Amnesty International as well as a former Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, Prof. Chidi Odinkalu, have condemned the clampdown on sex workers by the Nigeria police and the Federal Capital Territory authorities.
According to AI, the raids are discriminatory because only women are being arrested.
The organisation wrote on Twitter, “The raids and abuse targeted women, hence discriminatory and are gender-based violence. We are calling FCT and police authorities to investigate allegations of abuse of the women.
“Amnesty International is concerned by a spate of arrests and humiliation of women by FCT officials and the police, in some parts of Abuja. These arrests clearly show unacceptable deliberate targeting of women.”
In a series of tweets, Odinkalu also condemned the raids, insisting that prostitution was not a crime.
The activist said many women were wrongly accused of being sex workers when in fact this was not true.
The former NHRC boss wrote, “Some folks still think in 2019 that it’s OK for people claiming to wear uniforms provided by Nigerians or in our name to abduct women from clubs, calling them prostitutes. First, as shocking as it may sound, being a ‘prostitute’ – whatever that means – is actually not a crime.
“Second, there’s no ‘prostitute’ exception to the fundamental rights in the constitution.
In particular, the rights to dignity of the human person and to personal liberty apply to all persons within Nigeria, not just to those whom we like.
“Third, there’s something fundamentally off about upending sovereign powers and prerogatives of equal protection to abuse mass segments of its vulnerable population by stigmatising forms of identity. These people are not fighting immorality; they criminalise womanhood.”
The activist noted that an ECOWAS court had ruled that it was wrong to raid women randomly on the streets.
Odinkalu subsequently called on the government to check the activities of the Abuja Environmental Protection Board.
He added, “This business of criminalising womanhood in Nigeria’s capital city, Abuja, serves no policy or rational purpose. Even worse, it’s itself criminal. The people who do it seek to extort and abuse the women whom they abduct. They’re criminals.
“In addition to wilfully embarrassing Nigeria, there’s another reason we must #EndAEPBImpunity: they’re clearly lawless. Two years ago, ECOWAS Court of Justice determined that this kind of abduction of women from the streets of Abuja is unlawful.
“Nigeria or some folks in its name seem to want to double down on or escalate the idea that it’s criminal to be a woman in Abuja. That must be resisted by all people of goodwill.
“A lot of the conversation about the advocacy to #EndAEPBImpunity for the abduction of women from the streets and clubs of Abuja is based on the mistake that being a ‘prostitute’ is a crime and how a woman dresses can make her one. Both are unfounded and it’s necessary to debunk them.”
By Dominic C. Odoh
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