The Rise Of Domestic Violence In Nigeria During COVID-19 And How To Mitigate It
Domestic violence is a major concern in many countries in the world. In Nigeria, women are victims most of the time, with acts of violence ranging from physical abuse, sexual harassment, mental and emotional abuse to harmful traditional practices. The country’s biggest and most populous city, Lagos, witnessed an increase of 87.57% in intimate partner violence reports in 2018 alone.
The recent pandemic, however, has brought this pressing issue into the spotlight. Termed by the United Nations as the Shadow Pandemic, COVID-19 exacerbated what was already a huge problem. Being confined inside the house has fostered tension between family members, and it only worsened when worries over money, security, and health arose.
As COVID-19 spread in Nigeria, so do domestic violence cases. Iheoma Obibi, the executive director of Alliances for Africa, said the surge of violence against women and girls was a direct consequence of the pandemic.
This correlation between the pandemic and the rise in domestic violence had to do in part with financial insecurities. Nigerians’ incomes plummeted due to lockdown measures, with some working in private organizations placed on half-salary and some not receiving any pay. A study published in the Ilorin Journal of Economic Policy discovered that financial worries have led to an alarming rise in spousal abuse in major Nigerian cities like Lagos, the epicentre of the pandemic, and the federal capital of Abuja.
The risk of violence is compounded by the fact that the victims are also forced to stay inside their homes. Women and children, who previously found an escape at work and school, face dismal weeks under lockdown, often at the mercy of their abusers.
Factors That Lead to Domestic Violence
There are enabling factors that allow domestic violence to occur. One of them is the question of control and dominance. More often than not, one party seeks to dominate the other, leading to violence meted out in the form of verbal, physical, emotional, sexual, and even economic abuse. Other commonly cited reasons include lack of sexual satisfaction and ineffective communication between two parties.
Experts look at the power dynamics, where one party is superior to the other. It can happen when a man with low self-esteem is in a relationship with a financially empowered woman. While these factors enable domestic violence, and it’s essential to understand them, we can’t ignore the fact that the fault lies in the abuser who lost control of his anger. It’s vital to make this distinction to avoid blaming the victims, hence the need to stray from the terms like “triggered” and “provoked.”
Family members confined in the four corners of their homes for a prolonged length of time precipitate aggression and violence, often against women and children.
Bearing these factors in mind, we can see how lockdowns in Nigeria placed women at even greater risk, exposing them to more severe violence. During the lockdown periods, partner violence in Nigeria rose significantly to 56%, a recent study discovered.
Red Flags to Look Out For
Abusers often show some signs of violence. The abuser can be too possessive or jealous. Some resort to shaming their spouses and controlling every aspect of their financial decisions. When a partner makes another feel inferior and worthless, that can be considered a red flag. The same could be said about restricting access to money and resources. Frequently, abusive partners try to separate their victims from their support systems, such as family and friends.
The vulnerable must know about these serious signs so they can seek help and escape their abusive environment as soon as possible.
How to Mitigate the Risks
Domestic violence has been tough for those who are already vulnerable. Pregnant and dependent women face a greater risk of domestic violence, often falling prey to sexual exploitation and physical abuse. To make matters worse, they are isolated from the people and resources that can aid them. Unfortunately, it’s not surprising that most of these cases go unreported.
Even so, many organizations strive to curb domestic and gender-based violence and help those who are most vulnerable. The international organization Alliances for Africa, which has had an office in Lagos since 2011, for example, extends its help by keeping a record of incidents where violence against women and girls was committed. It has also sought to include women in all COVID-19 taskforce committees, particularly in the Imo State.
Other organizations emphasize the importance of community-based prevention and education. They seek to raise awareness in an effort to discourage violent behaviours among boys and men. Continual campaigns in communities with the support of the government are key to preventing further domestic violence cases.
Nigerian academics also recommend establishing social safety nets involving access to food and cash to allow poor Nigerians to deal with the COVID-related economic privations that often facilitate domestic violence.
Finally, even something as simple as teaching community members to manage their relationships without resorting to violence can go a long way to end the cycle.