By Toyin Adepoju
Domestic violence has its roots buried deep in various societies across the world and Nigeria is no exception. As a matter of fact, reports reveal that domestic violence in the country seems to be on the rise lately. Apparently the government and many in the society have not paid the required level of attention to the problem of domestic violence which families from different social, educational, economic and religious backgrounds go through in several ways. Women, irrespective of their social status, age, class, tribe or religion all over the world, still suffer domestic violence.
According to a 2007 Amnesty International report, a third and in some cases, two-thirds of Nigerian women are believed to have been subjected to sexual, psychological and of course, physical abuse meted out by close relations; husbands, fathers or partners. In traditional African societies, domestic violence functions as a means of enforcing conformity with the roles women play within the customary society. The husband is regarded as the head of the family and is responsible for maintaining order in his household. It is then perceived that he has every right to “discipline” his children and his wife if the need arises. This is terribly reprehensible.
Several reasons amount to the sky-rocketing increase of domestic violence in the country. One of such is the “culture of silence”, inherent in the society, especially among uneducated, less independent women. This culture hinders victims from speaking out about their abusive relationships. These women dread the stigma and forced independence that may follow if they ever choose to seek help. Thus, they resort to silence. This act of ignorance only gives the perpetrators more room to carry out their heinous acts and revel in sheer inhumane manipulations.
A victim of domestic violence for ten years, Mary Akangbe, shares her experience about an abusive marriage outside the country with me during my radio show Heart Matters on Splashfm105.5 Ibadan. She explains that she got married to a Nigerian in London and suffered her first blow of abuse just six months into their marriage at the time when she was pregnant with their first child.
Mary admits that though her ex-husband was a “helpless romantic” before their marriage, she did notice some ill-behaviours she thought would change over time. Apparently it didn’t. Mary then resorted to finding help from religious leaders at the church. But the only help these could render was to tell her to get closer to God through incessant prayers and fasting. As it turns out eventually, piety only kept the marriage longer than necessary. Producing two sons she had to hide each time she suspected violence was brewing.
Now an author and Chief Executive Officer of a charity organisation, she says she always sent her children off to her friends’ homes in the neighbourhood during such ungraceful moments but couldn’t prevent them from witnessing the horrible scenes all the time.
When her divorce eventually got through more than 10 years after the nuptial knots were tied, she had to put her sons through lots of counseling to re-orientate them on proper ways of relating with members of the society, especially the complimentary sex whom they will have to get married to someday.
From Mary’s experience, it could be deduced that domestic violence knows no bounds. Generally, it is expected that places like London in developed countries, there should be little or no incidents of domestic violence, owing to the level of monitoring available there. Sadly, domestic violence rears its ugly head everywhere. Mary did reach out to friends and family too but according to her, they only showed concern towards the issue on the surface. No one chose to go in deep within to rescue her. Not because they didn’t want to, but they didn’t know how to.
Though, the world today just might be sourcing for possible ways to put the menace of domestic violence away by appropriately punishing the perpetrators of such crimes, its lingering effects on children seem to be totally ignored. Research reveals that children brought up in violent homes without proper counseling are at risk of becoming violent themselves. Such children are unwittingly forced to perceive life from the perspective of cruelty, anger and frustration so much that it gets extremely difficult and sometimes impossible to make them see things otherwise. The end result of this poses a great threat to the overall development of any and every nation in various terms. Left without any re-orientation, such children may grow to replicate what they have witnessed in their own homes while others may completely go all out being bullies, robbers and in extreme cases, killers.
Therefore, if domestic violence must be curbed, the government needs to put all necessary facilities in place to assist victims of domestic violence. This could be in form of comfortable shelters for victims in extremely dangerous situations. Law enforcement agencies must be readily available to swing into action and bring perpetrators to book. The society should at all times, uphold the principle of gender equality and discourage all forms of gender discrimination in its existence. With the strong platform of the media, valuable contents and materials that would campaign against domestic violence should be pushed forward. This would enlighten the populace and paint a crystal clear picture distinguishing between what is right and wrong, what is ethical and what is morally and legally unacceptable.
Oluwatoyin Adepoju is a rights enthusiast. She is currently the head of programs at splashfm1055 Ibadan. She can be reached on: firstname.lastname@example.org