One of the leading campaigners of #ArewaMeToo, an online campaign against sexual violence, especially against women, in northern Nigeria was arrested on Tuesday.
Maryam Awaisu, a writer and activist, was arrested by men of Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Nigerian police in her office in Kaduna.
Her arrest, Amnesty International in Nigeria said, was in connection “to her involvement in seeking justice for victims of sexual abuse.”
The Nigerian police is yet to comment on why Awaisu was arrested.
“While arresting Maryam, the police attempted to gain access to her laptop and mobile phone by force,” Amnesty said in a statement.
“This is clearly an effort to access the sensitive evidence she and other human rights defenders have been gathering to seek justice for victims of sexual violence.”
Nigeria is notorious for its underwhelming prosecution of perpetrators of sexual violence against women, a situation which allows violation of women, including children that could barely talk, go on almost unchecked.
A 2015 report by UNICEF notes that that one in four girls and one in ten boys had experienced sexual violence before the age of 18.
Non-government organisations, some with focus on digital movement like #ArewaMeToo, in recent months have championed the cause of women who have been assaulted.
Actions such as the Tuesday arrest of Awaisu can deter victims of sexual violence from seeking justice.
“For too long, Nigeria’s women have been facing various kinds of sexual violence that seldom receives proper attention from the country’s law enforcement agencies,” Amnesty said.
“It is unacceptable that women working on behalf of these victims are subjected to such arrest and intimidation, and we fear that these actions may prevent victims of sexual violence from pursuing justice.”