The national outcry against sexual violence in Nigeria has prompted women to express concerns for their safety at home and other spaces where they should feel secure.
A recent NOIpolls survey shows that sexual assault often happens at home, with survivours usually knowing who their assaulters are.
Hauwa Usman, a policy analyst living alone, says, “If you’re living as a single lady, it’s more dangerous. These predators, they study their environment, they study when you come back from work, when you leave the house, so they know all these things. So it’s always advisable to have many people around you. You just have to be vigilant with your environment.”
The 2019 NOIpolls study indicated that 36 per cent of sexual violence cases happened at the victims’ residences, while 24 per cent of assaults happened at the offenders’ residences.
Ireti Oluwatofumi expressed her concern for safety at home, primarily as a single woman.
She said: “It’s terrible as an adult lady that you can invite your carpenter or plumber to your house to fix things and he takes advantage if you’re alone. Either you have your pepper spray at hand or knife.”
She said that Nigerian men and boys needed to be taught about consent and stopping rape culture.
“Educate your boys at a young age that it’s a monstrous behaviour to rape a girl. Stop painting the picture of it’s a man’s world so they can do anything and think they can get away with anything,” Oluwatofumi said.
Forty-seven per cent of Nigerians blame indecent dressing as the cause of sexual violence; 36 per cent say that intake of alcohol by the offenders is another contributor, while 34 per cent believe that it is the promiscuity of survivours that causes violence.
In response to the rapes and murders of young women and girls such as Uwaila Omozuwa and Barakat Bello, Nigerian women have expressed their outrage under the hashtag #WeAreTired on Twitter. User @Rihanat_sona said, “We live in a country that doesn’t protect women. A country that has laws that don’t protect women. A country that disregards women.”
Another user, @EdoFirstLady expressed her concern, saying, “Stop the Rape! Stop victim blaming!!! We are tired of being afraid in our skin…”
Yodelel Adejobi, an activist who attended the protest, said that she was advocating for women in the streets to raise awareness and express her concern with other gender rights advocates. Adejobi shared her personal experience of assault with HumAngle, saying, “I know a couple people who have been raped, and/or sexually harassed.
“I have been sexually harassed as well, for the most part, it is when we were young girls, or in universities where lecturers made advances and would threaten failure for lack of sexual compliance. As young girls, we live in fear, and most survivours didn’t have anyone to tell, so the crimes are not reported.”
In the COVID-19 pandemic, it has also been reported that sexual abuse and domestic violence has increased.
Jacinta Ike, the Desk Officer and Center Manager at the FCT Sexual and Gender Based Violence Response Team, reported that during the lockdown the centre’s hotline received an increase of victims needing resources and support.
She said, “Most of the women have been abused by loved ones, and girls have been abused by relatives. We have seen an increase in incest, rape and domestic violence.
‘’We have been attending to survivors through our mediations, and that has been helpful, but most of them are scared about this abuse. So, what we have been able to do is to counsel them. Most do not know their rights. We have recorded more than 50 cases of sexual abuse and violence.”
Recent protests around justice for Uwa and the rising gender based violence cases in Nigeria have caused organisations to call the government to action.
In a public statement, President Muhammadu Buhari said, “I would like to offer my deepest condolences to the family and friends of Uwaila Omozuwa. I expect the Nigeria Police Force to speedily and diligently investigate this case and ensure that all the culprits responsible for this barbaric act are brought to justice.”