The Anatomy of Transmisogyny

by Tiwatope Adunni

In 2019 I was at one of my lowest after surviving a motorcycle accident which left me with a fractured limb, and hospitalized for  6 months. This period can be considered a phase of awakening because I had nothing else to do but read and reflect.

Shortly after my recovery came the unfortunate incident with the Nigerian police. I was unlawfully harassed, detained and extorted because I was a non-binary feminine of centre person. A month later, my partner of 4years called off the relationship, he was afraid I was high risk and bait for police extortion and attention.

Then came another traumatic period with members of my extended family, some of whom threatened to kill me. I was saved by my great-grandmother, who took me away from this unsafe situation. Now, my grandmother has always been supportive, she in fact raised me, and believed I am the reincarnation of a daughter that she lost when she was a young mother.

It was during this period that it became clear I wouldn’t survive through my identity and I had nowhere to run to. I had two options to either live or die.

In January 2020, I decided to live, and the only means I could live was to agree with and face my reality as a transgender woman and this led to my medical transitioning.

Before my medical transitioning, I only knew what it means to be a non-binary feminine of centre person who lived 21years of their life in an androgynous body, having to struggle daily with questions from both intimates and strangers about my gender identity and expression. The societal construct of what a man should be and what makes a woman, and also having to publicly carry the shame of my gestures, identification, behavioural and gender expression.

However, in my 3rd month of medical transitioning, I started to realize who a Nigerian woman is and what a Nigerian woman should be.

Nigerian women, what kind of women are we?

An average Nigerian woman’s idea of femininity is rooted in the ideological alignment of patriarchy and heteronormativity which unfortunately is the definition of “ideal woman” in a main-stream (men-owned) society. In the Nigeria of today, women are perceived to be second class citizens with little to no significant representation compared to men, and with forcefully ascribed provision of free domestic labour and motherhood duties backed up by social institutions and morality that strongly prioritizes ‘man-hood’.

The socialization of the girl in Nigeria is characterized by fragile femininity, subordination, dependency, prioritizing the male identified body. Most Nigerian girls indoctrinated into this oppressive system grow into women who are upholders of the system suiting the patriarchal satisfaction of what a woman should be and women who set to challenge this patriarchal order are harassed, dehumanized, molested and often criminalized.

Toxic masculinity and femininity, the offshoot of misogyny and transphobia

Toxic masculinity is the foundation of toxic femininity that birthed transphobia. In Nigeria, men are programmed to be measured, dominant and violent through which control the society, while women are programmed to be subordinate irrespective of who or what she thinks she is, she is forcefully pressured and gaslighted to be accountable to a man.

Societal norms and values are dictated by men and any form of opposition to their dominant ideology is considered a threat to society.

Toxic masculinity is the enforcement of dominant masculinity that uphold the reinforcement of patriarchal ideology as a tool for gender policing and misogyny. This means that your masculinity is toxic when you violently make your ‘Maness’ (gender) the criteria for your being by creating an institutionalized behavioural attitude and distinctive features of what a man should be. The patriarchal ideology positions what it is to be a “man” by creating gender scripts as traits that reinstate the dominant features of a man. Toxic masculinity is a tool of oppression in a patriarchal and heteronormative state like Nigeria.

Over time unending violence, harassment, exploitation and marginalization experienced by women has forced most Nigerian women into strongly believing the notion of their oppressors and not only do they believe and absorb the unending violence, but women are also used as bait tools of oppression on other women who are not in construct with the features of womanhood in a patriarchal/heteronormative society. This set of women are the dominant women “hegemonic femininity”.

Hegemonic femininity consists of characteristics defined as womanly that establish and legitimate a hierarchical and complementary relationship to hegemonic masculinity and that, by doing so, guarantee the dominant position of men and subordination of women. (Schippers, 2007: 94).

This simply refers to women who uphold the legitimacy of patriarchy and misogynistic rhetoric to instil fear in other women. A typical example would be a light-skinned woman, heterosexual, gentle, obedient, a ‘good cook’ morally virtuous, able to have kids, and able to stay at home to take care of her husband and children in order words “wife material”.

However, toxic femininity is the influential act of gender policing other women to act in accordance to the woman script, heteronormativity that deifies patriarchal power. It is an integral weapon of transphobia, it normalizes the patriarchal notion of CIS genderism, heteronormativity and so gender policing any person that does not fit into the binary.

Your femininity is toxic when you put the validation of humanness and femininity to the test in the hands of men who are ascribed as superiors. In today’s Nigeria, you are nothing if you are dark-skinned, poor, disabled and a WOMAN.

Femininity in Nigeria at the present date is still deemed as less to masculinity. As a result of the unequal gender binary constructed by the state, women are stereotypically perceived as weak, hypersexual, subhuman and objectified as subservient to men. It is believed that women are incapable to be women when they are not at par with the gender script roles instilled in them by the malestream system. The gender roles of a woman in Nigeria are dictated by men just so women can remain incapable, lesser and weak and not be compared to men who are ‘strong’. The patriarchal tool of oppression has kept women in a cocoon that is in turn giving men more power, recognition and dominance leading to continual gender inequality.

MISOGYNY in the cis-heteronormative binary is a way to measure masculine power’.

As an indigenous Nigerian transgender woman that is living her reality, my experiences with transmisogyny is usually deliberate act/actions from people towards me make me feel less of myself and less of a “woman” such as misgendering with pronouns, hypersexualized because I am a transgender woman in Nigeria whose identity is only determined by my genitalia and an uncommon fantasy that CIS heterosexual men and women want to explore, I experienced deliberate molestation, abuse, gender and body policing by random Nigerians and a lot more that makes question my safety in both public and private spaces.

We cannot fail to acknowledge the presence of transmisogyny in the LGBTQI+ community as trans and femme bodies are isolated from the benefit of this union.

Tiwatope Adunni is queer, a writer , feminist , ijogbon , advocate for gender diverse and sexual minorities. She is currently the programs director at Queercity Media and Productions

Kindly donate to her gofundme, thanks!

https://www.gofundme.com/f/support-t-survive?utm_source=customer&utm_medium=copy_link&utm_campaign=p_cf+share-flow-1

De-Centering Men in the Nigerian Music Industry

This article was birthed on the premise that music history in Nigeria is incomplete without the contributions that women have made. So far, what we have seem like ghost stories and it’s the same old redundant information that’s available; how so-so was the first woman to do this or that, great records made by women in the past e.t.c. This write up could have gone in a similar direction, a curated list of women we believe you ought to know. However, the realization that a more intensive study of this missing bits of history is required changed the course of the article. Women deserve better than a brief summary of their achievements and when music in Nigeria is in discourse, the names of women shouldn’t be thrown into one messy category.

Lijadu Sisters

The history of the Nigerian music industry has been very male-centred, the contributions and even names of women nearly mythological. Women in Nigeria’s music history remain obscured by the achievements of their male counterparts and mostly come up in conversations that are partial to women, rarely in general terms. The men are idolized, made into pioneers and legends, meanwhile the women remain unacknowledged except for flashy pseudo-feminist references. In conversation and in the historical archives, one realizes how little is known about most of these women, in comparison with their male colleagues.

Mandy Brown Ojugbana


Breaking into the music industry, as with most industries, has always been twice as hard for women. Till date women fight to be taken seriously and given the same respect and benefits men are handed. From the Lijadu Sisters to Tiwa Savage, the narratives continue to share similarities, leaving you to wonder about the so-called progress that is being spoken of. No doubt, the music industry has more female artistes than it ever did, many of whom can boast of as many achievements, if not more, as male artistes in the industry. However, most female artistes do not last long on the scene because the demands made of them by the industry and by society are outrageously biased. The industry goes as far as pitting women against each other in a never ending comparison, often based not on their talents but their sensuality.

Ese Agesse


When one researches music history in Nigeria, there are very few mentions of the women who did music in times past. In fact, the Wikipedia article on Nigeria’s musical history goes into detail on prevalent genres, trends and artistes of the time (50s-90s), all of whom are notably male, afterwards a separate category titled “Women in Music” follows with no more than two paragraphs to summarize the place and influence of women in the industry. This is a reflection of how women singers were and still are being viewed: as complementary fillers. This flippant categorization of women who performed in varying genres and at various points in time, implies that women musicians were never given the same credit and status that their male peers were. That is to say, women who did music were not appreciated for their musical genius only because they were women in a male dominated industry. One can also say that they were viewed as a monolith and that “women in music” may as well be a music genre.

Christy Essien Igbokwe


Nigerian pop music has been heavily contributed to by women like Evi-Edna Ogholi, Mandy Brown Ojugbana, Esse Agesse, Nelly Uchendu and Christy Essien Igbokwe. These women each brought distinct flavour to the Nigerian pop scene. From reggae to highlife to disco, women were heavily involved in the industry, churning out albums and singles. Their songs were nationwide hits during the 70s to 90s, several of them achieving platinum status. Ironically, only their most popular songs have, however, survived the period of their creation, and there’s still talk of missing discographies. One can almost say with certainty that the higher percentages of missing discographies are those produced by women.

Evi Edna Ogholi


Furthermore, the music produced by female artistes in Nigeria has rarely ever been given the critical attention that men’s music has received. Few look past the women to the arrangement of their music, the innovations that they came about or their stylistic input to the industry as a whole. For instance, no one talks about the evolution of the musical style of Asa or the distinct style of reggae that Evi-Edna Ogholi played. Until recently, few people knew about the politically charged music of the Lijadu Sisters who began performing Afrobeats before Fela Kuti came onto the scene. Others like Onyeka Onwenu also remain in the shadow of Fela in terms of her political activism. At the height of the popularity of rock and roll, funk, jazz and disco, Nigerian musicians began to incorporate these genres into their soundscapes. However, only the name of IK Dairo is mentioned when this innovation is spoken of. The Lijadu Sisters did it flawlessly, but it’s out of the history books.

Salawa Abeni


Till now female artists have their personal lives in the spotlight, way more than their careers. A quick Google search of artistes like Ese Agesse and Salawa Abeni reveals tabloid articles pertaining to their sexuality and morality. The former has articles about her lack of a husband, while the latter has articles written about a man threatening to publish her nudes. It is not uncommon to have men take centre stage in discussions about female singers, whether or not the context is positive. Although someone like Salawa Abeni has more introspective articles written about her career due to her popularity, for most others these are few and far between. Writings and conversations exploring the lives of female artistes, in terms of their influences and inspirations, are rarities.

Onyeka Onwenu

The music industry in Nigeria has indulged in donning its female historical figures with interesting titles. Batile Alake is regarded as the mother of Waka, Salawa Abeni, the queen of Waka; Onyeka Onwenu, the elegant stallion; Christy Essien Igbokwe, Nigeria’s lady of songs and so on. A simple minded glance might leave one with the belief that these women were being honoured with these titles. However, there is more than a hint of underlying misogyny. The titles seem more like a replacement of the singers’ personalities, a compensation for their ability to penetrate a system set up without them in mind and one that still isn’t willing to give them their proper accolades. It is perhaps why Christy Essien Igbokwe was not the first president of the Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria (PMAN), but its first female president despite spearheading the project. The so-called appreciation that leads to the bestowment of these titles have apparently not been extended to the work it takes to maintain the legacy of their music. When it comes to women’s music, the industry has been unwilling to exert itself and therefore their work rarely outlives them. Whatever impact women had on the Nigerian music scene in the past has definitely not been of lasting effect because the universal model of significance or greatness is inherently masculine.
Therefore, what is needed is a rewrite of the music history of Nigeria, one that is all encompassing, blind to gender and clear-eyed to achievements and talent. Women in Nigeria’s music history are not only relevant for the purpose of writing Women’s Day articles. Neither should we bring them up only to say that they in fact exist.

Adeyosola is a writer, photographer, fashion enthusiast and of course intersectional feminist.

Sitting on a Man

Uju Anya

Women have a long history of naked protests against abusive male authority. See Kenya, Uganda, Liberia, Cote d’Ivoire.

Igbo women in Nigeria have a protest called ‘sitting on a man’ with nudity, lewd songs, beatings, vulgar displays to bring public scorn and shame on violators.


Remember the slander and abuse hurled at a black woman who spread her legs to directly confront police in a naked protest last month. Recall that when your tl waxes poetic about the beautiful courage of #nakedanthena bussing wide open her magical pussy.


While you contemplate the rank racism and misogynoir of calling a white woman who staged a naked public protest ‘goddess’ and a black woman who did the same ‘ratchet’, Google the history of women using nudity and lewd acts in civil disobedience.

Transmisogyny, classism and the Nigerian Feminist movement

Classism is the bane of Nigerian society, and it has crept into a feminist movement that’s still grappling with issues as basic as gender roles, the perfect victim syndrome, sex-work and LGBTQI rights.

During protests and discourses that have taken place since this new wave of feminism, which gained traction on social media over the past five years or so (a renaissance led by the LGBTQI community), there has been an ongoing battle to establish respectability politics especially amongst younger feminists.

There is always more outrage when ‘virgins’ are raped than when sex-workers are sexually assaulted by the police, the rights of women to safe abortions is glossed over, and the silence is usually resounding when LGBTQI rights are mentioned.

This attitude stems from the Nigerian middle-class obsession with sex- sex not as pleasure but as an act performed on the feminine, sex as a value judgement on who has been ‘good’ or ‘bad’, who’s deserving, who’s not.

Therefore, it didn’t come as a surprise that a lot of Nigerian feminists (in the wake of a transphobic tweet made by a popular white feminist writer) have been twisting themselves into pretzels to define who a woman is in order to invalidate the existence of trans persons (trans-women in particular as trans-men are still being erased).

Gender is a capitalist/patriarchal construct and there’s no greater illustration of this than the existence of the intersex, trans-persons and gender queer persons.

Trans-persons in particular have been at the vanguard of LGBTQI rights movement which in it’s recent history has been incorporating feminist values into it’s narratives.

Unfortunately these online attacks on trans-persons always translate into real time attacks on real or perceived queer people, and feminists, of all people, should understand that ‘its not just the internet’ because most of the street protests and gains in policy making around gender equality started online, and if these impacts can be made through the use of social media, how much more discriminatory speeches directed at people who have already been made vulnerable by laws designed by the government for that exact purpose.

When feminists theorise and advocate for the dismantling of the patriarchy, it is a call for dismantling gender and all it’s accoutrements. We are saying the feminine deserve respect and equal treatment, that we are not slaves or chattels created for the use of a sex that has been set up as ‘better’. We are insisting that these so called biological differences are not so different if the medical field is not so misogynist. Above all we insist on empathy and that the rights of all human beings, irrespective of their race, sex or identities, should be respected.

Transphobia is homophobia, it is misogynist and violent. Your ‘innocent’ remarks online can and in most cases, would lead to the assault of a person who doesn’t fit into gender stereotypes. And most of the people that come under attack are poor Nigerians who don’t have access to the opportunities that makes you privileged.

These human beings, more often than not do not have access to the opportunities that enable you to own phones and make internet subscriptions. They can’t call anyone when arrested by the police, their parents are too poor to afford bail. They are everyday people who suffer in silence because your feminism is too classist to take note of them, and even when you deign to, you’re in your ‘saviour’ mode.

Who is a woman? A woman is the feminine, she is whoever she says she is, and as long as this woman is in no way harming you, then you have absolutely no right to cause her harm.

Ayodele Olofintuade – Writer/Journalist/Researcher.

Lakiriboto Chronicles: A History of Badly Behaved Women https://g.co/kgs/JWxHky

In-Focus: Michael Akanji

Michael is a member of the Nigerian Drug Demand Reduction Technical Working Group; National HIV Prevention Technical Working Group, UNDP African Regional Key Population Expert Working Group and a 2015 Fellow of the International Visitors Leadership Program on LGBTI Human Rights and Advocacy of the US government. Also, he is currently the Key Population Advisor with Heartland Alliance International, Nigeria.

Michael Akanji was born on 1st September 1984 and studied Electronics Engineering at the Federal Polytechnic, Nasarawa and Federal University of Technology, Minna, Niger State Nigeria. He progressed to the University of San Diego, where he studied Gender Studies and became an alumnus in 2016 with a degree in Gender Studies. In 2017, Michael obtained a Graduate Certificate from the University of Massachusetts, Lowell in Peace and Conflict resolution with specialization in intra-personal peace and gender identity.

Michael works on human rights using the public health approach for Sexual minorities and a Sexual Health and Rights Advocate with over a decade experience on LGBTI issues and interventions in West Africa and trained in Peace and Conflict resolution with expertise in Intra-personal Conflict. In 2019, obtained professional development certificate in leadership and management in health, implementation science and project management from the University of Washington.

Mr Michael Akanji was part of the Research Team for the UN 2000 Young People Report on the progress made on the “UNGASS Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS: Our Voices Our Future” (https://www.unfpa.org/sites/default/files/pub-pdf/youth_UNGASS.pdf) and also contributed to various publications on Key Population and LGBTI issues, which includes: MSM in Sub-Saharan Africa: Health, Access,& HIV:  Findings from the 2012 Global Men’s Health & Rights (GMHR) Study (http://msmgf.org/files/msmgf/documents/MSMinSSA_PolicyBrief.pdf); The Nigerian MSM Health Scorecard: a tool for assessing and monitoring the accountability of stakeholders in advancing the health of men who have sex with men (MSM) in Nigeria.

Michael has served as a member of the Local Organizing Committee of the First National Conference on Inclusivity, Equality  And Diversity in University Education in Nigeria, 2017 (http://inclusivity2017.com/speaker/mr-michael-akanji/).  He is a co author of the book “Through the Gender Lens” edited by Funmi Soetan and Bola Akanji.

Michael has attended several pieces of training on Sexual Health and Rights advocacy; Population and Reproductive Health; Youth and Sexuality; Sexuality and Culture; Religion and Human Rights and key population programming, security, Research methodology among others and a trained paralegal with the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative.

Michael is the director of The Initiative for Equal Rights (TIERs) a community center and safe space for gay Nigerians.

Evolution of a Superweapon (as she’s about to hit forty) – Hawa Jande Golakai

RUIN: A PHOENIX ARISES (a pictomap of womanhood)

Thou shalt not hurt or publicly display rage, pain, shame, loss, filth or any form of brokenness.

Thou shalt despise correction and never seek help.

Thou shalt keep your face in the Strong Black Woman sunshine until it burns you to a crisp.

RUIN: A WOMAN IN HER PRIME (a pictomap of womanhood)Thou shalt BE.

Be intelligent (but non-threateningly). Be sexy (but don’t show it off like a ho). Be ambitious (but not aggressive). Be curious (but don’t nag). Be firm (but not a bitch). Be a giver (but don’t cling). Be a great parent, daughter, friend, neighbor. Be a bawse. Be rich (by magic). Be a great partner by never asking for anything you want directly. Be knowledgeable of everything under God’s sun.

Be.

BUT NOT ALL AT ONCE. NEVER SHOW OR BE AWARE OF ALL YOUR POWER. Don’t be kind and good; be “humble”.

Never get tired. Ever. Always prostrate yourself to give and forgive.

RUIN: ASCENDANT (a pictomap of womanhood)

Thou shalt allow others to define how strong, sane and sapient you are.
Allow every hardship to break and reshape you. Never be proud of crafting your fears and weaknesses into strengths.

RUIN: SCION (a pictomap of womanhood)

[If thou so chooseth]: Thou shalt have a close encounter of the 4th kind with at least one of your ova. It’s worth it 💚💛💜❤🌺🌻🌺💙🏵.

PS. Make it accidental, to maximise the horror and comedic effect.

SUPERWEAPON ( a pictomap of womanhood)

(OR.)

Damn all the advice to hell. You were there alone; you built the only map out.
Assemble all your broken pieces and create anew. Be your ancestors’ wildest dreams and deepest nightmares.

I LOVE YOU, HJG. God continue to bless you and entertain your madness. 💛💚💜💙💜❤🌻🌺🏵👑

Hawa Jande Golakai was born in Germany and hails from Liberia, where she spent a lively childhood before the 1990 civil war erupted. She writes crime, speculative fiction (fantasy, science fiction, horror, magical realism) and is in an unhealthy relationship with all twisted tales. A medical immunologist by training, she now works as a literary judge, creative consultant and educator. Golakai is on the Africa39 list of most promising sub-Saharan African writers under the age of 40. She is the winner of the 2017 Brittle Paper Award for nonfiction, longlisted for the 2019 NOMMO Award for speculative fiction and nominated three times for fiction. In addition to two novels, her articles and short stories have featured in BBC, Granta, Omenana, Cassava Republic, Myriad Editions and other publications. Currently, she lives in Monrovia with her son and too many chickens.

Photo Credit: Kanda V. Golakai

End the war on Nigerian Women!

On Tuesday, May 21st, Police officers raided a Marie Stopes Clinic in Lagos, harassed the health workers and patients and took away confidential client information. Marie Stopes offers free and affordable family planning services to women and men, pregnancy tests, pre- and post-natal care, treatment and services for sexually transmitted infections (STI), HIV testing and ultrasound and laboratory services. They have trained staff who offer counselling and treatment especially to those who cannot afford the costs at private hospitals. To raid a centre that provides such services is sending a message to women and girls as well as men and boys that they are not safe in health centres and that they don’t deserve access to quality health services without fear or judgement.

This is happening in a country that contributes 10% to the global burden of maternal deaths ranking fourth after Sierra Leone, Chad and the Central African Republic. Safe spaces where women can access confidential and non-judgemental sexual and reproductive health services are vital and we don’t have enough of them to reduce the risk of maternal deaths. Just before the raid in Lagos yesterday, the Minister of Health was testifying before the Nigerian Senate about the overburdened health system, the deplorable state of General Hospitals in the country and the need to revitalize the tertiary and primary health care system in Nigeria. Women and girls are dying from preventable deaths because of lack of access to quality sexual and reproductive health services.

Recently released NDHS 2018 data state: “Unmet need for family planning declined from 20% in 2008 to 16% in 2013 before increasing to 19% in 2018.” Family planning is the conscious choice by people to limit or space the number of children they have through the use of contraception. And 19% of married women in Nigeria have an unmet need for family planning services, according to the survey. Marie Stopes shouldn’t be punished for offering a spectrum of services, including family planning, to those who need and want it, especially women, married and unmarried.

The work being done by organisations like Marie Stopes is necessary to dispel myths, provide counselling on the right modern method of birth control and help women and men space their children. The National Strategic Health Development Plan 2018 – 2022 recognizes the importance of this work, which is why one of its pillars is to “Promote universal access to comprehensive quality sexual and reproductive health services throughout the life cycle and reduce maternal, neonatal, child and adolescent morbidity and mortality in Nigeria.”

Marie Stopes’ work is supporting the government in making sure Nigeria can achieve the targets to reduce morbidity and mortality, which means improving the health and wellbeing of women and girls in Nigeria. We should be celebrating their efforts, not intimidating them.

Ten percent (10%) of maternal deaths in Nigeria is due to unsafe abortion. Access to safe abortion is restricted in Nigeria, and can only take place in circumstances where a woman’s life is at risk. Even though safe abortion services are restricted, access to post-abortion care (a service for women and girls who have medical complication as a result of unsafe abortion) is not restricted. Nigerian laws and policies uphold women and girls’ rights to post-abortion services, a much needed service that Marie Stopes provides. Services providers who are implementing these policies and guidelines should not be subjected to harassment and intimidation for performing their jobs. These healthcare workers are providing care and saving lives; actions that should be praised and promoted.

These efforts to demonize and block access to legal services are being funded in Nigeria by a Spanish organisation called CitizenGO. CitizenGo is a partner to an SPLC designated hate group World Congress of Families and the city of Madrid has banned their activities calling their campaigns hate based. CitizenGo and its extremist partners have been organising trainings in Nigeria and Kenya within the past 18 months, trying to block women’s access to critical healthcare. They should not be allowed to instigate the harassment of women making informed choices about their health, and health workers who are provided life-affirming services. They are an intolerant group and they are bringing their hate mongering to Nigeria.

This group has set-up camp in Nigeria and are propagating false and unfounded sensational narratives in places like Enugu, Imo, and Nairobi under the guise of religious and moral obligations. They must not be allowed to instigate hate and oppression in Nigeria and the rest of Africa. This is a coordinated attack on the rights of women, girls, and marginalized persons and we must say NO to their oppressive tactics.

Signed
Education as a Vaccine
Nigerian Feminist Forum
Alliances for Africa
Women’s Crisis Centre
Project Alert
Vision Springs Initiative
The Initiative for Equal Rights
Women’s Health and Equal Rights Initiative
Equality Hub
Ake Arts and Book Festival
NoMore Campaign
Above Whispers
9jafeminista
Stand to End Rape
International Centre for Reproductive Health and Sexual Rights
Autamaimasa Health Foundation
Drug Free and Preventative Healthcare Organization
Women’s Rights and Health Project

Iheoma Obibi
Olabukunola Williams
Fadekemi Akinfaderin
Maream S. Muhammad
OluTimehin Adegbeye
Lesley Agams
Ayodele Olofintuade
Akudo Oguaghamba
Josephine Chukwuma
Lola Shoneyin
Ngozi Juba
Manre Chirtau
Pamela Adie
Bisi Fayemi
Azeenarh Mohammed
Funmi Juba
Ireti Bakare
Hauwa Shekarau
Wana Udobang
Charmaine Pereira
Fisayo Owoyemi
Amy Oyekunle
Oluchi Ogwuegbu
Itoro Eze-Anaba
Karo Omu
Chioma Ogwuegbu
Oluwaseun Ayodeji Osowobi
Uche Umolu
Oseyi Etomi
Sylvia Ekponimo
Rita Musa
Chika Ibeh
Toyin Chukwudozie
Otibho Obianwu
Omolara Oriye
Chibogu Obinwa
Bose Ironsi

NO to the War On Women!

Briefing Paper by the Nigerian Feminist Forum, 15 May 2019.

On the 22nd of April, 2019, agents of the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) carried out a raid on Caramelo Club in Utako, Abuja. Of the mixed clientele, men and women, only women were arrested. All the 27 women arrested were profiled as strippers, regardless of whether they were or not. Women were dragged out of the club in the nude and manhandled by male law enforcement agents. The 27 women were coerced into “confessing to prostitution”, without legal aid or counsel, and sentenced to one month’s imprisonment or a fine of N3000.

Barely a week later, further raids were carried out on several nightclubs in Abuja, on the 28th of April. Individual women were also abducted, including one who had simply gone out to buy noodles and another who was in front of a supermarket. In all, 70 women were abducted from different parts of Abuja and profiled as “prostitutes” because they were out after working hours. At a press conference, the arrested women gave testimonies of a range of violations: abduction, physical assault, mental anguish, and sexual assault. One woman who was menstruating at the time was ogled and humiliated by policemen. Women who wore wedding rings were released. The arrested women either paid between N5000 and N10,000 to be granted bail or, if they could not pay, were coerced into sex for bail.

Official raids on women in the streets at night in Abuja are not new. Activists have observed that the police and AEPB have been regularly involved in rounding up and removing women off the streets at night since the early 2000s. The previous round of overt state sponsored violence against women was in 2011, when police officers preyed upon women found on the city’s streets, dragging them onto buses, and sexually assaulting them because they were said to be “prostitutes.” Students, employees, shoppers, married women were among those abducted and told to pay N5000 to secure their freedom. Those who could not pay were tortured, brought before a mobile court, and then sent to a “rehabilitation camp” for sex workers(Isine, I. and Akurega, M. 2014.) In 2014, Dorothy Njemanze, an actor and activist, and three other women who had been assaulted by state agents, took the government to the ECOWAS Regional Court. In a landmark ruling on October 12, 2017, the Court found the Federal Government of Nigeria guilty of multiple violations of the women’s human rights. Despite this ruling however, official roundups of women in Abuja continue unabated.

Whilst extortion on the part of the police and the Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB) is not specific to their raids on nightclubs and abductions of women in public places at night, the manner in which the police and AEPB carry out their rounding up of women from nightclubs is very particular, being marked by sexually humiliating, coercive and violent actions. Women were stripped of their clothes and bundled naked into vans where they were sexually assaulted. This type of treatment is reserved exclusively for the women rounded up in such raids – no men were even charged by the police.

The latest state sponsored attacks on women in nightclubs signal an extension of roundups on the streets to intrusion into more enclosed/private spaces. In another instance, Ada Akunne, a Nollywood actress, was in her car on a night out with friends to celebrate a cousin’s graduation when they were stopped by police. The women were accused of being provocatively dressed and therefore “prostitutes”, particularly since there was no man in the car. The police called their colleagues to arrest the women and only released them after members of the public gathered around them. (Adebayo, B. 2019.)

State officials’ violence against women rests on the assumption that it is appropriate to divide women into two groups: “good women” – married, caregivers, sexually chaste and therefore worthy of respect – and “free women”, women whose bodies and sexualities are not under the control of men and therefore “not deserving of respect”. AEPB and police actions demonstrate their belief that women who are found on the streets of Abuja at any time after working hours fall into the category of “free women”. Moreover, they state that the environment must be “sanitised” of such women, particularly if they are thought to be dressed in ways considered too revealing. Women’s presence in the city at night, their dress, their mobility – all these are treated as “evidence” of women behaving badly and exerting a corrupting influence on the society at large.

The police have presented themselves as being concerned with “public morality”, which they (and many in the society at large) see as appropriately policed via control over the bodies of women. This is not only wholly inappropriate but also ultimately untenable. The responsibility for public morality cannot reside with women alone. Public morality would be more appropriately advanced by addressing official corruption, extortion and impunity. These are clearly not addressed by policing women’s presence in the city at night or in the evening nor by acting in ways that violate the safety of women in public.

 

By asserting that policing women’s bodies will advance public morality, state agencies justify their acts of extortion, sexual assault and rape by casting them as efforts to control crime and “promiscuity”. Police and AEPB officials have generally targeted women they consider to be “prostitutes” or else claim that the women they have targeted are “prostitutes”. The existence of commercial sex and a sex industry in Abuja is officially treated as an example of degenerate morality as well as being associated with criminality. What stands out, however, is the selective demonization by the police and the AEPB of women alone, not any of the men present in the nightclubs, the owners of the clubs or other parties involved.

Police and AEPB personnel feel justified in denying women sex workers, as well as women whom they claim are “prostitutes”, their bodily autonomy and integrity. Worse still, state agents treat the women as “fair game” – sexual objects whose bodies they are entitled to, whether through molestation, rape, the coercive exchange of ‘sex for bail’, which is also rape, or sexually degrading and intrusive language. Women who defend the rights of other women affected by state sponsored violence are also subject to such treatment. In the process, state agencies enact a toxic form of masculinity that perpetuates and legitimates rape culture.

The Nigerian Feminist Forum condemns these violations in the strongest of terms.
We demand an end to the rounding up, abductions and sexual violations of women and girls on the streets, in nightclubs, in markets, in public and private spaces in Abuja.
We demand an independent public enquiry into the latest spate of state sponsored violence against women, with substantive representation of women’s rights groups on the panel of enquiry.
We demand that the specific allegations of rape and sexual assault on the part of security and state officials should be investigated and prosecuted.
We demand the systemic transformation of all institutions involved in the state sponsored violence – particularly the police and the AEPB. This requires unravelling the obnoxious treatment of women in Abuja after working hours as “free women” whose bodies need to be controlled by official agencies. It also requires undoing the toxic masculinity which justifies male sexual entitlement to women’s bodies in institutional operations. Ultimately, it requires transforming the notion of “security” to mean, in principle and in practice, freedom for women from violence.
We insist that state agencies should actively respect the constitutional provision that the primary purpose of government is to provide for the security and welfare of all people (S.14 (2b)) without excluding women, whether these are students, hawkers, food sellers, civil servants, sex workers, married women, single women, shoppers or any other category of women.
We insist that state agencies should actively observe the constitutional provision that the sanctity of the human person should be respected and their dignity maintained (S.17 (2b)) without excluding all women’s rights to bodily autonomy and integrity.
We insist that state agencies should actively respect all women’s constitutional rights to freedom of movement (S.41(1)), peaceful association (S.40) and freedom of expression (S.38(1)).
We insist that state agencies should actively respect the constitutional rights of all women to freedom from discrimination on the grounds of sex (S.42(1a)).

 

Endnotes

  1. Isine, I. and Akurega, M. 2014. ‘Investigation: How Abuja NGO, AEPB, Arrest Innocent Women, Label Them Prostitutes’. Premium Times, 10 February 2014.
  2. Adebayo, B. 2019. ‘Nigerian police arrested 65 women in a raid. Some of the women say officers raped them.’ CNN, 13 May 2019.

 

Sex Work na Work – Michael Akanji

Editorial: In the past one week the Nigerian government has come under a lot of criticism when the police launched a raid on Nightclubs in Abuja, and in the process ended up arresting close to a hundred women, who were then charged with prostitution and arraigned in a court of justice.

The weird thing about these arrests is that sex work is actually not a crime in Nigeria although Chapter 21 of the Nigerian Criminal Code penalises the activities of pimps, brothel operators, underage sex workers and their patrons, no mention is made of sex workers.

Not only were the women abducted from Nightclubs, they were also sexually assaulted by the officers in charge of the arrests (we shouldn’t fail to mention that the policemen used pure water sachets in lieu of condoms.)

In this article Michael Akanji examines labour rights, dehumanization of persons labelled ‘prostitutes’ and a whole slew of other issues bordering on human rights abuse.

It is important that we know that sex work is a very big industry and respect for labor rights involves not dehumanizing the workers within that establishment by calling some persons ”prostitutes”.

If in ignorance a police spokesperson claims that because sex-workers do not pay taxes it means they do not have rights. This translates to the point that every other informal sector and/or persona that don’t pay tax should be dehumanized by the police.

Body policing and gendered dehumanization is disgusting and coming from the government that has a mandate to protect all irrespective of their sex shows that we have a set that respects not even Nigeria and Nigerians.

The term sex workers’ rights encompasses a variety of aims being pursued globally by individuals and organizations that specifically involve the human, health, and labor rights of sex workers and their clients.

Law of demand and supply, sex work is contributing to the economy. Children are kept in schools, traders are kept in business… sex-workers pay taxes… At least VAT…

Don’t blame your failed tax system on sex workers and use that to dehumanize them… Fix your tax system and your labour laws… Sex work is work and not a crime.

Labour rights need to be reformed to include sex work. Any changes to labour laws to include sex workers should not create an underclass of unregulated workers who do not benefit from rights, and should be structured in a way that benefits the largest number of sex workers.

It is myopic to assume that only female-identified persons can be sex workers, just like every field sex workers are diverse, too, male sex workers, trans sex workers, queer sex workers etc.

General recommendation 19, the CEDAW Committee observed, “[p]rostitutes are especially vulnerable to violence because their status, which may be unlawful, tends to marginalize them. They need the equal protection of laws against rape and other forms of violence.”

Runs Girls and the Sliding Scale of Nigerian Morality

Editor’s Note: Twitter outrage has become commonplace (while Facebook has become some form of family friendly place to air achievements, family portraits and unpopular opinions with relative safety). On the upside these ‘outrages’ have effected changes, as more and more people are using this platform as an avenue to hold governments to account and share histories that would have otherwise been lost in obscurity (particularly Black History).

Nigerian feminists have been using social media to educate Nigerians at large about social inequalities and highlight how cis-heterosexual men are at the top of the foodchain, how they use their privilege to keep women and sexual minorities oppressed.

The latest topic being discussed with a lot of passion is the rights of sex-workers/runs girls/side-chics (or the lack thereof). The trigger for this discussion is Falz, a Nigerian musician who embraces social consciousness, (wokeness) served with a side of misogyny.

Tracy in this article discusses how problematic Falz’s politics is.

Definition of terms

Sex Worker aka Prostitute: A man/woman/gender non-conformist or trans person who sells sexual expertise to a variety of clients. Sex workers do this professionally. By the way, sex work is illegal in Nigeria and this tends to lead to police brutality and abuse by clients or pimps.

Runs Girl: A young woman, often an undergraduate who dates rich,(married) older men. These relationships are transactional and have time limits. A runs girl doesn’t only offer sexual gratification, she also adds to the social value of the man she’s with because of her youth and attractiveness.

Side-Chic/Side Piece: This is man/woman/gender non-conformist or trans person who is dating a married person (male or female). A side piece provides the comfort of a home for clients without the responsibility that comes with marriage. Unlike the first two, side-chics/side pieces usually have a relationship with their ‘friends’ while the friend in question may provide cash or economic opportunities.

Transactional: exchange of goods or services for cash. It can also be exchange of emotional labour and investment between two or more people.

Read on…

Another day, another PSA by an entertainer about the evils of runs girls. The reactions have come in with people asking, almost in anticipation of the ‘backlash’, why this particular societal problem should not be addressed amongst others, whether people are claiming that runs is a good thing, whether those people would let their daughters live that lifestyle and, as always, whether the people protesting against this message are actually runs girls themselves.

On the other side are people questioning the need to address this topic at all, claiming that what a woman does with her body is her business and asking artists to leave runs girls alone.
What I, along with others, can’t ever get my head around is the equating, or at least placing alongside, runs with crimes of corruption, fraud, theft and actual violence. I can only imagine that it is the kind of thinking that leads to garbled songs like Child of the World ( see my critique of the song here misogyny or a massive overreaction ).

First of all, what is ‘runs’ and where, on the sliding scale of the transactional nature of Nigerian romantic relationships, does it fit?

I used to lump it in with sex work but now I’m not so sure. The term appears to cover a range of relationships where there is the expectation that a woman will be kept financially by a man, often older and far richer, by mutual understanding. In return, he gets the pleasure, sometimes exclusively, of her company including sex.

The above will of course sound familiar, not just because a kept mistress is one of the oldest practices in the world (Solomon had ‘concubines’ – I really hope they were closer to runs girls than sex slaves but I am pessimistic). It also sounds familiar because of the ‘husband-provider’ model that is supposed to be God’s will for marriages (although there is scant authority for this in the Bible).

In some cultures, this starts with symbolisation at a couple’s traditional wedding, where hubby stuffs wife’s purse with cash to show his ability or willingness to provide (she of course kneels to show submission But. That. Is. Definitely. Another. Article).
In what is essentially a two-income economy, this leads to some very strange expectations and actions. A woman who works is still responsible for the family’s domestic tasks including childcare. If a man earns less (or nothing at all), he is still ‘the provider’ and anything his wife says or does which appears to undermine this is seen as pure disrespect.

Some wives hand their husbands their salaries, or money, so he appears to pay for things. When a man loses his job, he is supposed miraculously continue to ‘provide’, which mostly consists of hanging about the home making grand plans, while studiously ignoring the housework.

Couples are very reluctant to enter into relationships where the woman earns more. Rejecting a higher paid job is one of the ways women can make ‘noble sacrifices’ for her marriage. Not all Nigerian marriages of course, but this type of thinking still surprisingly persists among young people.

I say all these to illustrate the transactional nature of marriages. In addition to the ‘provider’ male partner, you have the girlfriend’s credit alerts, bills for sick relatives that materialise shortly after a relationship starts and other things. At what point does the providing that the male partner is supposed to do metamorphose into ‘transactional sex’? People who keep carping on about prostitution being is illegal are missing the point – I highly doubt runs and other kinds benevolent relationships are illegal in Nigeria.

Another question is why the anguish by entertainers and other people, who seem to have no problem with men boasting of their ability to attract beautiful women with their wealth? Isn’t putting a line about runs girls, in the middle of a song about corruption (which has led to the loss of hope for millions of Nigerians) a bit like rapping, ‘Slavery, genocide….and dressing like a chav! Those are the three things I won’t have!’?

Is it a matter of distaste – seeing young women actively vying for a position with Alhajis? Or are entertainers pestered by runs girls the second they sit down in a hotel, or other public place, and put their phone on to check instagram?

I remember being spoken to very rudely in Nigeria by a non-Nigerian older man because I asked him for a pen. Mum explained that he thought I was a – (she didn’t say runs girl, but something very similar. On that same trip, a young man tried to offer me sex in exchange for financial upkeep – so go figure. I guess I was ahead of the times).

There are valid debates, from personal moral, religious and even feminist points of view about sex work and transactional sex. However, if you have a problem with sex work and that problem only manifests in shaming and ridiculing women involved in whatever form of transactional sex – but mostly the sugar baby/runs girl variety where women tend to have more agency – and does not include –
bashing the men who participate in transactional sex or men who use money as a way of attracting sexual attention;
addressing the problem of women being forced into transactional sex by, for example, lecturers who demand sex for grades (or more precisely not unjustifiably failing a woman), or employers who harass their female employees into sex with them or their clients;
addressing the entitlement to sex after money is spent on a woman (what’s the argument men use as an excuse for marital rape in Nigeria again? Aaaaah….bride price!);
addressing the economic reasons why women are drawn to sex work, including a bad economy, gender based discrimination, and the fact that women are often sexually harassed out of money making abilities, and linking them to their hatred of sex work; or
acknowledging that women carry out real crimes – embezzlement, murder, trafficking – instead of treating sex work as the most predominant ‘crime’ committed by women.

Then, to use Adichie’s reasoning, you don’t have a problem with transactional sex, you have a problem with women and particularly women having agency and real choices about it which is why people call you a misogynist.

In fact the only thing this serves to do is demonise sex workers along with women who have sex on terms that some people don’t agree with. Actual problems, like trafficking, are ignored.
As long as they can provide enough evidence of their near-destitution to activate our saviour complex, actual prostitutes are also not often the target of these kind of attacks.
Any woman can, of course, be labelled a prostitute at any time and in the middle of any argument. On hearing this, the woman is supposed to sink down to her knees, continue sinking until she resembles a tightly wound ball of wool, cover her eyes from the sun and shriek “No! NO! Please! Not that! Anything but that!”.

Luckily we have feminists who are brave enough to tell us that actually a woman is or should be entitled to sell sexual services if she truly chooses to and if she does, she is not exactly selling her soul or body (wives do that, not prostitutes ha ha).
But the weaponisation continues of course and female entertainers routinely find themselves victims of men taking it upon themselves to announce, without a scrap of evidence of course, that they can only afford things or advance in their careers because they are paid to have sex with older or influential men. It’s the kind of thing that in reality is a warning to all women that their reputations can be ruined by associating them with sex work.

I’ll tell you what. Let’s fight it from both ends. People are free to have an opinion about sex, transactional or otherwise, but let’s end the demonisation of women who participate in transactional sex, starting by realising that most relationships have some element of the transaction about them, and let’s end the assumption that the only way women can make money is through transactional sex. As a bonus, let’s disabuse ourselves of this notion that it is women’s job to guide the universe into sexual morality and stop the hand wringing and redefining of the term ‘societal ill’. Deal?