Violence against women and girls takes different dimensions, from physical abuse, to emotional, financial, psychological, mental and sexual. One must inquire into the causes that encourage domestic violence against women and girls in Nigeria. Some of these include: culture, religion, beliefs, and perceived gender roles just to mention a few. Violence against women and girls in Nigeria has been in existence for a long time. Yet the problem is yet to get adequate attention.
Without doubt, domestic violence constitutes a serious problem and threat to society and this menace begs for solutions. While there are laws in the country to minimize this problem, implementation remains hampered by cultural beliefs and have either been stalling or ignored totally paying any attention to domestic violence.
Domestic violence, in whatever face, name or justification it comes should never be overlooked, that is why it is important to manage it as early as possible, in other words, all participants directly or indirectly involved should be responsible for controlling and preventing repetitions of domestic violence against women and girls in Nigeria.
This can be done in the following ways:
The Home: Fathers should know that as they would not want any harm done to their daughters or sisters, who might one day become wives, so should they respect and love their wives who are also daughters of other people. Women on the other hand should learn not to cope with and tolerate domestic violence, but understand that they are in danger which could end their lives. Hence, they need to seek help as soon as they recognize signs of abuse in their spouses. Equally important is the training they give to their daughters. Mothers should learn to promote and instill a sense of independence on their daughters and not make them feel their existence depends on a man.
Law Enforcement Agents: Outside the home, we come to law enforcement agents. It is rather disheartening to know that in Nigeria, reporting domestic violence to law enforcement agents can be disappointing as domestic violence is often viewed a private family matter that does not need the intervention of government; rather they often refer the couple to settle within the family. Likewise too, courts are reluctant to impose any significant punishment on domestic violence offenders as they think it is a family affair which could be privately solved.
This angle of reasoning ought to be revised as domestic violence in Nigeria and the world at large has risen in unprecedented manner often leading to damaging consequences like maiming, permanent physical and psychological scars and even death in the victim. As a consequence, domestic violence should move from being a private matter to a public one and be equated with criminal offences. In other words, reported cases of domestic violence should not be flimsily dismissed but should be taken seriously by law enforcement agents.
Medical Practitioners: Medical practitioners too have a role to play. Since most wounds and cases of domestic abuse are handled by physicians, these care providers instead of keeping silence should be involved in the management and eradication of domestic violence by reporting such cases to the police.
Non-Governmental Support: Various organizations have been formed in Nigeria which provides assistance and protection of domestic abuse victims, laws and criminal remedies, and domestic violence courts. Our Centre for Health Ethics Law and Development, runs the Domestic Violence Centre. Many of these require financial and moral support to effectively do the work they do on advocacy, and providing legal, material and other kinds of support.
Counselling: Counselling is another important technique in managing domestic violence, counseling both for the victim and the offender. Other ways to prevent and manage domestic violence include the development of homes or shelters by governments and non-governmental organisations for abused victims as many abused women have nowhere to run to; there should also be a creation of educational programs on prevention of domestic violence.
To conclude, domestic violence in Nigeria has been in existence for a long time, but unlike before, more publicity has been given to this rising problem, thanks to the social media and more women’s resolve not to suffer in silence anymore. The Nigerian government has taken legal proceedings to prosecute men who abuse women in several states. There is currently a push however for federal laws concerning domestic violence and for a stronger national response and support for domestic violence issues. With much hope, it is expected that in the near future, offenders of domestic abuse against women and girls in Nigeria will be duly punished and protections provided for persons living in domestic violence situations.
Mary A. Afolabi-Adeolu
Centre for Health Ethics Law and Development
If you are a victim of domestic violence, please visit our website and download the The Red Diary