© 2019 - International Centre for Investigative Reporting
Yaba boys, stop touching us… women protest ‘sexual harassment’ by traders in Lagos
TIRED of incessant touching and groping by male traders in the popular Yaba Market in Lagos State, some women took to the streets in protest on Saturday.
Armed with placards and accompanied by policemen, the women chanted as they went around the market, “Yaba boys, stop touching us”.
As the girls carried out their peaceful protests, some of the traders were seen chanting back at them, “we must touch”, “who no like beta thing? (who doesn’t like a good thing?)”, etc.
Some of the male traders even started attacking the girls, hurling sachet water at them.
— Chi (@amaka_sandra1) December 15, 2018
It turned out, according to narratives on the social media, that the unruly behaviour of Yaba traders has been going on for several years, in fact, Yaba Market has become notorious for these unruly traders who would always touch and grope female passers-by and customers, in the guise that they are asking for patronage.
Adaku Ufere, whose Tweeter handle read simply as “The Law“, wrote: “Nigerian men are a vile species. This is so triggering, brings back so many memories of walking through Yaba or Balogun as a child and dodging the hands of adult men. No matter how hot the day, I’d be fully covered hoping it’ll help and nope, they’d still harass. Predators.”
Another Tweeter username, Uncle Ajala, corroborated the women’s claim, saying that “Yaba market men are notoriously known for groping. They touch women anyhow, which is bad, now the ladies that are tired of their stupidity are protesting against their barbaric acts, and they’re still harassing them for protesting against their disgusting behaviours. Madness”.
Some tried to insinuate that the traders behave in such unruly manner perhaps because they were not educated, but many disagree.
One Akanke Onijibiti, narrated an experience she had while in the University of Lagos (UNILAG), when some boys in the male hostels harrassed female students who passed through there at night. He said the boys shone flashlights to the ladies buttocks “saying that we were going to do ashawo work so we should give them their own share first”. Ashawo is the Nigerian lingo for a commercial sex worker.
“So don’t try to say “they don’t know” or “those market men are illiterates”, what they exhibited was normalised trash behaviour men have been getting away with for a very long time and women are tired of the bullshit. We are fighting back to own the right to our bodies,” Onijibiti tweeted.
Spice, another Tweeter user also expressed similar sentiments. “Passing any UNILAG boy’s hostel at any time of the day is a reason why I know this Yaba men behaviour is not down to illiteracy,” She wrote.
On what could be done to stop the ugly culture of groping women who went to Yaba market to do their shopping, many offered different solutions ranging from closing down the market temporarily, or women boycotting the market, to security personnel doing their job and arresting the molesters.
“Temporarily Shutting down Yaba market and other places where female customers are constantly harassed is the solution to the problem,” wrote Nicholas Ibekwe. “We have seen how sealing of market has helped address sanitary problems in the past. Cudgels swinging soldiers will make things worse.”
But another user has a different opinion. “The most effective thing for those Yaba people is a boycott of the market by women. Their market can’t be so great that there are no alternatives anywhere else. If they understand that their pocket will be affected directly by their animalistic behaviour, they will change,” E_gbu_na wrote.
But for ‘Tito O Tobi‘, “a couple of arrests in that Yaba market will set them straight… It’s really quite simple. The faces of these crazy molesters should just be noted… Storm the market, pick them up, close their shops. Lock them up for a while .. Send a strong warning to the market excos.”
Apparently, the issue of groping women, or touching them unnecessarily and inappropriately, is not just a problem at Yaba or Balogun Market in Lagos. Nigeria is a somewhat patriarchal society where women are most of the times treated unequally to their male counterparts.
One ‘P. Diddy‘ narrated how she had a similar experience in Ikeja and had to wield her pepper spray before her harassers let her be. Ikeja is the capital of Lagos State.
This reporter, too, having grown up in the Eastern part of the country, have noticed a similar pattern of touching and unnecessarily harassing and provoking women in big markets such as the Onitsha Main Market in Anambra State, or the Ariaria Market in Aba, Abia State.
Abayomi Shogunle, an Assistant Commissioner of Police and head of the Public Complaint Rapid Response Unit (PCRRU) of the Nigeria Police Force, who usually is very active on Tweeter, has remained unusually silent since the Yaba market protests started trending on the social media on Saturday.
He is yet to respond to a tweet by the ICIR on the issue.