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How hard times spur domestic violence at homes

By Kemi Olatunde

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“My husband gave me a dirty slap just because I demanded for money to make stew. It is true that He gave me N3000 about three days earlier but all I could make out ot it was concoction okra soap. We all know the economic situation of the country but he feels that I do keep part of the money he gives me to cook. Most times, I contribute more to ensure that we eat in the house.” These were contained in the words of Mrs Joke Martin (not real name) as she wept profusely while explaining her part of the story after a fight ensued between her and her husband due to unavailability of dinner for him when he returned from work on the fateful day.

It was gathered that the couple used to be a role model to families in their neighborhood before now but the economic hardship has changed the situation.

The above scenerio is not limited to the above family as cases of domestic violence are on the increase due to the situation in the country.

Feelings of hopelessness, worry, anxiety and stress increase during difficult times. These feelings and reactions may hurt a family’s relationship, or may bring them closer as they work through it together, but these days what obtains is violated as the economy bites hard on families.

The economic situation has created considerable stress for families as it has contributed to interparental conflict, which plays a key role in family dynamics and can be a precursor to negative child outcomes. There have also been cases of conflict between children and parents due economic pressures. For instance, how does one explain a scenerio where a child flares up at any given opportunity anytime a father tries scolding him for failing to attend to his chores.

A trader who simply identified herself as Mummy Favour said that she has been the one responsible for the provision of food in the house in the last few weeks due to her husband’s attitude.

According to her, her husband expects a soup of N7000 to be consumed for four days. In reality, everyone knows that it is impossible, as it can only be managed for three meals.

Low-income fathers and paternal family members may be at risk of reduced family involvement due to negative perceptions they may have regarding their value and ability to fill the role of father as economic provider. It’s important to note that the relationship between poverty and father involvement is complicated, as structural violence and other systemic barriers also play a role. Recent research also indicates that despite racist and classist stereotypes about “deadbeat dads,” the majority of low-income fathers are involved with their children once the definition of fatherhood is expanded beyond financial contributor.

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Married couples argue with each other more about finances and other household matters as they cope with economic hardship from the global COVID-19 pandemic.

But these outcomes are similar to what occurred more than a decade earlier, according to a new University of Michigan study that found economic hardships during the 2008 U.S. recession strained household finances and increased marital disagreements.

Economic instability matters because it causes hardship, especially for low-income families. It may hurt children by disrupting family routines and affecting parenting.

The deepening economic crisis is profoundly impacting children, youth and families. Its effects are rippling through the multiple contexts in which children and youths are situated. Within the nuclear family, stressors such as job loss, home foreclosure or loss in family savings place strain on parental relationships and on the family as a whole.

For already low-income families, the shock may be even more severe with basic needs such as food security, healthcare and shelter going unmet. Higher poverty rates are associated with increased rates of family conflict, child neglect and abuse, and intimate partner violence.

According to Dr. Victor Adefesoye, a larger percentage of people are struggling to make ends, something he described as a period of austerity.

He said; “A head of the family who can’t do the needful to meet the immediate needs of his family will be ashamed to call himself a man and as such will not be regarded as the head by some if not all of the family members.

“When there is no food in the home and everybody is hungry, people will exhibit a high level of anger.

“The man is being looked up to for the provision of basic needs but when he fails to provide them, other family members become angry, and if this lingers for a while, it leads to violence.

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“On the part of children, there is poor academic performance in them. A child with nothing to eat can never be attentive in school, as he or she lacks academic concentration which leads to failure. If this isn’t taken care of, such a child may take solace in substance abuse which may lead to abuse.”

A business woman, Mrs. Tope Dada, said that there have been several cases of violence in homes in her surroundings recently.

According to her, it is common to see neighbors interfering in couples’ dispute due to the economic situation of the country.

She said; “There is a couple I visit and to be candid, people look up to them in our area, but these days, the going is no longer good between them. I was shocked to hear that they fought dirty on the street due to the inability of the husband to provide for the family’s needs. In fact, the wife has refused the husband her body until he does the needful. This is a terrible thing.

“Also, a woman too visited her husband in his workplace to disgrace him due to his inability to provide  fare for their twins to visit their grandparents.

“The woman planned the twins’ trip in order to relieve the couple of their responsibility but the man couldn’t raise the fare and this resulted to unscheduled visit to the man’s workshop. The man who could not condole the embarrassment gave her the beating of her life, assuring her of ending their union.”

According to a UNICEF report, there are several cases of violence against women and girls that families of victims cover up, with several others getting settled in court. There is an alarming increase in the rate of wife beating in Nigeria, which has caused government officials to buckle down as the crisis must be curbed to prevent a national embarrassment. Between January and September 2022, there was a report of 2,543 cases of abuse by the Lagos State Domestic and Sexual Violence Agency (DSVA).

During the COVID-19 pandemic, domestic violence increased across the globe. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in a 2020 report, revealed that about 81,000 women and girls across the world lost their lives; a family member or an intimate partner was responsible for 58 percent (47,000) of these deaths. Data further revealed that in Nigeria, over 47 women have died from the hands of their husbands since the beginning of this year. Before their deaths, they had spoken about their violations. However, those who survived the abuse were terrified and are still silent.

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The UNICEF report on 16 Facts about Violence against Women and Girls in Nigeria revealed that almost 50 percent of women and girls, between the ages of 15 and 45, who are survivors of domestic violence do not tell their ordeals to anyone. This is worsened by lack of trust by citizens, particularly women, in the criminal justice system for enforcement of existing laws., lack of awareness of rights and laws due to social norms that legalize abuse, under-reporting, and stigmatization.

In Nigeria, women and girls are subjected to multiple forms of violence in the home, ranging from deprivation to starvation, hitting, suffocating, burning, acid baths, poisoning, neglect, lack of care, verbal insults, degrading comments, torture and intimidation, female genital mutilation, child marriage, child abuse, denial, neglect, deprivation and abandonment.

While the real number of women who have died arising from domestic violence remains largely unknown, it is important to note that there are also cases of men who have lost their lives after domestic squabbles with their spouses, like Biliyaminu Bello who was stabbed to death by his wife, Mariam Sanda. However, evidence abounds that predominantly, women are largely impacted by domestic violence.

Recent reports indicate that most victims of domestic abuse still shy away from reporting cases of domestic violence in Nigeria either due to cultural reasons or fear of stigmatisation.  Records also shows that there is barely a week without such incidents being in the news.

Not many Nigerians will forget in a hurry the tragic story of the Nigerian gospel singer, Osinachi Nwachukwu, who died after suffering from alleged domestic violence from her husband, Peter Nwachukwu. Peter was alleged to have kicked Osinachi in the chest, leading to a blood clot that eventually killed her.

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How hard times spur domestic violence at homes

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