Centre for 21st Century Issues

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It would have been needless to quote any statistics to prove violence against women, but to give you a fair idea of the situation, I have decided to bring here few national and global statistics, even though they may be smaller than the bigger picture.

There are different kinds of violence suffered by women, but for the purpose of this article, I will dwell on domestic violence – violence meted to women by their spouses or spouses’ family.

According to UN Women, it is estimated that 35 percent of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual violence from intimate partner or by a non-partner at some point in their lives.

Nigeria’s 2017 voluntary report on progress of implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), submitted to the High Level Political Forum (HLPF) has it that 34.9 percent of ever partnered women and girls aged 15 years and older were subjected to physical, sexual or psychological violence by a current or former intimate partner in the last 12 months.

You may ask, don’t men suffer physical violence from women? While my answer is in affirmative, less men (15%) suffer physical violence from women than women (85%) do from men.

It is still debatable why men physically abuse women. Some people think men by nature are aggressive and domineering beings and so are always threatened by any action or inaction from women that tries to diminish their domineering personality. Also, emboldened by some Biblical and Quoranic injunctions which see the man as the head of household, some men have made themselves gods before their wives. The Book of Ephesians 5:22-24 says “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.” Similarly, the Book of 1 Timothy 2:11-15 and 1Corinthians 11:3 recognize man as the head of his family. According to the Holy Quran (4:34) – “Men are in charge of women, because Allah hath made the one of them to excel the other, and because they spend of their property (for the support of women). So good women are the obedient, guarding in secret that which Allah hath guarded. As for those from whom ye fear rebellion, admonish them and banish them to beds apart, and scourge them. Then if they obey you, seek not a way against them.”

Could these be the passages in the Holy Bible and Quoran which some men use to justify their physical abuse on women forgetting other passages in the same Bible and Quoran such as Ephesians 5:33 and 1 Peter 3:7 which admonish the man to love, respect and honor the wife just like himself and Quoran 4:34 which says men should not physically abuse their wives even though with a condition that if they obey them?

In Africa and in other parts of the world, men are recognized as heads of their households and this privilege extends to more recognition of men for leadership roles in public spaces.

It seems to me that, the religious and traditional leadership privileges given to man has bolstered his ego over women. He has forgotten that he is given a huge responsibility to ensure justice, peace, unity and development. As far as I am concerned, battery of a partner is the highest level of irresponsibility, an indicator of a power-drunk leadership. Majority of men abuse this rare leadership opportunity given to them as they openly abuse their wives in the presence of the children who grow up to think this is normal and continue with the trend. I am very lucky to have had a responsible father who I did not witness pick any quarrel with my mother, talk less of a fight. But not all children are lucky as I am as physical abuse of mothers leads to disintegration of some families which affects education and general bringing up of children.

Violence against women has increased in frequency over the years and it is found to be one of the factors militating against full realization of the potentials of women which would have contributed to the development of society. In a bid to end violence against women, the United Nations established the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) which was adopted in 1979. The Convention calls on countries to implement laws and programs that will eliminate violence against women. Similarly, target 5.2 of the SDGs aims to end all forms of violence against women. In line with the CEDAW and the SDGs, the Nigerian government in 2015 enacted the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act.

Unfortunately, all the available global and national instruments have not succeeded in reducing violence against women, but it is not impossible for violence against women to be eliminated.

Government has the biggest role to play to ensure that women are not physically abused by prosecuting people who are found culpable so as to deter others who may have intention of physically abusing women not to do so. Agencies of government like the Police that is the first point of call when issues of physical abuse occur are very critical in preventing violence against women if the reported cases of abuse are properly handled and prosecuted. But over the years it is observed that most reported cases of abuses are seen by the Police as a mere family matter, or in rape cases, the complainants are blamed for dressing seductively or for visiting a man to have been raped. This kind of attitude has led to many cases of abuse to go unreported while the victims suffer the psychological trauma in silence. Police are critical in the implementation of the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act, but they can effectively contribute to the implementation of this law only if they are welcoming, open, listen, protect the victim and arraigns the perpetrators for prosecution.

The society also needs to change the way it looks at a woman as a lesser being, so much so that an abuse to a woman by a man is considered normal while abuse of a man by a woman is considered a sacrilege. Many women are at a risk of becoming homeless once the husband dies as some families don’t see her suitable to inherit the husband’s property.

There is also a big role for the traditional and religious leaders many of whom receive reports of abuses and look at them with patriarchal eyes and do not condem as they see nothing wrong with that. It is time they begin to see that there is everything wrong with physically abusing anybody irrespective of his/her sex, and therefore condem or report unrepentant persons to the law enforcement agencies.

The Constitution of Nigeria has given the fundamental right to all her citizens including women and girls to be free from degrading and inhumane treatment. Physical abuse of women is a degrading and inhumane treatment and so is against the Constitution of Nigeria and a legal matter that requures justice.

Whatever reasons that may be advanced, they can never be sufficient and justifiable to physically abuse women.

Two questions always come to my mind when issues of abuse on women come up: All men are born of women, and why would men curse the breast that they suckled?, why would men not hit their male friends that wrong them, but hit their closest female partner that does so?

Say NO to violence against women.

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