From The Magazine: Will women catch a break in this city?

Environment enforcers in Abuja seem to be crossing all kinds of lines against women .

By Christie Ochu

 In Abuja where I live, a lady walking down a street or even standing by the roadside at a certain time of the night, automatically is a prostitute.

… And they say women have the ability to get what they want? Really? Not to sound like a broken record, but that might not be true. Women (like hard-working humans in general) strive to reach for the stars. You cannot fault us for that, can you? However, what women have not been able to get is a little respite; an off-time from the challenges of being female.

We are constantly hounded by societal and cultural constraints that present themselves as laws of dos and don’ts. When is it going to end?

Don’t get it twisted; I’m not talking just about Nigeria. Earth-wide, women have been made to work harder than most, to establish themselves and earn respect. We though have gotten used to it; always handy with explanations and strategies (for survival+defence) to assert ourselves.

In Abuja where I live, a lady walking down a street or even standing by the roadside at a certain time of the night, automatically is a prostitute. No questions asked, no explanations required. “Why would a respectable woman not be in bed at that time”?

Now, there’s a “law” to encourage it. These days, any lady that is found “loitering” at a certain time is bundled (kidnapped, more like it) into an AEPB (Abuja Environmental Protection Board) bus and driven to their office in Garki; harassed en route.

I have heard and read stories of women taken to the AEPB office against their will and thrown into detention. They are labelled prostitutes and man-handled by the mobile policemen.

In one instance, a youth corps member, well aware of her rights, made calls to a Divisional Police Officer (DPO). She handed over her NYSC ID card, but it didn’t make any difference to the semi-literate men. The DPO arrived, and allegations tumbled; along with packets of condoms, which they claimed was seized from the lady. And since when did condoms in a bag become an offence?

Thankfully, by the time she was through, the AEPB had their behinds handed to them by the courts.

But she is only one of the very lucky one. This is the new “law”, ladies. So, if you don’t have a car or even a ride home at a certain time, make a decision. You have the following options: (a) Leave the place a lot earlier, no matter how important what you went for is. After all, you are a woman and should be home at a certain time, right? (b)Do not leave your house at all (c) If you must be at a particular location till late, spend the night there. It doesn’t matter how inconvenient it is, just do it. After all, what would make you stay out that late? It’s not lady- like.

And the AEPB does not ask questions. Really, what is going on in this city? Why would you experience jungle justice at the hands of people who should protect you?

Yes, there are those of us who want our streets rid of call-girls, but would doing it the right way hurt? What happened to freedom of movement and fair hearing? And in any case – who are they kidding? The real prostitutes in Abuja do not work the streets.

Abuja is deteriorating by the day, with refuse heaps and weeds defacing everywhere and you are harassing innocent girls? The street lights work half of the time, the side corners are littered with human excrement and urine stains, yet na prostitute be your wahala?

Are you kidding me? Y!

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