The Sexuality Blog: He who Nigerians will kill they first strip naked

It’s been a few months now since the infamous story of the robber who was lynched in Orile broke. There is often some protest, usually digital, by well meaning Nigerians when a person is lynched in Nigeria, criminal or not. But this one, because of still unsubstantiated suspicion that the robber was actually a child who stole garri. Once the robber had been granted humanity, the uproar went from mild to widespread, spreading across the social media platforms and then on to traditional media and eventually drawing a statement out of the usually uninvolved Lagos state government.

It was eventually confirmed that the man lynched was actually part of a larger syndicate of armed robbers who killed and maimed people for their possessions along the Orile road. But that is only a footnote in this conversation. The fact is that man no matter how heinous his crime was in turn murdered by a group of ‘ordinary’ Nigerians in one of the most gruesome ways. People who went on with their lives after, as though they hadn’t just taken a life. These are issues that we eventually have to discuss properly and dig into the fundamental reason why violence of this nature comes naturally to us.

But the question that this article seeks to ask is; Why go through the ritual of stripping the criminal naked if you’re still going to kill him?

Stripping people of their clothing is a fairly common reaction to accusations of wrong-doing, even when there is no evidence to actually convict said person of a crime. There is a perverse pleasure Nigerians gain from involuntary nakedness and a sharing this forced nakedness via social media. Our religions are so restrictive, so is our ‘African Culture’ warped into its current form by colonialism that even the mere mention of nudity is actively frowned upon. Stripping a person of their clothing is the easiest way to deny them, even momentarily, of their dignity and their humanity and consequently their sexual agency. For us nakedness is a fallen state, it conflates shame with punishment and consequence-free sexual access. That is why it is not uncommon for suspected criminals to be molested or sexually assaulted after they are stripped.

If a person is stripped of his dignity, of what value then is his/her body.

Our obsession with modesty and immodesty and how it ties in with sexual agency is expressed in many perverse ways, sexual harassment, sex assault, cat-calling, slut shaming, we could go on. But stripping of criminals is the very apex, because it is perpetrated not by an individual but a crowd, and it is sanctioned by a wider community that chooses silence as a response.

And it has to stop.

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