On 23rd July 2020, masses of women, most of whom were naked, took to the streets of Kaduna in northwestern Nigeria to protest. They were weeping and trundling on the ground, seeking redress.
Women Protest Over Attacks
Since time immemorial, cases of violence and insecurity have been on the rise in the country. As a result, residents in rural areas have been living in fear. Often bandits have attacked communities, killing, burning their homes, and abducting them. Therefore, the women protesting was an act of demanding justice for their community. They were tired of the attacks and sought government intervention in ensuring their safety.
However, stripping naked in Nigeria is not contemporary. According to the Igbo and Yoruba traditions, stripping naked is a sign of a curse on the mark. It also signifies preparedness to die for a reason. In some cases, wives would strip naked before their cheating husbands or disrespectful sons.
Even before colonization, females in Nigeria used naked protests to voice out their issues. Rather than being ashamed of their nakedness, women are becoming powerful. As a result, they could successfully express themselves. In Africa, the nakedness of women is a way of shaming. Thus, when women use their bodies as an instrument of power, it changes many beliefs.
History Behind Naked Demonstrations
In our society, clothing is a significant aspect of our daily lives, especially as it forms part of the basic needs. Many therefore regarded public display of the naked body as an embarrassment and disrespect to the community. As such, not much research on naked protests. However, many did not realize the power that comes with a naked female body during protests.
Through conducting naked protests, women are reviving traditional forms of sociopolitical protests and resistance, like the custom common amongst Igbo women. In layman’s language, they termed this practice as going to war with men. Through this practice, women refused to be abused by disloyal and lazy men who couldn’t support their families.
During these protests, the females smeared ashes on their faces and dressed in loincloths. They would then chant insulting songs in unison around the offender’s house. After that, they would use their pestles to tear the house apart. This practice would go on until the offender repents. This method of punishment was effective.
At the time of colonization, women regarded naked protests as a last resort. They would at first hold peaceful negotiations. Failure of the government to address their issues would then trigger naked protests. In 1929 when women in Owerri, Calabar, and Aba demonstrated over harsh colonial policies.
We shouldn’t regard women as scripts of subordination, passivity, sexuality, subservience, and vulnerability. Instead, we should perceive them as powerful and courageous. It is also important to note that the undress tactic signifies the return of some traditional practices.
We should celebrate the females who in the past have taken part in naked protests to restore humanity. As such, we should view naked protests as an effective form of women’s resistance.