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Body moves to criminalise sexual harassment in Lagos markets

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The Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association’s (NECA) Network of Entrepreneurial Women (NNEW) has begun a process that would lead to formulation of bye-laws against sexual harassment of females in Lagos markets.

President of the association, Mrs Funmilayo Arowoogun, disclosed this during an advocacy meeting with market women leaders at Innovation Technology Park, Lagos, on sexual harassment of children, female traders and customers in marketplaces and business premises.

Arowoogun said the meeting was part of efforts by the association to drive the enactment of the law, mitigate inappropriate touching of body parts, and harassment in market locations.

The forum attracted the Iyaloja Orisumbare Market, Mile 12, Yeye Dupe Ojo, market women representatives from Tejuosho market and 35 other markets in the state. Others include representatives of the Lagos State Commissioner for Local Government and Community Affairs, Dr Wale Ahmed and the chairman, Yaba Local Council Development Area, Kayode Omiyale. She said punishment for perpetrators would be determined by stakeholders.

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According to her, sanctions could be in forms of fines or sealing of perpetrator’s shop for a period of one month, among others.

Arowoogun said: “We are bringing all market women together so that we would have one common voice and push against the act. We are talking with the state government and stakeholders to let them see what we are doing and push the advocacy through them. We are also particular about anything that affects women, and fighting against gender-based violence. It should be the prerogative of customers to determine shop they wish to buy things from in the market.”

She also urged the government to intervene in the plight of entrepreneurial women in the state that have been mostly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The coordinator, NNEW/ActionAid partnership, Mrs Olakitan Wellington, explained that the experience of sexual harassment of females is more predominant in some markets than others with male traders seen dragging female customers for patronage and sometimes touching sensitive parts of their body.

“Some people do it deliberately under the pretense of trying to attract customers. We want to let them know that it is sexual harassment, which is a criminal offense punishable under the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act (VAPP), enacted in 2015 and domesticated in Lagos and other states.

“We don’t want such harassment to degenerate into an uncontrollable state, that is why we have called the market leaders to educate their people on the need to be decent. The first thing is urging the need for prevention before persecution,” she said.

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