they continue to try and grab me, men who look nothing less than 35 pushing 43 continuously trying to grope me and drag me with the excuse of “patronizing their business” (you’re all very stupid), I’ve had really bad days in the market which result into me throwing plastic bottles and pouring my bottled water on the men, I’ve had verbal exchanges with them and even in the presence of my mom, these men still feel the need to fondle my sister and I. I love how my mom calls them out and I really would like for parents to call out the men who harass their children in the markers rather than letting it slide and pushing forward. I’ve had my mom get into an almost physical altercation for my sister and I, I’ve found myself pushing these men away for the sake of my younger sister! I’ve been groped at 9, 13, 15 by old men in the market. Nigerian women and young girls can relate.
The sexual harassment cases in Yaba lead to a market-march which was insisted on by a twitter feminist named Omoge Dami as a statement declaring no more silence and on the 15th of December 2018, I am glad to say they marched and it was successful. When the men saw what these women were doing, they decided to pour water at them, throw bottles at them while chanting “ashawo, they no dey work” (prostitutes, they don’t work).
The women and men who participated in the march kept going forward and pushing stronger as they continued at the top of their voices “Yaba boys, stop touching us” and these nigerian men kept asking them “why we no go touch” (why won’t we touch), the entitlement and the question itself is sickening. Nigerian men swear the government cannot be changed but if only they had this same energy they have for sexual assault protesters directed towards the government, I’m pretty sure the change they are desperate for would find them. I wasn’t at the march but I followed it and I watched all the videos and I can promise you, it is every Nigerian woman’s reality.
The police officers who were expected to keep the protesters safe did the bare minimum, kept smiling at the crowd who kept trying to attack the protesters, they were lenient on the issue and the only reason they were present for the protesters was because they were assigned to be there and not because they actually believe in what the women were (are) fighting for. The Nigeria you see on Tv with the traditional wears, luxurious parties, food and Yoruba demons is quite different from the actual day-to-day Nigeria the Nigerian woman lives in.
I would encourage everyone in Nigeria to learn from the statement Omoge Dami has made and try to start creating more awareness, not just for Lagos but for every state. Nigerian women, Nigerian men, do come forward for the next march.
THE NIGERIAN MAN.
The average Nigerian man is a poor man. The average Nigerian man is educated. The average Nigerian man is a hawker, trader, cattle rearer and a bus driver. The average Nigerian man is a man who glorifies women’s suffering as the definition of a good woman. The average Nigerian man is a man who feels entitled to the bodies of all Nigerian women. The average Nigerian man promotes rape culture. The average Nigerian man is rapey. The average Nigerian man is a man who has no regards for women that aren’t his sisters nor his mother. The average Nigerian man is a man who only recognizes women’s suffrage when it affects his mother. The average Nigerian man only sees women as human beings when he relates them to his mother. The average Nigerian man isn’t a decent man. The average Nigerian man is aware of how uncomfortable women are when they are harassed. The average Nigerian man uses rape as a threat to scare women he knows he can never have. The average Nigerian man hates women. The average Nigerian man is a man and not an animal. The men you see on Tv who treat their women nicely, have compassion and respects them is not your average Nigerian man. The men who you watch on Tv who are comfortable with their wife’s success isn’t your average Nigerian man. The men you see keeping their hands to themselves and understanding no is no isn’t your average Nigerian man.
I am very aware of the men who would still try to justify the actions of these men, I am also aware of the men who would label these protesters as stupid, dumb without checking in with the cause they are fighting for, I am aware of the men who would categorize this issue as “na only women den they touch”(is it only women they touch) and I am aware of how they enable rape, don’t talk about it but only bring it up when women are speaking up and all I can say is SHUT UP. If you can’t speak against it then don’t speak about it.
Women, let us march forward, calling attention to our voices and our stories and creating change one step at a time.
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Image by: Rebecca Hendin and Market March.