On the 31st of May, the news broke about 22 year old student Uwaila Omozuwa dying at the UBT Hospital where she was rushed to after being raped, beaten and left for dead at The Redeemed Christian Church of God, Edo Province 10, Ikpoba Hill, Benin. We can only try to imagine the pain, agony, suffering and despair she must have experienced, it is all so sad. My heart goes out to her family, friends and all those directly impacted by her death, May God be with them through this trying time. And May God grant the soul of the young, beautiful lady who was aspiring for better things Eternal Rest and Peace, Amen.
Physical – Unnecessary touching, invasion of your personal space, physical violence
Verbal – Comments and Questions about appearance. Obviously, comments about a woman’s breasts or Bum falls under sexual harassment but also, comments about weight and Body shape.
Non – verbal – Sexually suggestive gestures such as thrusting, whistling, licking lips and blowing kisses
With #SayNoToRape, #JusticeforUwa currently trending, our timelines are filled with images and captions advocating for Justice and for men to do better. I am all for awareness and bringing light to sensitive issues but I also know that there is a much deeper conversation to be had.
It is about much more than just colourful, well-worded Social Media posts. Yes! Social media posts make a topic trend but like the word trend itself – the topic only stays relevant for a short period of time before the next Trendy Topic hits and we all move on.
Rather than just focusing on rape, we need to see the bigger picture and undertsand that Nigerian women are being constantly harassed.
Rape is one of the highest forms of sexual harrasment/abuse but there are so many other ways women are constantly sexually compromised and a lot of this is ignored and accepted as a norm of society.
Let’s start with sexual harassment at work
It is so hard for the Nigerian Woman to actualize herself and earn a living based on her intelligence alone. A woman’s existence and advancement at work can easily be based on the relationships with the people that matter – who are usually men. Men coming on to Women and making inappropriate statements are easily seen as part of Office fun and Bants.
Behavior that qualifies as sexual harassment at Work, include;
If you are to speak to almost, any Nigerian Woman who has/is working in a corporate Body, she has experienced one if not all of the forms of sexual harassment at work.
I myself am not exempt from such experiences. I got a job way back when as a Project Supervisor for a very reputable media company in Nigeria and my experiences were such that I quit my job. Despite having both a BSc in Elect/Elect Engineering and a Project Management Professional – I decided advancing in the regular 9 – 5 world in Nigeria just wasn’t for me.
I’ve had guys at work thrust at me, make statements referencing my Bum and Body, abruptly kiss my forehead, talk to me about having sex with me – then when I got offended, they would them proceed to ask if it wasn’t a man like them sleeping with me now…. Like, WTH!
My decision to quit was a no-brainer but unfortunately, not a lot of women can afford to quit their jobs. They have to just deal with the situation at-hand however they see fit.
Next let’s look at the Entertainment Industry in Nigeria
From Music Videos to social media posts and even Comedy skits, women are constantly being objectified by men. We are constantly being portrayed as sexual objects and called derogatory names – which has an overall negative effect on our society in general.
The horrible part is a lot of us go along with it, we sing the songs and hype the music videos. A lot of comedy skits created by Nigerian men are completely disrespectful to women – they show the men touching the women’s Boobs and Ass for fun and depicting them as dumb humans who are easily manipulated by money.
There is a Nigerian, male OAP who makes particularly distasteful videos and is still seen as a person to be revered in our society, this is something I find rather unfortunate.
These videos get thousands and thousands of views and comments from both men and women, lol-ing like it is the funniest thing they have ever seen. On any one of these videos made by “Popular” Comedians you are bound to see more than a few comments from your favourite celebrities encouraging, laughing at and going along with the blatant stupidity of these comedians with complete disregard for how women are being portrayed.
Young Boys watching and emulating their Celebrity Idols will easily end up not knowing how to treat women respectfully.
I’m not saying it is up to celebrities to raise our young men, we also need Parents to educate their sons on how to treat and respect a woman.
They need to focus less on the virginity-status and movement of their daughters and spread that energy in a more balanced manner.
Now let’s look at the everyday life of a woman.
Most women don’t feel safe taking a walk or jogging on their own. Even working out in the gym – there is a blatant lack of respect for a woman’s personal space; unwanted stares, comments about your body parts and literally just coming into your space to show they are “macho” is something women have to deal with. Little things like sitting on your own at a bar/restaurant also seems to invite unwanted attention.
With getting a new business opportunity from a man – a thought that crosses the average Nigerian woman’s mind is “will there be more to this?”.
These are but a few, there are so many other scenarios in which women feel uncomfortable and vulnerable to sexual harassment and assault.
And by the way, If you think rape is ever the woman’s fault there is something really wrong with you – You really are some type of animal (this also applies to women who have this opinion). You have no idea of what is wrong or right. Whether she is intoxicated, lying on your bed or dressed in a manner you find sexually provocative, you have no right to experience her in her most intimate places without her permission. If you are silly enough to think it’s not that big a deal because you haven’t been exposed or you convince yourself she enjoyed it. Or maybe because, women are too ashamed to report and there is barely any justice for rape victims in Nigeria, just know that eventually karma will come back to bite you in the ass. You will also be taken advantage of in your most intimate places and you will know exactly why, eventually your life will be filled with the misery, sadness and chaos you caused others – Peace of Mind for you will be nothing more than a dream. Just think of R-Kelly, Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby. I rest my case.
My advice to women
First of all, let me say this – You have a right to wear whatever you want and go wherever you want. But at the same time, we must face a fact – we are not as strong as our male counterparts, we will easily be overpowered in any situation.
For this reason, it is in our best interest to be extra vigilant.
- Be cautious with the company you keep and places you go
- If you are to meet with a man, you barely know – go with a friend, try not to go alone
- Make sure you get/pour your drinks yourself and don’t leave your Drink unattended
- Try to avoid meetings in hotel rooms, houses or any other private space as much as possible. Keep things public – a meeting at a Hotel Bar/Restaurant is a much better option
- When you go out late at night – make sure you have already made plans to get home safely. Don’t let your night dictate your ride. Also, avoid getting intoxicated so you are aware of yourself, your surroundings and you can make sensible decisions. Don’t leave with a stranger.
- And with a taxi or Uber – try to send a friend some sort of description of the car eg Plate number.
- Work on your Physical Fitness building up your strength might help you defend yourself in a compromising situation.
- Also invest in self-defence devices such as Pepper Sprays and defence techniques like kicking a man in the balls (Yes! Do it if you have to).
I don’t believe Rape is ever the Woman’s fault, so it might seem funny that I am saying we should take these measures to protect ourselves. But I am also not in the business of trusting anyone else to keep me safe.
And for our Nigerian Men, rather than just jump on this bandwagon of posting interesting images and captions – ask yourself what you are doing in your day to day lives at home, work, school or wherever you find yourself that is creating a safer environment for women to exist, work and thrive.
Are you guilty of any of the behaviours that qualify as sexual harassment stated above? And if you find that you are doing your best to support women, the next question you need to ask yourself is – do you turn a blind eye when you see a woman being mistreated or harassed around you because that also, is a problem.
We need the Nigerian Woman to be elevated to a position more reputable than where we are currently at.
Much love to the Nigerian Men who give us the opportunity to make money and do business with no strings attached, show us love and respect and make us feel appreciated and safe. We see you, God Bless You.