Domestic violence and the society
The bedrock of every society is the family. As the primary unit of socialization upon which is laid the foundation for a good society, the family plays a vital role in building a healthy society. It is; therefore, quite unambiguous that any threat to the family unit is a clear-cut threat to the society. Recent onslaught on this enormous societal pillar, in form of domestic violence is, therefore, a serious threat to the society which calls for urgent attention and action from all relevant stakeholders.
That the marriage institution is currently under severe pressure is not in doubt, as we now witness unimaginable violence hitherto seen only in movies among couples. The recent alleged murder of a thirty-six years old woman by her fifty-one years old husband over allegation of infidelity is still very fresh in the news. This is coming on the heels of the brutal killing of a young woman in Ilorin, Kwara state, by her admirer for refusing to marry him.
As if that was not enough, barely three months ago, Nigerians were shocked with the news of a how a young man in Ibadan who was killed by the wife who slit his throat. Perhaps, the most disgusting acts of family desecration in our society , today, involves the gory tale of one Lekan Shonde who allegedly killed his wife, Ronke, in Egbeda, Lagos, for purportedly provoking him by describing intensely how her lover slept with her in a hotel in Abuja.
It is distressing to discover that the home is no longer a safe and peaceful haven for children as fathers and mothers now engage in bitter and deadly squabbles.
In Lagos State, for instance, it is rather dreadful to note that the Ministry of Woman Affairs and Poverty Alleviation received over 382 mails on domestic violence and over 553 distress calls in recent time. This is how serious the issue of domestic violence has suddenly become in our society.
According to experts, domestic violence, also known as domestic abuse, spousal abuse, battering, family violence, and intimate partner violence, is a pattern of abusive behaviors by one partner against another in an intimate relationship such as marriage, dating, family, or cohabitation. Domestic violence and abuse is not limited to obvious physical violence. It can also mean endangerment, criminal coercion, kidnapping, unlawful imprisonment, trespassing, harassment, and stalking to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner.
Domestic violence is a global phenomenon and not limited to Nigeria. It occurs across the world, in various cultures, and affects people irrespective of their economic status. According to one study, the percentages of women who have reported being physically abused by an intimate partner vary from 69% to 10% depending on the country. In Nigeria, spousal abuse has become a scourge and there is a report that 50% of our women have been battered by their husbands at one time or the other and unbelievably, more educated women (65%) are in this terrible situation as compared with their low income counterparts (55%).
The effects of domestic violence on couples are far- reaching as it affects not only the children but the entire society in the long run. The effects on children are most devastating as they exhibit fear, anxiety, feeling unsafe, anxious to please, withdrawal syndrome, depression, shame, guilt, anger, sleep disturbance and a whole lot more.
According to a recent research, 48% of Nigerian women have experienced physical violence in one way or the other. This is a significant number in a country of almost 160 million people where almost half are women. This has serious implication for the marriage institution, the children who are most vulnerable and the society at large.
The implication of this is not lost on the Lagos state Government as the Ministry of Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation recently came up with different programmes to deal with the incidence of domestic violence in the state and hopefully put an end to it. The Ministry, which had successfully intervened in over 234 cases of domestic violence of late, has equally organized various enlightenment programmes as well as the rehabilitation and integration of survivors.
Additionally, it has empowered 164 women in vocational and skill acquisition programmes while 100 counselors in public secondary schools were trained in conjunction with the United Nations Population Fund in guidance and counselors courses. This has greatly impacted the victims in a positive way as it serves as a morale booster to their dampened spirit.
This is quite significant because in our clime, many victims of domestic violence usually lack the courage to seek legal redress on the violations of their rights due to lack of positive response from the society. Domestic violence is so entrenched in our society that even the victims condone such violations of their rights as some perceive it as sign of love and the socio-religious belief that a broken marriage or relationship is a mark of failure in life.
Due to poverty and economic dependence on men, many female victims may also choose to suffer in silence for fear of losing the economic support of the male perpetrator. This trend is evident in several of the reported cases where victims prefer to withdraw their complaints where it becomes apparent that punitive measures will be meted out to the abusive spouse. Their usual objective is for the authorities to appease rather punish the abusive partner for fear of backlash.
Where the victim is courageous enough to seek legal redress, the Nigerian legal system is more adversarial than reconciliatory. The outcome of most judicial proceedings is usually the termination or straining of the relationship of the litigants, and this is true of a domestic violence victim who takes the perpetrator to the police station or the court for redress under the present law.
The police also operate from the prejudices and stereotypes of the male dominated customs and traditions of the society. Many victims of domestic violence, who lay complaints at police stations, are usually taunted, humiliated, and their complaints trivialized, probably because the complaints desk officer often engage in wife battery himself.
To reverse this ugly trend, all hands must be on deck to re-build the family unit and strengthen the values that hold the family together. All concerned must ensure that mutual respect and understanding are upheld. Religious bodies, socio organizations and relevant government agencies must live up to their expectations. Men must exercise self restraint and patience in dealing with women as the weaker vessels, while women must not provoke men to avoidable anger.
Though the present economic strain in the country puts more pressure on the family, couples still need to thread with caution and patience. Rather than solve issues, resorting to violence would only worsen matters.
Aruya is of the Features Unit, Ministry of Information & Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja.
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