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Women Speak Out about Widespread Sexual Harassment in Public Markets

Lagos, Nigeria – Women in major markets across Nigeria are rallying together to demand an end to the persistent issue of harassment. Despite previous efforts to combat this problem, women continue to face various forms of harassment while shopping for goods. Traders and shoppers alike are speaking out, shedding light on their experiences and calling for stricter regulations to protect women in these bustling marketplaces.

One such market, Yaba Market in Lagos, became the setting of a traumatic experience for 18-year-old Lolade Ishola. Visiting the market for the first time, Ishola and her friends were immediately targeted by aggressive male traders who resorted to inappropriate touching and aggressive marketing tactics. Ishola’s distressing encounter serves as a stark reminder of the lasting emotional impact these incidents can have on women.

Sherifat Momodu, a regular shopper at Lagos Island Market, acknowledges that such behavior was once prevalent but has noticed a reduction in recent times. The market association implemented a ban on touching women after numerous complaints, prompting traders to change their approach. They now walk beside or in front of female customers, avoiding physical contact.

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However, women shoppers in Computer Village, another major market in Lagos, offer a contrasting perspective. They recount experiences of being inappropriately touched or subjected to uncomfortable encounters while navigating the market. These women emphasize the need for stricter regulations to protect their rights and ensure a safe shopping environment.

The fight against market harassment has gained momentum in recent years. The “Market March” held in Yaba Market in 2018 aimed to raise awareness about the issue, with women taking to the streets to protest against the pervasive harassment they face. A subsequent survey conducted in 2019 highlighted the extent of the problem, revealing that 76.2% of women in Nigeria had experienced market harassment in their lifetime.

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Sociologists John Gyong and Favour Ezue provide insights into the underlying causes of market harassment. They highlight the congested nature of markets, the mentality of traders, and the importance of education and enlightenment in addressing this issue. While congestion may contribute to the prevalence of harassment, addressing the attitudes and behaviors of individuals is crucial for lasting change.

Women across Nigeria continue to share their stories and demand action. They call for stricter regulations, education campaigns, and a shift in societal attitudes to create safe spaces for all shoppers, regardless of gender. The fight against market harassment is far from over, but with increased awareness and collective action, there is hope for a future free from harassment in Nigeria’s major markets.

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