On 2nd May, Education as a Vaccine (EVA), Partnership to Inspire, Transform and Connect the HIV Response (PITCH), International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), and Dorothy Njemanze Foundation organised a press conference to address the recurrent clampdown on Nigeria women by the Nigeria police and members of the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) Joint Task Team (JTF).
Many Nigerians have at one time or the other been detained or abused by the men of the Nigerian police without any offence. Women are hardest hit; neither home nor street is safe for them.
Only in April, more than 100 women in Abuja were unlawfully arrested by FCTA Joint Task Force and the Police. They were arrested in the streets, restaurants, and hangout spots, and paraded as prostitutes. They were extorted by the police, and rather demanded they had sex with them if they could not pay a sum of money to bail themselves.
Some of the survivors invited to the conference shared stories of their experiences in the hands of Nigerian police officers. They were brutal and emotional! “Last week, one policeman beat me and I sustained injuries”, said one of the survivors.
Many among the women alleged that they were raped by members of the police who used pure water bags as condoms. This form of sexual abuse further exposes women to sexually transmitted diseases, especially HIV/AIDs
In addition, these women clearly stated that there was a blatant refusal by the police for them to access legal representation, a serious denial of their fundamental human rights. “They took us to the court (mobile court), they asked us to say we were guilty when we were not guilty”, another survivor recounted. This discrimination in everyday life of Nigeria women makes them more vulnerable, especially, where state structures that should protect them have collapsed.
Anthony Nkwocha, PITCH Nigeria Focal Person read a statement signed by 75 human rights organisations and activists. Addressing the press, he demanded, “FCT to restrict he movement of Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB) against the picking of women on the suspicion of prostitution, and respect the rights of Nigerians to gather in public space free of fear”.
The Abuja Police Raid on Women as otherwise called is a prime example of gender-based violence and sexual harassment against women in Nigeria. The Civil Society groups called on the FCT to restrict the movements of AEPB against the picking up of women on the suspicion of prostitution, and to respect the rights of Nigerians to gather in public spaces free of the fear of baseless arrests and intimidation.