By Kemi Olatunde
“I asked my husband for money for the upkeep of the home among other things and he raised his hands against me. He beat me blue black and I landed in the hospital. I have been married for fifteen years but that was the first time I experienced such from him. I have four children of both sexes for him, I love him and I don’t want to lose him.”
These were the words of a health worker in Akure who craved anonymity as she shared her experience with our reporter on the abuse she suffered from her husband whom she described as a health assistant in a private health facility.
Violence against women and girls is one of the most widespread, persistent and devastating human rights violations in the world. One in three women experience physical, sexual or intimate-partner violence. Violence is no respecter of status, class, age etc, as perpetrators can be a religious leader, political office holder, artisan etc.
It is not uncommon to hear about men who show their strength by battering their wives.
The victim, most times endures the abusive relationship, putting up with different forms of domestic and physical abuses for their children or for love.
Women perception of abuse in Nigeria
In Nigeria, women’s labour market participation is rising and this gives them more status and any move towards status equality appears to be a risk factor for women’s experience of abuse. It is observed that women in prestigious occupations have lower odds of experiencing spousal abuse than women in lower ranked occupations. On the other hand, women in more prestigious occupations than their partners have greater odds of experiencing violence. Women have greater odds of abuse if their male partners are in prestigious occupations.
In a patriarchal society like Nigeria with ingrained gender roles, obvious status inconsistencies may create some embarrassment for husbands. Situations where the wife is a medical practitioner and the husband is not working, for example, or where the wife is an accountant and the husband is a trader, could be perceived as a threat.
Revealing that there is a high level of violence against women in Nigeria, a study titled: “Domestic Violence among Women in Nigeria and Its health Implication – Review” stated that in Southeast, Nigeria, 70 per cent of respondents reported abuse in their family, with 92 per cent of the victims being female partners and eight per cent being male.
On women’s perception of wife-beating in Nigeria, the study showed that 64.4 per cent and 50.4 percent of ever-married and unmarried women respectively expressed consent for wife-beating.
In Lagos State, for instance, data from the State Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Team (DSVRT) showed that in 2021, the agency dealt with 2,584 domestic and sexual violence cases for adults, out of which women were the greatest victims with 2,349 cases.
Factors associated with the occurrence of domestic violence in Nigeria include ethnicity, culture, religious practices, socio-economic dependence, gender inequality, psychological factors, power, and control, the study stated.
Reports of death through spousal abuse
There have been stories of women losing their lives such as the story of Kolade Arowolo, a 30-year-old man who was alleged to have murdered his banker-wife. He claimed he did it in self-defense. Another alleged case was that of Olalekan Shonde, a 51-year-old, who brutally killed his wife in Egbeda area of Lagos, Nigeria but denied killing her.
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.
Lagos State police had not too long ago, arrested one David Idibie who resides in Ajah, Lagos State, for the death of his 42-year-old wife, Juliana Idibie, who was found dead in their apartment.
The man was arrested for allegedly beating Juliana to death. Police found the body of Juliana in their apartment after a neighbour contacted the police. Late Osinachi and Juliana are just a few out of the spring of Nigerian women who are victims of domestic abuse and who suffered extreme physical violence in the hands of their husbands until their deaths.
In April, Anulika Uguru, a mother of seven, died in Ebonyi State following alleged domestic violence and wife battery by her husband.
The incident occurred in Ekeru-Inyimaegu in Izzi local government area of the state. The victim, who originally hailed from Ndiechi Onuebonyi Igbagu, had reported a case of battery and domestic violence against her husband, Sunday Uguru.
Mrs. Abimbola, the wife of popular car dealer, Ikechukwu Ogbonna, better known as IVD reportedly died in a fire incident. However, the family alleged that their late daughter suffered severe domestic violence and abuse in the hands of her husband before her untimely death.
A 48-year-old Abuja business woman, Ijeoma Phillis Chiboli was gruesomely murdered by her 31-year-old Tochukwu Christian Edeh, her lover whom she met on social media, Facebook.
Trouble started on October 24, 2022 when a heated argument ensued between the duo over financial mismanagement.
Tochukwu, who was alleged to have sold Ijeoma’s Toyota highlander car in May 2022 reportedly hit her with a pistol at the ‘upper region of her body.
Experts opinion on how to eradicate sexual and gender based violence occasioning death
According to a study on media justice status report on Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) in Nigeria, missing evidence in justice administration on such cases in Nigeria occasioned by poor documentation in the value chain of justice, not only leads to delays in justice administration, but also stalls justice delivery. Specifically, the study documented that poor NGO, Police and court databases; and poor media follow-up on reported cases are responsible for ‘missing’ justice in the fight against SGBV.
Zeroing-in on the gaps in media reports, it stated that another challenge with tracking the status of some of the SGBV cases reported in the media was the absence of necessary information in the initial report that could be used to trace the authorities involved or other people who could help with the status of the case. Importantly, identifiers, like age, sex, location, date, time, and other vital details are often missing in SGBV reports, while some of the stories quoted unknown sources.
Others are women’s lack of access to legal information, aid or protection; states not adopting relevant laws that effectively prohibit violence against women; the low level of awareness about the laws/inadequate efforts on the part of public authorities to promote awareness of/and enforce existing laws; victims poor knowledge of how to access justice; and the absence of educational and other means to address the causes and consequences of violence.
In order to reduce the incidence of SGBV, survivors and NGOs/other not-for-profit organisations handling SGBV cases should ensure proper documentation of evidence; and state actors in charge of investigation, prosecution and justice delivery should deploy technology to properly and accurately document cases for easy retrieval. The state government should equip courts with computerised data archiving systems to ensure all case files can always be traced easily; and track justice administration from when the cases were filed till when justice was administered.
To improve trust, accountability and gender justice needed to build an inclusive nation where justice prevails. Furthermore, stiff penalties should be imposed on court clerks, police officers and prison staff who frustrate or attempt to frustrate efforts of complainants at getting justice for SGBV.
It is also important for the government to invest in capacity development for the police and other security agencies who handle SGBV cases on VAPP and other related laws, arrest, investigation and prosecution; and to hone their skills in the use of language, empathy, documentation, cultural awareness, human rights, women’s rights, child rights and right to justice and other related issues. This will help reskill prosecutors on best practices in prosecuting sexual and gender-based violence cases; in particular, make them adopt the survivor centred approach, which would help victims/survivors get justice.
There should be timeline for justice administration on SGBV cases; as well as a policy to compel judges to take the evidence of IPOs as soon as SGBV cases are before them to encourage victims to seek for redress and reduce the frustration and burden of prosecution on complainants. The policy should also put a ceiling on the timeline for delivering judgement on SGBV cases or else the government should set up special courts for handling SGBV cases aimed at timely dispensation of justice.
For the cold cases, the list of GBV cases showing when they were filed in courts and the list of offenders that jumped bail should be compiled. Those that jumped bail should be declared fugitives and the Inspector General of Police (IGP) be made to declare them wanted. For Investigating Police Officers (IPOs) that have been transferred, their evidence can be taken virtually. These procedures should be adopted by all states, as the problems are practically universal.
Psychiatrist advocates creation of policy against abuse
Speaking with The Hope, Chief Medical Director, Ondo State Neuro Psychiatric Hospital, Akure, Dr. Sunday Sajo described such violence as either intimate partner/domestic violence/abuse stating that domestic violence is violence which happens within the domestic setting.
According to him, a violent man extends it to other members of the family noting that such behavior isn’t acceptable in the society
He listed the different forms of violence to include physical assault, battering, threat, sexual violence, emotional abuse and economic abuse among others ascribing the major cause of violence to the society.
He said; “A lot of people are doing it and getting away with it and a behavior is common in a society that condole such behavior. Also poverty is another cause likewise literacy level, mental illness etc.
“There are different types of mental illness; people who are addicted to substance abuse, people with dementia, people with antisocial personality disorders etc. These may make a man exhibit domestic violence against his wife. Mental illness is an illness that affects people’s behavior; it affects our thinking.
“Physical illness is another cause and this affects the brain. Our character affects our relationship with others and stressors generally. People with aggressive relationship are likely to exhibit such character. Personality plays a key role in determining if a man will exhibit such behavior against his wife.
“Another cause is the victim’s behavior. If she lacks respect or has negative attitude, she will be at the receiving end of domestic violence. It has been observed that most of the men who abuse their wives don’t have mental illness, their wives’ attitude provoke the men to assault them.
“Lack of policy against domestic violence is another cause. If a policy is put in place to checkmate these men, it will gradually go into oblivion.”
Speaking extensively on the way out, he stressed the need for awareness creation on possible consequence noting that those who exhibit such character need psychological attention saying ”a behavior is abnormal if it isn’t acceptable to the society.
“Psychological intervention is in different forms; awareness creation, counselling against the act etc. They should be made available for psychiatric evaluation and this will help doctors identify people indulging in it due to mental health issue and treat them. It will also enable health workers identify the type of personality the abuser has so as to be addressed medically.
“Due to the associated stigma, it will prevent some people from perpetrating the act.
“Government should make the environment condusive for families to thrive. Domestic violence is bidirectional but women are more affected.”
Leave a Reply