Nigeria: 2022 – Year of Deadly Violence Against Women and the Need to Draw the Line

In Nigeria, women and girls are subjected to multiple forms of violence in the home ranging from deprivation, 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 indicates 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.

When the story about the circumstances around her death broke out, the public were not only shocked, they queried how such a gifted singer suffered domestic violence for such a long time without respite. Sadly, Osinachi joins several cases of women across Nigeria, whose untimely death and injuries were because of domestic violence often by a spouse or intimate partner.

Recall that the 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, adding that they 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 up 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 state chairman of Human Right Defenders (HURIDE), Sampson Nweke, who spoke then, said the victim, who originally hailed from Ndiechi Onuebonyi Igbagu, had on April 19, and reported a case of battery and domestic violence to his office against her husband, Sunday Uguru.

He explained that there was a little delay in serving notice of invitation to her husband because of invalid phone number.

He said the group, while trying to intervene on the matter, “on 25th of April, 2022 spoke with the deceased on phone in the morning inviting her to our office for other actions to be taken.”

He added, “After waiting for many hours in the afternoon, she didn’t come. I dialed her phone number which was picked by another woman who told me that the owner.

Bimbo: Mrs. Abimbola, the wife of popular car dealer, Ikechukwu Ogbonna, better known as IVD reportedly died in a fire incident. However, the family has alleged that their late daughter suffered severe domestic violence and abuse in the hands of her husband before her untimely death.

Ijeoma: 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.

According to force public relations officer, CSP Olumuyiwa Adejobi, trouble started on October 24, 2022 when a heated argument began between both lovers concerning 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.

Wedding Called Off

In a desperate move to avert suffering same fate with Osinachi , a young lady, Ozioma Michael, called off her wedding with her fiancé, David Okike, on grounds of domestic violence.

Ms Michael, with a Facebook name ‘Ada Uburu’ made the announcement on her page. She alleged that her fiancé usually “hit and abused” her at any slightest provocation, adding that she would not live her entire life enduring domestic violence.

Hear her, “My supposed husband is full of rage. Beating me with his belt, stick, and broom is his daily routine. Many times, he had lifted his hammer on me. I met Okike during our days in secondary school, but after the fiancé paid her bride price, he started “maltreating” her.

This is the reason why I am calling off the traditional marriage (Igba-Ngwu) and white wedding ceremony between me and David Okike. Beating me was not part of the agreement in our marriage,” she added.

The surge in the number of domestic violence incidents and reports has continued unabated, consequent to increased efforts to enhance the protection and promotion of women’s rights through the enactment of laws and policies internationally, regionally and nationally.

Such efforts have resulted in standard setting documents like the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women, (CEDAW) the Beijing Platform for Action etc. at the international level, African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights at the regional level and at the National level – National Constitutions – The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended, Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act (VAPP) 2015, Protection Against Domestic Violence Laws, Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Team Agency Law 2021.

Article 1 of the Protocol to the African Charter on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol) and Section 46 of the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act (VAPP) Act of 2015 provide that, violence includes those acts which cause or could cause physical, sexual, psychological, and economic harm, including the threat to take such acts and applies, whether in private or public or in peace time or times of conflict. The definitions are therefore very encompassing and form the basis of addressing GBV as a human rights issue that has implications for the enjoyment of rights of every person.

The Presidential Commission on Reform of the Administration of Justice in Nigeria, 2006 noted that, a deficient criminal justice system which is not sensitive to women worsens the chances of women survivors of violence seeking justice. Amnesty International Nigeria in research, ‘Harrowing Journey: Access to Justice for Women and Girl Survivors of Rape’, published in November 2021, noted that many survivors are discouraged from pursuing their cases, due to revictimisation by the Police and insensitive questioning practices. The Police may be influenced by cultural beliefs about protecting family units, and evidence shows that there is a tendency to treat cases of domestic violence as private matters, declining to prosecute or even act as mediators for reconciliation between parties and families.

Women Are More Victimised

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 Lagos 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. Data showed that Alimosho local council recorded the greatest number of domestic violence cases, closely followed by Ifako-Ijaiye, Ikorodu, and Kosofe local councils.

Factors associated with the occurrence of domestic violence occurrence in Nigeria included ethnicity, culture, religious practices, socio-economic dependence, gender inequality, psychological factors, power, and control, the study stated.

Experts Advice

In the same vein, a Nigerian mental health advocate and psychotherapist, Dr. Maymunah Yusuf Kadiri said domestic violence, which is a pattern of behavior in any relationship that is used to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner, is prominent in Nigeria as in many parts of Africa, adding that there is a deep cultural belief in Nigeria that it is socially acceptable to hit a woman to discipline her.

Kadiri told LEADERSHIP Weekend that cases of domestic violence are on the high and show no signs of reduction in Nigeria, regardless of age, tribe, religion, or even social status. While citing the United Nations Women report, the psychotherapist disclosed that since COVID-19, 48 per cent of Nigerian women have experienced at least one form of violence.

“The incidence of Gender Based Violence (GBV) is growing astronomical with the activities of the insurgency in the Northeast. From forced and early marriages to the physical, mental or sexual assault on a woman, nearly 3 in 10 Nigerian women have experienced physical violence by age 15,” she added.

When asked when a woman should leave an abusive marriage, Kadiri said it might not be easy to identify domestic violence at first. While some relationships are clearly abusive from the outset, she said abuse often starts subtly and gets worse over time.

Kadiri, while listing the signs of an abusive marriage as, “You might be experiencing domestic violence if you are in a relationship with someone who calls you names, insults you or puts you down; prevents or discourages you from going to work or school or seeing family members or friends; acts jealous or possessive or constantly accuses you of being unfaithful; tries to control whether you can see a health care provider; threatens you with violence or a weapon; hits, kicks, shoves, slaps, chokes or otherwise hurts you, your children or your pets; blames you for his or her violent behavior or tells you that you deserve it and many more.”

Despite these signs, Kadiri said many women will not want to leave their homes because being a victim of domestic violence can be a lonely journey. Aside from the fact, there is a deep attachment to the perpetrator which might make it difficult to leave the union, there are also other factors that might contribute to finding it hard to leave which include concern for the kids, how society will view her, religious beliefs, lack of support from relatives and friends, fear of being attacked by her partner and more importantly financial factors, she explained, adding that the man could have probably been the sole breadwinner of the family.

She may be reluctant to leave her marriage due to what I called, ‘Stockholm syndrome’, the name for a psychological response to captivity and abuse, Kadiri said, adding, “A person with Stockholm syndrome develops positive associations with their captors or abusers. A person can develop Stockholm syndrome when they experience significant threats to their physical or psychological well-being.”

In the same vein, Legal practitioner and gender advocate, Rekia Rachael Adejo-Andrew said domestic violence comes in form of physical, sexual, emotional, economic, or psychological, adding that, whatever kind of domestic violence, nobody should stay in an abusive marriage or relationship.

“We have seen single people yet entangled in an abusive relationship and they tend to believe that the man or woman would change with time. Nobody can change the next person. You are only responsible for your actions. You cannot control how the other person should behave,” Adejo-Andrew told LEADERSHIP Weekend.

Citing examples of domestic violence, the gender advocate said, “From the cases of domestic violence we have seen, they begin subtly. Maybe you engage in a conversation with your spouse which progresses into an argument and then the man slaps you. That is how it begins. Or you are married to a man who tells you not to associate with anybody, not even your family members that he does not want any interference from family members, everybody should stay on their own, and gradually, by subtle means, he cuts you off from family and friends. You now discovered that you are entirely dependent on him for everything. By the time he starts beating you, you don’t have anyone to run to.

She disclosed that some of the survivors of domestic violence tend to stay in the marriage because of their children, adding that if she dies, the children will still survive, with or without her, adding that nobody should suffer in an abusive relationship because of children.

Adejo-Andrew, however, tasked all stakeholders in the fight against domestic violence to step up advocacy, so that more women can become aware of their rights.

In terms of policy, she said there are a lot of policies put in place to tackle domestic violence, however, the implementation is the problem. “We lack the willpower to implement the laws and policies that are already in existence. I, therefore, call on government agencies to step up by implementing the laws put in place to protect women and girls against violence.

Most survivors of domestic violence do not have the will to want to seek justice, Adejo-Andrew said while advising victims.

She said, “If he hits you once, he will definitely do it again and again and again. And if you make excuses for him the first time, you will see yourself making excuses for him, over and over and over again, hence the need to seek justice.”

She also advocated that the gender desk must be functional. “When people report cases of domestic violence, let the investigation be conducted. Let us have the names of convicted perpetrators registered in that section offender’s register, to serve as a deterrent to other people who are waiting to perpetuate this evil called domestic violence,” she added.

Assistant director, Community Orientation Mobilisation Officer, Mrs Mope Ayanfalu who spoke with LEADERSHIP Weekend at a workshop organised by Spotlight Initiative, also called on the government to provide shelter for survivors where they will be empowered with skills that can help them cater for themselves and their children.

“In addition, the government should enforce a catch and shame policy, a situation where the perpetrators will be disgraced on various media platforms. We also need more counsellors to go to schools to educate young girls on sex education and what they need to do if someone tries to abuse them. There is a need to address some cultural norms that encourage violence against women and girls in the society,” she added.

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