Taming The Monster Called Violence Against Women
By Jemi Ekunkunbor
Femi and Angela Aboderin (not real names) were five months into their marriage when it started. A little argument or disagreement over an issue meant she was disrespecting him and not submitting to his authority. After a while, such open disagreement was forbidden for Angela. Failure to comply was accompanied by a slap, then a shove and then more slaps. The beating continued with Angela turning up at work with a black eye or bruises in some parts of her body. On every occasion, Angela had her excuses ready for her colleagues who were now worried about her frequent falls in the bath tub and swellings from insect bites.
Testifying at a men’s conference three years later, Angela’s husband, Femi told the gathering that he had no idea that beating his wife was wrong. As far as he could remember, his father beat his mother as a way of cautioning or correcting her when she did something wrong. For him, beating Angela was a way of effecting correction and expressing his superiority over her as his wife. Femi, an Engineer has two Master’s degrees.
Violence against women is a global concern. This phenomenon is recorded in many societies in first, second and third worlds. It is experienced by women the world over irrespective of their level of education, social or financial status.
Like Femi, some men believe they are justified to hit their wives if the women argue with them or refuse to have sexual relations. The situation from where violence results vary from person to person or relationship to relationship. But it is worth noting that there are women in high places who are being battered by their spouses, but, are too ashamed to come open with their situations.
Tonto Dike and Mercy Aigbe, two Nollywood actresses whose marriages crashed recently, alleged that their husbands physically abused them. For over a year that Tonto Dike’s marriage lasted, she kept mum about the violence her husband perpetuated on her. In the case of Mercy Aigbe, although she initially denied it, coming out with her husband to make a public statement that there was no case of abuse in their relationship, but when the violence became too much to bear, she took to her instagram page to admit that her husband had been battering her.
Violence takes many forms –from the overt to the subtle. It is now common to see women violated in every area. Violence involves physical, economic, psychological, sexual or even verbal abuse. Note that this violence is usually perpetuated by an intimate partner.
In May 2016, news was agog about the death of Ronke Bewaji Shonde, a mother of two, who was killed by her husband Lekan Shonde, at their Egbeda home in Lagos. Although Lekan denied killing her, he said he was angry and pushed her hand away leading to the fall that eventually killed. Their fight was because Ronke had denied having conjugal relationship with him for about three months.
The case was charged to court and Lekan is currently cooling his heels at the Ikoyi Prison in Lagos.
Ronke is just one of the many women who have lost their lives to men who battered them. Why would these women not opt out of these relationship? Many have had their faces bathed with acid, yet when they had the chance to quit such violent relationships, they refused choosing to leave in denial. Deny from here to the moon, if any of these resembles a woman’s situation, then violence is being perpetuated against her.
If a man pushes her violently, slaps her, pulls her hair, hurts her, throws objects at her, choked or burnt her, threatens her with a weapon or forced her to have sex and she obliged because she is afraid of the consequences of refusal. If he humiliates her or belittled her enough to cripple her self esteem, she is being violently abused.
The case is still fresh on our minds of John Edobor, the Zenith Bank manager in one of the Lagos branches who battered his wife Ivie with the help of hired thugs. He hit her legs repeatedly with a metal rod and broke her bones.
John was eventually sacked by the bank while Ivie is still fighting to get justice done for her right leg that she may lose.
Bose Ironsi of Women’s Health And Rights Project says, women must never accept violence of any kind. According to her, “before physical violence, there must have been emotional and psychological torture. That is when to leave. They must not accept violence”. Unfortunately, most women don’t leave choosing rather to endure hoping for change. “Women are afraid to leave because they fear that society will view it as failure on their part that they didn’t manage their homes well. Women accept it also because of culture. These are the kinds of stereotypes that keep them in violent relationships. But they should leave a violent relationship, identify what triggers it and seek help. A woman should flee when she is being threatened“.
Why a man would choose to beat the wife he vowed to “love and cherish “ still remains a mystery. Activist, Mrs Laila St Matthew Daniel says it’s all about control. “Violent men do not have control over their emotions. They have a misguided sense of their own importance. The reason behind domestic violence is about control, and control, comes from the fact that the men have various degrees of mental health issues that translates into them feeling inadequate, not confident and lacking self esteem. So because they do not have control over their own emotions, they direct their inadequacy at a weaker vessel who is not of their own strength. It is this exhibition of their anger that turns into violence. It’s all about control-to control the the woman, what she says, what she does etc because, violent people react to jealousy, they are obsessed. But all of these things they are exhibiting is what is wrong with them. Something has happened to them which has defaced the perception of themselves and in defacing it, they are not very happy with themselves. So, in order to boost their ego, they come against a weaker vessel and instill fear in her. But these same men, when they are outside, will not fight their fellow men because they are not sure of what will happen”.
Concerned by this evil phenomenon, in 1999, the UN General Assembly set aside the 25th of November every year as the International Day for the Elimination of all forms of Violence Against Women. Non governmental organizations like Project Alert, Women’s Health and Rights Project, Acts have been in the forefront of providing help for domestically battered women and girls. Even with the campaigns and often reported cases in the media, this dastardly act continues. Reports reveal that one out of every three women would experience physical or sexual violence in her lifetime.
Domestic Violence is a major obstacle to growth and development of women. Last year witnessed a number of cases in Nigeria. One of the ways to subdue this evil act is by eliminating first, the negative stereotypes that justify gender based violence against women.
One of the actions to be taken to prevent this dastardly act as contained in the Women Platform for Action and the Beijing Declaration, is the “ prosecution of offenders; take measures to ensure the protection of women subjected to violence”.
The Lagos State government has played leadership role in this regard to ratify and/ or implement international human rights norms and instruments as they relate to violence against women, especially the implementaction of the Convention on the Elimination Of All Forms Of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). These can be quickly achieved when government ensure gender perspectives are built into policies and programmes related to violence against women. “Lagos State is very pro women” says Bose Ironsi. “They have several laws like the Lagos State Domestic Law, the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act put in place in 2015 as well as CEDAW.
While government and NGOs are providing access to the mechanisms of justice, women who are violated on their part should not keep quiet but speak out. And when the heat becomes too much in the kitchen, get out. As Bose Ironsi succinctly puts it, “flee”.