WHY DOMESTIC VIOLENCE IS ON THE RISE
“Husband kills wife”, “Wife stabs husband”, “Woman kills maid”, “neighbor stabs neighbor”…these are some of the very familiar yet disturbing stories we wake up to on a daily basis lately. The spate of domestic violence reported (as thousands would go unreported) since the beginning of the year has been alarming! There has been a prevalence of child and spousal abuse and violence resulting in some being badly maimed while others are out rightly fatal. Everyday we wake up to terrifying headlines that leaves you not only gobsmacked but completely distraught and agitated. Headlines such as these…to mention a few screams at you everyday:
• Six months pregnant woman brutally battered by husband.
• Man stabbed to death by his wife just after their wedding
• Husband Baths His Wife with Acid
• Barren woman attacked and bathed her Husband With Acid
• Woman Killed & Dumped Her 4-Year-Old Daughter Inside Well
• Woman Battered & Inflicted With A Deep Cut By Her Husband In Lagos
These are a few actual News Headlines culled from various sources of true-life cases in 2016 alone!
Clearly, domestic abuse and violence is on the rise. 2011 was the first majorly publicized case of a husband stabbing his wife to death. On 24 June 2011, Titilayo came home early from her Bank job to make her husband a big birthday dinner. By midnight, Titilayo was dead, brutally murdered by Arowolo – her husband. Autopsy report revealed she was stabbed 76 times. The culprit did not escape the long arm of the law. He was sentenced to death in 2014. One would have thought that would serve as a deterrent for many; for the abuser to desist and for the abused to take necessary precaution. On the contrary, it has only gotten worse as we have seen several more cases of such crimes committed with wholehearted ignominy!
Even the US Department of State’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices confirms that domestic violence “remained widespread and was often considered socially acceptable” in Nigeria…Nearly three in ten Nigerian women have … experienced physical violence since age 15. Furthermore, according to the same source, one in four married women experienced physical, sexual, or emotional abuse by their husband or partner”.
Reports like this cannot be contested owing to the fact that abuse and violence against women in our society is deeply embedded in culture and tradition because of our patriarchal structure which stipulates that the husband is the HEAD and “owns” the woman and he could do with her whatsoever he deems fit. The woman on the other hand is suppose to be submissive to the man and accepts whatever is meted out to her in the marriage…Abuse inclusive! Amnesty International (AI) has identified this patriarchal system as a major factor for violation of women’s right.
Hence, domestic violence in many states of Nigeria is not illegal and victims are not entitled to legal support. As a matter of fact, for fear of being labeled and stigmatized, many women have chosen to stay in a violent marriage and some end up losing their lives and leaving their children to suffer.
Clearly this is not an issue to be treated with kid’s gloves. Though it has become such a run-of-the-mill occurrence that has been overlooked, we need to give it the necessary attention it deserves.
I was once a victim of domestic violence from a tender age and I could not get help from anywhere…not from family…not friends…not from the religious organization where I worshiped…not from the Police!
Family and friends would not want to interfere so that they are not seen as trying to meddle in “somebody’s marriage”. As a matter of fact there is a popular believe in our society that “You don’t intervene in the fight between husband and wife because when they settle you will become the enemy”. 90% of Nigerian hold fast to this saying and as a result they have unwittingly aided and abetted domestic violence and perhaps, the death of many!
The leaders and elders of where I worshiped then didn’t see it as a big deal either. They would often quote the scriptures of submissiveness. When I could no longer bear it and took a walk, I was disciplined…punitive measure were meted out on me in sympathy and solidarity to their fellow man. The man suddenly became the victim!
I went to the police on different occasions for help with my scars and bruises still looking fresh and without any pity they will tell me I should go home, that the police station is not for domestic issues. When I’m hesitant to leave and I continue to plead that they should please do something about my situation…they would retort, “no wonder them dey beat you…you are stubborn. I say go and you still dey here!” That is a policeman that should protect me from harm as a citizen of this nation! It is for this reason Amnesty International in its report; ‘Nigeria: Unheard voices – violence against women in the family’, blames the Nigerian government for the unprecedented number of domestic violence cases, adding that government was not doing anything to stem the tide of violence and was even condoning it in some cases.
Country Reports 2013 states that some federal laws allow gender-based violence, such as permitting husbands to “use physical means to chastise their wives, as long as it does not result in ‘grievous harm,’ which is defined as loss of sight, hearing, speech, facial disfigurement or life-threatening injuries” (ibid.). Under Section 55 of the Penal Code (applicable in northern Nigeria), men may engage in wife battery as long as it does not result in “excessive bodily injury” (6 Jan. 2013). And who determines what is excessive???
The Nigeria Criminal Code Act of 1990 indicates that:
353. Any person who unlawfully and indecently assaults any male person is guilty of a felony, and is liable to imprisonment for three years. The offender cannot be arrested without warrant.
354. Any person who unlawfully and indecently assaults a woman or girl is guilty of a misdemeanor, and is liable to imprisonment for two years.
The Nigerian National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) leadership admitted that domestic violence laws, in the states that have them, are “still quite poorly implemented”
Owing to the obvious lack of a support system, domestic violence has been grossly under reported, poorly documented and hardly investigated. This in turn has helped fan the flame of abuse the more, making the phenomenon one practically impossible to nip in the bud.
As a result of the fact that Physical Abuse or Violence against women in the home is generally regarded as a family or private affair in Nigeria and shielded from public scrutiny, many battered women will never come out to say what they are going through in their homes. This act of suffering in silence has now resulted in many women trying to take their destinies in their hands and fight back. And trust me, when a woman decides to fight back, it is always fatal. This is the reason why we now have men being killed or bath in acid by their wives.
Now that Domestic Violence has taken the survival of the fittest…eat or be eaten posture …where do we go from here? Will the authorities now take this as seriously as it is done in the Western World or will they just sit and watch its citizens die everyday of abuse in the home? What can we as individuals do to stop this trend…I mean, it’s someone else today…it could be your daughter or sister tomorrow. Are you a victim? What help is available to you?
It is abundantly apparent that the society at large has contributed to its prevalence and we all have a role and responsibility to curb it.
We will look at these issues next week.
Mercy Makinde is a speaker, writer, coach and entrepreneurship advocate.