The rate of intimate partner violence (IPV) popularly called domestic violence continues to rise in Nigeria despite legislations to curb it and many cases remain unreported because people still believe that violence stops at wife battering. YEJIDE GBENGA-OGUNDARE reports the other aspects of domestic violence and reasons given for the increase.
Intimate partner violence (IPV) has in recent time become one of the rising societal problems in Nigeria with various cases reported in the media almost on a daily basis. And according to researches by international bodies and nongovernmental agencies, IPV occurs in all settings without exception to social class, academic background or religious belief with women being the major victims.
However, there had been many cases of women being violent against their husbands or partners while they give self-defense as their excuse. But research results have proved that women are not the only victims of violence – men are sometimes the recipients of violent acts while violence also occurs in same-sax partnerships and to children in violent families.
What has been established beyond doubt however is the fact that the common perpetrators of violence against victims are intimate partners or ex-partners in women while men are more likely to experience violent acts by strangers or acquaintances than by people close to them though many men face diverse forms of abuse from their wives.
IPV is a menace that defies age; it affects adolescent as well as adults within formal unions and informal partnerships such as ‘dating relationships’ or normal friendship and records show that victims live with such acts until it becomes fatal.
In 2011, a youth pastor was Akolade Arowolo was accused of stabbing his banker wife, Titilayo multiple times leading to her death after a series of violence in the home. He has since been sentenced to death.
In 2013, an argument between a middle aged woman, Ndidi Emeka Mordi and her husband, Chukwudi, led to her death in Egbudu-Aka town, Aniocha South Local Government Area of Delta State as her husband allegedly hacked her with a machete following a disagreement and disappeared to avoid the wrath of the people.
In Oyo state, 28-year-old Yewande Oyediran (nee Fatoki), a lawyer with the Oyo State Ministry of Justice was in February 2016 alleged of unlawfully causing the death of Lowo Oyediran, her 38 years old husband and she is presently facing trial for this.
In May 2016 in Lagos state, a young banker, Ronke Shode was allegedly beaten to death by her husband, Lekan, who fled the scene and locked her corpse in the house Ronke with their two children.
Late last year, a man stabbed his wife in her private part after an argument while in December 2016, a woman in Ogun state stabbed her husband to death because of money for Christmas celebration.
These are just few of the many cases of domestic violence that is continually on an upsurge in Nigeria as regularly, cases domestic abuse becomes the headline of news report while many do not come to the public domain as family members quickly sweep it under the carpet.
Research reveals that 25 per cent of women in Nigeria go through an ordeal of domestic violence and every fourth Nigerian woman suffers domestic violence in her lifetime with the worst forms cited as battery, trafficking, rape and homicide. And a common trend in abusive relationship is that the victim for a long time keeps the situation from people, protecting her abuser.
Diverse reasons have been attributed to why people especially women stay in abusive relationships and often protect abusive partners – stigma or fear of losing custody of children, lack of support from family and friends, lack of alternative means of economic support, concern for their children, love and the hope that the partner will change, religious teachings and cultural belief among many other issues. A World Health Organisation multi-country study research finding revealed that abused women that leave their spouses do so when they come to the realisation that they may lose their lives or after being kicked out of their homes usually after multiple attempts and years of violence.
According to the report, factors associated with the final leaving of an abusive partner permanently include an escalation in violence severity, a realization that her partner will not change and the recognition that the violence is affecting her children and if she dies, the man will still live a full life.
However, according to the research, for women that finally finds an escape route, the influence of abuse can persist long after the violence has stopped and the more severe the abuse, the greater its impact on a woman’s physical and mental health as an impact over time of different types and multiple episodes of abuse appears to be cumulative.
The African culture as well as religious belief has been identified as a major factor that leads to abuse against women. Such identified norms include the belief that a man is superior and has the right to assert power over a woman and that a man has a right to physically discipline a woman for perceived ‘incorrect’ behaviours.
Other such norms include the belief that saxual intercourse is a man’s right in marriage and saxual activity including rape is a sign of masculinity, a woman should tolerate violence in order to keep her home, physical violence is an acceptable way to resolve conflict in a relationship and girls are responsible for controlling a man’s saxual urges.
Recent occurrences have opened up the understanding of many that violence and abuse goes beyond a man battering his wife as it spans a wide range of issues like women violating their husbands and parents or guardians abusing their children and wards. And in the last few years, there has been massive reorientation and advocacy to ensure that incidents of violence reduce and cases are reported on time before it becomes fatal but rather than abate, more cases are reported regularly and many attribute this to the prevalent financial situation in the country and the core belief held by many that a man owns a woman and can do as he likes.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines violence as any act or attempted act, which causes or may cause any person physical, saxual, psychological, verbal, emotional, verbal or economic harm to others whether it occurs in private or public life, in peace time and in conflict situations.
As a result, government had to make stronger efforts to curb the rising trend of Intimate Partner violence (IPV) and protect people from suffering acts of violence from others. The Nigerian government ratified international legislation on violence and the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights was domesticated. Also, government signed the Convention on Elimination of Discrimination against Women and the African Protocol on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol).
It further domesticated the Convention on the Rights of the Child and called it the Child Rights Act and this is already operational in 24 states of the federation. But to show its determination to curb all sorts of violence against persons in the country, the Violence against Persons (Prohibition) Act (VAPP) 2015 which incorporates rights guaranteed under Section 38 of the Nigerian constitution was enacted.
VAPP is an act put in place to eliminate violence both in private and public life as well as prohibit all forms of violence against persons and to provide maximum protection and effective remedies for victims while it provides for punishment for offenders.
Dr Cheluchi Onyemelukwe of the Centre for Health Ethics Law and Development in an overview of the VAPP Act which covers all forms of violence and prescribes punishment for each explained that acts covered under VAPP includes rape, incest, indecent exposure, physical violence or injury, spousal battery, attack with harmful substance, physical violence, female genital mutilation, forced isolation from family and friends, emotional, psychological and verbal violence.
Other acts that the act provides protection against includes all traditional behaviour, attitudes or practices which negatively affect the fundamental rights of women, girls, or any person like harmful widowhood practices, denial of inheritance or succession rights, forced marriages, forced financial dependence or economic abuse such as unreasonable deprivation of financial resources for necessaries, unreasonable disposal of property, abandonment of spouse and children without means of sustenance
Speaking on the issue of domestic violence in the country, a rights activist and founder and president of Women Arise for Change Initiative, Dr Joe Okei-Odumakin in an interview stated that the level of violence against women in Nigeria is increasing by the day with two out of every three women in certain communities experiencing violence in the family.
According to her, it is difficult to determine the extent of domestic violence in Nigeria because official statistics on violence in the home are not collected and incidents of domestic violence tend to go unreported. And on the relationship between poverty, socio-economic challenges of the country and domestic violence, she said, “there is no doubt that the high level of poverty and socio-economic challenges in the country have contributed in no small measure to the prevalence of domestic violence in Nigeria. Economic and financial hardship, unemployment and the attendant challenges lead to frustration and emotional stress for many men and young people who after-all visit the anger on their counterparts through battering, saxual assault among others,” Okei-Odumakin said.
Also, she stated that the fear of financial insecurity has made most women embrace the culture of silence even at the face of great danger and death threats in situation of domestic violence, adding that religion and cultural beliefs continue to encourage domestic violence in Nigeria.
“All the religions practiced in Nigeria encourage women to endure the atrocities of men and keep their homes. Most of the religions profess that women are “homemakers” at all cost even in the wake of violence against them. Cases of domestic violence are rampant because most of the people are encouraged to respect tradition even when it is harmful or barbaric,” she said.
Barrister Dave Ajetomobi, a former Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association, Ikeja branch says that the law is good but may be hindered by cultural and religious beliefs.
“It’s a good law; our problem has always been implementation. Some cultural, religious and political factors may hinder the enforcement of the law. Ordinarily, it should reduce domestic violence but in Nigeria, if the offender goes scot free, the law will be useless. Religious factor is a situation where religious leaders will appeal to the victim not to press charges against the offender while the cultural factor is the belief that you can’t return from court and still be friends and political factor is man knows man.
“Poverty may hinder the enforcement of the law in the sense that the victim may feel that since they are poor, only God can fight for them. Government should make agencies like office of the public defender and legal aid council to embark on public sensitization programmes to bring their existence and functions to the consciousness of citizens, so that people can run to them for assistance when they fall victim of domestic,” Ajetomobi said.
Also speaking on legislature as a means of curbing domestic violence, Barrister Kunle Kamisi, stated that, “the law is meant to discourage every form of violence and protect potential victims against abuse of their fundamental rights to self dignity. Like every other law, it must be obeyed to keep the society in order and sensitize the people against the evil of violence. Failure to obey the law will make the offender liable to be prosecuted and if proved guilty, suffer the prescribed punishment.
“However, reasonable publicity and enlightenment should be given to this law for every citizen to be aware. Again, encouragement should be given to victims of this evil to report such cases to enforcement agencies. The best way to curb violence against people is to ensure compliance with the law and ensure that victims of violence receive justice. To orient the people will involve both the application of the coercive powers of the government and regular indoctrination of the people by using mass media and playing sociological an educational games,” Kamisi said.
In Nigeria, IPV is a menace that continues to thrive based on so many factors and according to stakeholders and researchers, sensitization, orientation and punishment of offenders are the ways to go to curb the growing trend.