One thing that pains Tolu Idowu, a lawyer, to her bone marrows is seeing women being molested because they do not know their rights.
However, she says she is happy for the very few that are getting increasingly aware of their human rights. “Nowadays, more women are becoming more aware of their rights and they are being more assertive and aggressive. So I think some ugly incidents are going down a little bit. These days, women do not totally put themselves in a situation where they are vulnerable to assault. ”
But a lot of women do not know that a policeman is not allowed to search their bodies. Instead, a policewoman should do that and vice versa. “You shouldn’t allow a policeman to search your body, it’s not right. A man shouldn’t search a woman. Even if he is not a policeman, at the airport for example, if the person is an immigration officer, in Nigeria or anywhere in the world, a woman would search a woman and a man would search a man. That’s just it!”
Some women, out of fear, would submit themselves to be searched, at times pants down. “Haa! No, you shouldn’t. A lot of men do it because they know that women are submissive and always afraid. But when they see that you know what you are supposed to do, they back off. Yes, when they know you already know it’s wrong, they leave you and perhaps call a policewoman for you.”
Idowu says there is no big deal being a lady lawyer in a male-dominated society. “It’s not that bad anymore. Things are changing, there are
more women becoming partners, not as many as they would like, but things are changing in Nigeria. There are more women coming out in the profession now. Even in the judiciary, there are lots of female judges, especially in Lagos. So, things are really looking up in the legal profession for women.”
For those whose husbands molest them and beat them up like a boxer would a punching bag, there is a way out. “Don’t just sit there and watch him kill you! Go straight to report him!”
Report him to the police who would tell you to go home and sort it out with your husband? “The funny thing is that a lot of police officers you look down on actually don’t condone domestic violence against women as such. Yes, you might not know it, but funny enough, they actually don’t. This is because I do know a few women that have actually gone to report to the police, which you would think would not happen and they come to deal with the men. Yes, you shouldn’t take it from any man. It’s true some would say, go home and sort it out with your husband. But you would still find people that would treat you the way you are supposed to be treated. We have all sorts like that. We have the good, the bad and the ugly. But you shouldn’t just allow flimsy excuses to make you sit down and take what you shouldn’t take.”
So any woman that sees herself in such a situation should get her husband arrested? Don’t you think her in-laws would descend heavily on her? “Yes, go to the police or better still, go to one of the centers for abused women and stuff like that. You just need to find out and go to those places; they would help you.”
To ladies who are living with men who are not their husbands and they are breeding children, Tolu has some words. “If you have given him the first child and he hasn’t married you, you shouldn’t be giving him any more children. Use your sense, (laughs) because it won’t happen, it rarely happens. He won’t marry you. Men like the situation where they just do what they can do and there is no string attached. So, a difficult man, if you allow him to do that, one child, two children, three children, he won’t see any point in getting married to you anymore.”
But what happens when such men tell their live-in-lovers they don’t have money for wedding and traditional marriage? “If you see yourself in such a situation, as a lady, don’t give him more children. Opt for a low-key wedding. At least low-key wedding is better than not wedding at all. It still gives you a legal right over the man as your husband. After all, you don’t always need a ceremony. You can just go to the Registry, sign your papers and take some pictures. All the ceremony is just unnecessary, really, because you are doing the ceremony for other people and not for yourself. Most of the time, when you have these parties or ceremonies, you, the celebrant, don’t even enjoy it. You are just doing it for the benefit of other people. So, if he cannot afford it, fine, know it that it is not necessary. It doesn’t make the marriage work, it doesn’t make it spoil.”
When Tolu was growing up, she had it at the back of her mind that she would be a lawyer in the nearest future. Hence it’s good to be determined and to be focused in life. She concurs with this. “I knew I wanted to read Law. My mum is a judge, she is a High Court judge. I chose the profession because it is the profession where you can work anywhere. You can work in a hospital, you can work in a company, in a bank, anybody needs a lawyer. So, I decided to study Law so that I can move around and not get stuck in one area.”
She graduated from University of Lagos. “I studied in the University of Lagos and abroad, in the University of Dundee in UK.”
When she wants to unwind, she does one or two things. “I watch movies, I’m always at the cinema watching movies. That’s what I do,” she says, giggling.