By Khairat Suleiman Jaruma
As she walked through the fabric market, a man touched her lower waist, slightly touching her bottom. He then said, “Sexy girl, come buy from me”. She turned back abruptly and hissed. “Fool”, she muttered under her breath. But, she didn’t stop; she kept walking, minding her business.
Those are the kinds of unwelcomed and irritating gestures most women experience every day in public places like schools, offices, markets, malls, etc. Unfortunately, no one frowns at these things. Instead, when a woman complains out loud about these things, she is seen as short-tempered or very intolerant, and more often than not, she gets victim-blamed.
According to a YouGov survey, 97 per cent of women aged 18 to 24 have experienced sexual harassment in public space, and more than 70 per cent of women of all ages have endured such behaviour.
While most people always make excuses for sexual harassment, such as mode of dressing or gestures, I think there’s no excuse for sexual harassment. For me, it’s just a very exasperating level of immorality, given that you can always ask for permission. Sexual harassment has terrible and long-lasting effects on women, including a decrease in women’s productivity, confidence, self-esteem, and overall participation in every aspect of life.
Sexual harassment isn’t limited to making inappropriate advances. It includes any unwelcome verbal or physical behaviour, sharing sexually indecent images or videos, such as pornography or salacious gifs, sending suggestive letters, notes, or emails, staring in a sexually suggestive or offensive manner or whistling, making sexual comments about appearance, clothing, or body parts, inappropriate touching, including pinching, patting, rubbing, or purposefully brushing up against another person.
Responsibility for the eradication of sexual harassment rests on everyone’s shoulders. Notably, we need to teach our brothers and male children that harassing women is NOT “cool”; what is “cool” is having respect for the opposite or same sex, obtaining appropriate consent of the person involved, and accepting “NO” as meaning “NO”.
Lastly, every survivor of sexual harassment must send a message across the world that there is no disgrace in being a survivor of sexual harassment. Instead, the shame is on the aggressor.
Khairat Suleiman Jaruma wrote from Kano, can be reached via email@example.com