The culture of sexual harassment in Lagos markets should be addressed.
Going to the market should not be a trip to hell but for many women in Lagos it is.
In Lagos, hundreds if not thousands of women are sexually harassed in markets daily. It is common knowledge that as a single lady you must be on your guard when you are in the marketplace.
BEAT FM on-air-personality Dami Elebe narrated her experience at Yaba market. She shared a Twitter thread of how she was sexually assaulted.
"I was walking into Yaba market, rowdy as he'll, I was already irritated by the "aunty cone and buy" touchers. Next thing, from nowhere but hell, one man grabbed my breast and gave it a full squeeze" she tweeted in November 2016.
She further tweeted "Unfortunately for him he lingered there for too long. I held the hand but as he tried to evade, I landed him a hot and Sexy backhand slap."
Dami Elebe was lucky she had the time and means to physically retaliate. Not many women have what it takes to go physical with men who have molested them in marketplaces.
You can search through Twitter and find people complaining about the level of harassment in Lagos markets. Men say things to obscene words to women who pass by. They are manhandled and molested by mostly male traders.
Take the example of a woman who was hounded in Computer Village in Ikeja a few years ago (year unspecified) because of her large boobs. This is a true life, no joke.
The culture of catcalling and grabbing women in markets has gotten so bad that a group of people in Lagos wrote a petition into the Lagos State House of Assembly to create measures to stop this type of harassment.
The petition was submitted on May 30, 2017.
"We begin this OPEN PETITION to the House of Assembly with this quote from "THE HANDMAID's TALE BY MARGARET ATWOOD: 'NO MAN SHOUTS OBSCENITIES AT US. SPEAKS TO US. TOUCHES US. NO ONE WHISTLES. This centres on UNCEASING HARASSMENT TO WOMEN IN PUBLIC PLACES especially at LAGOS MARKETS notably the Lagos Island Balogun market and Tejuosho Model market in Yaba" read the letter.
"Women find it so much embarrassing to find men (traders) attempting to or holding their waists, attempting to touch their breasts, whistling and speaking obscenities at them."
Not much has been said about the petition but at the very least it has started a conversation and raised an alarm that women are treated like animals when they go to markets like Balogun and Yaba.
In a 2013 blog post, Sugabelly (who rocked Twitter with revelations about her rape ordeal) wrote a statement that a lot of Nigerian women perceive as the truth "Nigerian women cannot walk ANYWHERE without being harassed with comments and unwanted touches from men on the street."
This powerful statement was followed by two important questions.
"Why should a man feel that he has the right to interrupt the activity of a woman especially when that activity clearly indicates that she is not there to entertain his advances?" and "why should a man continue his unsolicited intrusion when the woman has made it clear that she does not want or welcome it?"
It all boils down to a sense of entitlement. These men (traders) feel they have the rights to touch a woman without her consent and interrupt what she is doing.
This culture has gone unchecked for a long period of time and that is why many women who go shopping are scared and vigilant. Some go in the company of men to protect them from molesters.
The Lagos state government has to do something about this embarrassing culture. Maybe the Lagos State Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Team (DSVRT) can look into this.
It is already doing a good job in dealing with domestic violence cases. DSVRT could also take on the menace of sexual harassment in public places too.
One thing is for sure, women should safe when they are in public places like markets.
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