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AnuOluwapo Adelakun: Getting Assaulted On The Streets of Lagos

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Lagos means different things to different people. Crazy, lively, stressful and forward – some of the words I use to describe Lagos. As an adventurous person, I have traveled to quite a number of other Nigerian States and even though I sometimes find myself in some sane and tranquil communities, I always miss the madness of the never sleeping Lagos.
One thing, however, I do not miss about Lagos is the constant harassment and assault on its streets. I had wanted to save this piece for another time but recent events have maddened my pen to point of harassing my notepad.

My grandmother always says that “it is where you store salt that it remains even if it turns into water” meaning do not put your self in situations that could put you in trouble, be at the right place at the right time and do not overstep boundaries. Honestly, over the years this hasn’t worked for me in Lagos because it is where you put the salt the cockroach  will come and harass it.

As a little girl, I loved following my aunties to the market because of the idea of having the opportunity to window shop and get free stuff from them. One thing that used to, and still puts me off is the yanking, grabbing and dragging by our Industrious Ibo brothers, the forex trade Hausa guys and recently some “Aunty come and make your hair” girls. They grab your arm like they have a right to, and pull you. Some caress the hand or brush against you in a suggestive manner and if you ever protest against them they hurl curses at you or even beat you up (I have witnessed such a scene at Yaba market before). Women are victims of this 99% of the time.

As I grew older, I decided that if they weren’t ready to stop assaulting me I needed to find a way to make them flee from me. The last straw that broke the camels back was when at the market one day, I protested against one of the guys who pushed me onto the main road such that I was nearly hit by a car simply because I told him not to touch me with his filthy hands. One of my slippers came off and he picked it up and threw it into the middle of the market and ran away shouting “God punish your mama”.  It was an eye opener for me o. Ever since then I started going to market with a WEAPON. The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence and the violent taketh it by force. I now carry safety pins to the market so when any of them grabs my arm, I prick them. I have since enjoyed an 80% assault free shopping experience and I always throw the pins away at the end of each visit for fear of contracting HIV/AIDS. (DISCLAIMER: If you try it and get beat up you are on your own o!)

Another instance and the most annoying one is being sexually assaulted by merely walking on the streets. I remember one incident that happened when I was 13. I was trying to cross over to the other side of the road to buy roasted plantain a.k.a Boli when suddenly a man riding on a motorcycle grabbed my breasts and sped off. I was so mad. I cried till my tear glands went empty because I didn’t even see his face or get the number on his number plate so even if I reported, no one could arrest some one they couldn’t identify. Also, a friend once told me how that a lunatic on the loose grabbed her breasts on a major road in Lagos. Well, that one is on another level. Lol. But some seemingly sane guys just tap women on their buttocks on the streets of Lagos and run away. it is a very annoying experience trust me and something needs to be done fundamentally.

The last experience I want to narrate is the reason I’m writing this post at this time. So, yesterday I was in a very busy part of Lagos walking in some direction to sort some official business when some meters ahead of me I saw this guy who pushed a young lady in front of a moving vehicle. She fell hard and was shouting “catch him, catch him!” . Then the guy ran towards me, gave me a punch in my neck, gave the lady behind me a knock on her head, slapped another lady and on and on. He just kept running and assaulting any woman in sight. Some of the women started running after him. I don’t know if they caught up with him but I went ahead to help the first victim as she was seriously bruised. She didn’t know him from Adam just like me. I prayed in tongues for a few minutes as I walked the lady to stability just to make sure it wasn’t someone trying to turn people into money for Christmas spending. People around the scene were just minding their businesses, it was a shocking realistic picture. What can we do about this madness?

He who fights and runs away, lives to fight another day.

Photo Credit: Dreamstime |  Scott Griessel

AnuOluwapo Adelakun is a Women & Girls rights advocate, Journalist and Documentary Filmmaker working on issues affecting marginalized girls and women in Nigeria. She's a UNICEF Voices of Youth alumni, Carrington Youth Fellow of the US Consulate in Nigeria, US Consul General Award Recipient, UN WOMEN/Empower Women Global Champion for Change and UK Chevening Alumna. She's also an ardent reader of African literature and an unrepentant fan of the BBC series 'Call the Midwife'.

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