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Marriage in Nigeria: the cheat and die syndrome


According to most religious doctrines, marriage is ordained by God and it is a legal union between a man and a woman. Culturally marriage in Nigeria comes with a lot of respect for both the couple and their families. It is expected that every adult should get married before a certain age, otherwise such terms as left over, abandon projects old woman ETC are used to qualify the females. It is not uncommon to hear our elders say that marriage is not a bed of roses. The lyrics of a certain song from the eighties by Mike Okri “hear your mama hear your papa, life go better for you!! Anything we you do, make u do well, everybody go follow your foot steps” keeps coming to my subconscious, when I think about the marriage institution in Nigeria. But it seems both mummy and daddy have said it wrongly or children themselves have vehemently refused to listen.

The issue of failed marriages in our society is not much of a big deal any more neither is the issue of what is termed “paper bag marriage “ a situation where couples decide to live together, without any marriage contract and are referred to and accepted in society as husband and wife. If the couple so desire, they may decide to formalize the union decades later probably after the kids have grown up. Single parenthood is another phenomenal that has come to stay in our society. In Africa Marriage is a very big deal, despite the fact that majority of those who are married wish to be single again and make better choices, while does who are unmarried, fight tooth and nail to get in. Another group of married people if given the opportunity would wish to remain single forever. This is as a result of the numerous problems that have come to be associated with marriages in Nigeria. Problems like incompatibility, insincerity, various traditional beliefs been infused into and forcefully accepted as part and parcel of the marriage institution ETC A very few percentage are sincerely enjoying their union.


From time immemorial it has been an acceptable ideology in most parts of Africa, especially in Nigeria, to favour the boy over the girl in all ramifications. But over the years this trend has witnessed a great decline especially in the Western and southern part of Nigeria. Feminism as a concept introduces equal rights for women in all ramification but here in Nigeria the average perception of feminism, is the ideology of placing the female child over the male, thereby rendering the male incompetent. So therefore whenever a woman, is perceived as having the upper hand especially in marriage either financially, educational or even character wise, she is refered to as a feminist. And is subject to dislike and hate speech. Women generally are expected to be submissive to men especially in marriage. But at what point would women or should a woman stand up for her, and still be regarded as a woman? Domestic violence in marriages, have become over the years an unacceptable part of marriage which majority have come to accept, as part and parcel of married life. Perhaps because violence usually erupts from the male side and occasionally if ever from the female side.

Agreed there have been a number of deaths, as a result of domestic violence and the women are almost always at the receiving end. Despite this, they are expected to remain married as a divorcee is never seen culturally as a respectable woman. Women have been known to endure various degrees of psychological, physical and emotional trauma despite their ages, economic, educational or social dispensation. Intimate partner violence was painfully tolerated, as no woman wants to send her husband to jail or soil the family name or bring disgrace to the family by fighting back. It seems the twenty-first century Nigerian woman seems to have proved everyone wrong. Gone are the days when women sheepishly endured domestic violence. Some are learning fast that it is not a norm to be abused by their husbands, while others have kicked against it, sometimes taking their husbands to court. Some others have taking drastic measures often times, going way out of proportion to prove their point. It seems the hunter has now become the hunted, as women seems to have taken over the scene with domestic violence. In fact this is fast becoming a trend in our society. Sadly as it is, what started as isolated cases have now become a full fledged epidemic and the order of the day? Shakespeare was right when he said “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” The death toll from intimate partner violence erupting from the female side is drastically on the increase in Nigeria with such cases as Rachael Adestav who allegedly killed her husband and three children, child bride Tasiu a fourteen year old who allegedly killed her thirty five year old husband in other to be set free or is it Eku Ehator who was arrested for allegedly grabbing her husband’s scrotum and squeezing it until he died. Or the case of the lawyer Otive Odibi who had allegedly cut off her husband’s manhood?


The list is endless. Today in Nigeria, there is hardly any new month without cases of women bathing their husband in acid or hot water, cutting off their penis or stabbing them to death. Almost always on the grounds that they cheated or picked an interest in other women. This trend is completely unacceptable there is no justification for maltreating or taking the life of anyone is it male or female. This nonsense has to stop on both sides. The men have to work extra hard to win the shaken confidence of women, it seems this trend stems from decades of neglect and suffering in silence. Religious, government and nongovernmental organization have to step in to sensitise the public, especially the new generation on the dangers and consequences of this terrible and inhumane act. Adding the disadvantages of Intimate partner violence to the school curriculum won’t be a bad idea. If nothing is done and this “war of the sexes” continues and eventually becomes a part and parcel of our culture, indeed the future of marriage in Nigeria would be a terrible song that could gradually lead to the strangulation and eventually death of the institution called marriage. As most rend would find it the hardest to make a commitment.
Amina wrote from Lagos State.


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