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Lawyers Alert Protecting Women’s Rights in Abuja

At the dark corners across Abuja popular streets, away from the street lights, men in uniform allegedly commit rape under the guise of clamping down on prostitutes.

By midnight some women are still in a police station at Garki. They look all tired. Some of them make distress calls to convince their friends to bring money to secure their release through bail.

Others seem paralyzed and gaze aimlessly around the reception of the police station. The women were arrested at Gimbiya Street, a well known red light district in Abuja. A female police officer in the station tells them they were captured as prostitutes. “If they will not cooperate, they are going to be prosecuted and possibly imprisoned for up to six years,” she threatens, to the hearing of an undercover Weekly Trust reporter. The captured women negotiate on what to give.

Incidents like this happen frequently in Abuja, where women are allegedly arrested and harassed by regular police officers, military personnel or task force officials of the Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB).

Actress and social activist, Dorothy Njemanze, claims that she had fallen victim to such a raid. She complained that during such raids, it is impossible for the security and law enforcement agencies to differentiate between commercial sex workers and decent women. According to her, “every woman is a prospective victim”. Dorothy Njemanze explains that last year September, she left her car in Wuse II heading towards a park to meet up with her brother. “I was suddenly stopped and pushed into a bus. When I struggled my way outside, the soldiers began to beat me up. Passersby were told that I am a prostitute” According to her the bus was labeled with society against child labor in conjunction with AEPB.

Such raids have become common-place after the FCT-Administration began the fight against commercial sex workers. The Director, Department of Social Welfare of the Social Development Secretariat, Mrs. Folashade Ayileka, explains that they started the fight because Abuja is the window of the country. “These ladies constitute a kind of embarrassment and nuisance”. She explained that the FCT Minister has given a verbal directive to the Social Development Secretariat to get the ladies off the street during an internal meeting. In the fight against prostitution the Secretariat collaborates with the AEPB and a Non Governmental Organization called Society against Child Labor and Prostitution (SACLP).

 

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