In April 2019, policemen representing the Abuja Environmental Protection Board, went to a lounge and arrested approximately seventy women.
These women were then taken to Utako police station where some of them were raped with sachet water nylons as makeshift condoms. Some other women were asked to pay a bail of five thousand naira or risk being raped too.
Yet another woman was disallowed from breastfeeding her child.
Although a court in 2021 awarded financial damages to some of the women who were survivors of the Abuja Police Raid On Women, the violence of police officers on women is yet to stop.
For example, in December 2022, a Lagos based lawyer Omobolanle Raheem was shot to death by ASP Darambi Vandi. In October 2023, he was found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging by Justice Ibironke Harrison.
While it is commendable that the late Raheem’s killer has been sentenced to death, we must make space to discuss how the violence meted out to women by police officers aids and abbetts the violence that the regular man on the street does.
When the police rounds up seventy women and decides to rape them, it not only sends a message that rape is permissible to men who hear. It also sends a message to women who encounter rape that their assault will not be taken seriously and that the assaulter will not be brought to book.
When the police officer beats a woman and proceeds to shoot her, then where exactly is a family going to report the murder of their daughter by her husband?
When the police officer slut shames women who are sex workers and considers them without value whilst still hobnobbing with those who patronise them, then where exactly is the sex worker to go to when she encounters violence?
Furthermore, when the police officer outrightly tells the women whose ex abusive husband is stalking them and sending threats, that they cannot interfere because domestic violence is a “family issue”, how feasible is it to expect another woman still in an abusive marriage to leave with the aid of the police?
The Nigerian police claim to be the friend of the citizens. However, Nigerian women will like to differ and disagree on that. Especially poorer Nigerian women. No woman has it easy when dealing with the nuisances of the police.
However, poorer women who are married to richer husbands often experience the use of the police to make their lives a living hell should they decide to leave him.
No other book illustrates this point well as Tomorrow I Become A Woman by Aiwanose Odafen. Her ex husband involved the police when she eventually left him.
Speaking with Fola, a journalist and brand strategist, she says that the overall socialisation of the average man to excuse violence, affects him when he finds himself in the police force.
In her words: “I think it’s the other way around. The average man on the street is socialised to disregard women and excuse violence against women. They take that attitude to law enforcement. Give that man a uniform and now he has “extra power” plus state sanctioned authority to perpetuate violence.”
For Blessing, a pharmacist and researcher, she explains that the lack of attention and brutality given to women from the police is because women are seen as guilty from the very start.
To quote her: “Generally, the police treat citizens badly, but they treat women even worse. So there’s this freedom [men] have to oppress women knowing that the police won’t do sh*t to help them.
Female victims of police brutality are viewed as female first. Any violence done to them, society will first want to see it as a consequence of sexual transgressions. For example: ‘She was beaten because she was disobedient/immoral/outside when she wasn’t supposed to be/dressed seductively’.”
She went on to say: “Society views women as sexual objects. That is why any victims that come up must be perfect “dead, in a legal/semi-legal sexual union” (Osinachi, Austa)”. Regarding solutions, any solution is a long time coming. Mindsets have to be changed.
In the meantime, women have to keep speaking up and using whatever means we can to make sure that violence against us does not go unnoticed. Because if we don’t care about our own, no one else will.”
Speaking with Elizabeth, a French translator, she says that the summary is down to misogyny and there being flaws in the justice system.
In her words: “When there are no checks or punishments, crime/violence abounds. As long as men continue to get away with harming women, I’m afraid the violence will only exacerbate.
Misogyny and sexism is the simple answer to the reason female victims receive less attention and amplification. While people rallied round and understood the need for Justice for Mohbad, Austa’s story was used as a cautionary tale and her mother had to cry and strive till he was eventually declared wanted months after her unfortunate death. And it’s not just Austa, it’s Bamise, Uwa, it’s Lilian Mgbawan and countless other women who daily die by the hands of violent men.”
She went on to say; “While everyone understands that no one deserves to die gruesomely when it’s a man, people ask weird questions of women, like ‘What was she doing there? What was she wearing? What’s a woman doing outside at that time? Why was she at the hotel? She be “olosho”! Like sex workers are not human beings who have rights.
The solution is to treat women as humans who are deserving of human rights; not as your sister or mother, but as human beings who also have rights to life and liberty, freedom from violence and torture and this obvious discrimination.
Also the justice system in itself has to change. Getting justice should not be such a tedious and frustrating process for anyone.”
One of my favourite definitions of feminism is that feminism is the radical notion that women are human.
If women and in particular Nigerian women are not seen as human but as property, then the murder and rape of women in the hands of the police and average men will never ever ever spark anger and a demand for justice.
Angel Nduka-Nwosu is a writer, journalist and editor. She moonlights occasionally as a podcaster on As Angel Was Sayin’. Catch her on all socials @asangelwassayin.