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Sex workers, activists protest arrest of women by Police

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Following recent raids of some night clubs and arrest of over 100 women alleged to be sex workers by the police in Abuja, some activists and officials of the Nigeria Sex Workers Association (NSWA), on Friday, protested what they described as “unfair treatment by the security agents.”

The protesters decried the reason why the police arrested the women (sex workers) only leaving the men who patronised them to go scot free.

The police, in two different operations, raided some clubs in Abuja, arresting some sex workers. Also in Calabar, the Department of State Security (DSS) arrested about 43 women alleged to be sex workers.

The National Coordinator of NSWA, who identified herself simply as Amaka, queried the rationale behind the arrest of her members while the men, who were with them were set free.

She called for an end to the humiliation and unlawful arrest of women by the Nigeria Police.

She said: “You must have seen so many things going on in the social media; the unlawful arrest of women. We want to ask the police, where are the men? You can’t keep arresting women; we want to know why they (police) are arresting women because when the ladies are arrested, what we hear is that they are loitering. We have not seen them being charged for sex work. How can you go to the club and arrest someone and you are saying that the person is loitering; does it make sense?

“How can you go to a club and arrest someone? Can’t you go to the club and drink? Why do they segregate the women among men? Why didn’t they arrest everybody in the club if there was a raid?

“We have not heard from the police, and we need to ask, we are citizens of this country. We need to know why it’s being done; if they don’t want the clubs to work they should let us know. You cannot go to the club and arrest people and charge them for loitering. How can someone be loitering in a club?

They (police) are interested in the women. How can you go to a club; a man is sitting with a woman, you take the woman and leave the man? In business, there must be a buyer and a seller. How will you arrest the seller and leave the buyer?

“My message to the police is that they should stop illegal arrest of women; they should stop humiliating women. They should also know that sex workers also have their rights as human beings”.

One of the protesters, who identified himself as Edward Ekpeyong, said: “The truth is that if you feel that sex work is a crime, you can arrest the buyer and the seller. Don’t arrest the seller and leave the buyer; I love the sex workers”.

An activist, Ngozi Nwosu, said the continued detention of the sex workers is a violation of their fundament human right, stressing that: “The law says you can’t keep someone in detention for more than 48 hours. If you think someone is a prostitute, we are waiting for police to define what prostitution means. If you think that people are prostitutes and they have broken any law, what you need to do is to take them to court. You have no right to detain any Nigerian citizen for more than 48 hours; it is a violation of our right. We are committed to protecting and promoting the rights of women, but what we see is violation and unlawful arrests.”

A lady, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said: “I don’t think anybody has the right to tell me what to wear, so seeing me dress up doesn’t mean that I am a sex worker. You caught me in the club, don’t I have the right as a girl to go to the club and have fun? Married women go to the club with their husband to have fun.

If my husband and I are in the club, will you leave my husband and arrest me? What gives you that right as a police officer?

The leader of the protest, Jude Orumabo, warned the police to desist from violating citizen’s rights. He said: “I am a tax payer and the police are not being paid in order to harass the citizens or to arrest our sisters.”

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