Allure Special Reports: Violence against women: combating new trends
The United Nations describes violence against women as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life”.
This definition embraces physical, sexual, and psychological violence in the family.
Gender-based violence is a significant health and human rights issue, affecting one in five of the world’s population.
It is also a global pandemic that knows no social or economic boundaries in both developed and developing countries, and the numbers are staggering.
Statics available show that 35% of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/ sexual intimate partner violence or none partner violence. Violence against women which also extends to issues like Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) have records that show that 200 million women have experienced Female Genital Mutilation.
The World Health Organization (WHO) describes violence as, “the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or a group or community, which either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment, or deprivation”.
The case of Ronke BewajiShonde is still fresh on our minds. In May 2016, the news was agog about the death of Ronke Bewaji Shonde, a mother of two, who was allegedly 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 her.
Their fight was because Ronke had denied having marital relations with him for about three months.
The marriage was said to have been impaired by domestic violence, as Lekan Shonde had accused the late Ronke of sleeping with one Kayode, the General Manager of a publishing company.
But recently on March 9, 2019, The Lagos State High Court found Lekan Shonde, a 51-year old depot worker guilty of the murder of his wife, Ronke, and sentenced him to death by hanging.
Although justice was served in this case, there are several other situations still begging for attention.
For many well-dressed women we often encounter and even admire on social media, a well- made up face and fancy clothes are just facade behind which some women hide.
One characteristic of gender-based violence is that it knows no social or economic boundaries and affects women and girls of all socio-economic backgrounds.
It is a global concern that needs to kook into in both developing and developed countries. Sad as it seems, most women who are victims of abusive relationships choose to keep mum, pretending that all is well until there is a threat to their lives.
For over a year that her marriage lasted, Nollywood celebrity, Tonto Dike, kept her husband’s abuse of her from public knowledge.
Her marriage has since crashed. In the same boat was Mercy Aigbe who later cried out when the spate of violence became too much to bear.
These are celebrities, but there are everyday women- homemakers who still suffer the same fate in the hands of their violent partner. What baffles any observer is why they choose to remain in these abusive relationships.
Founder of Echoes of Women in Africa Initiatives, Louisa Eikhomun Agbonkhese blames the society for this. According to her, ”
They are afraid of the stigma that’s why a victim of rape will be silent even an adult female victim, because of society’s attitude of vilifying victims with double abuse”.
For IheomaObibi, Executive Director, Alliance for Africa, women stay in abusive relationships because of several factors that are at stake: “Early marriages, lack of ambition and educational opportunities. The abdication of personal growth plans to a partner or spouse, etc.”.
Women also stay in an abusive relationship because of cultural practices which make the women depend solely on men for all their needs.
A wife and mother without economic power will have issues walking out of a violent relationship because she cannot take care of herself without her husband’s support. For that reason and more, she would rather endure battery until her life is in danger.
For decades, men and women have confined gender-based violence to whispers, while the victims suffer in silence.
The stigma often associated with rape, for example, would make a woman keep silence and leak her wounds in shame. But rape and spousal abuse is not the only form of violence prevalent in Nigeria.
All forms of violence against women are prevalent in Nigeria says Mrs Agbonkhese. ” rape, ritual killings, domestic, kidnapping, trafficking, child abuse etc.”.
Activist Iheoma Obibi also agrees, stressing domestic and sexual violence as more prevalent.
In recent times, it seems that the violation of women is taking on a new dimension. From domestic violence, more women are being seen violently beaten in public, by security operatives.
In 2008, there was the celebrated case of Miss Uzoma Okere, who was assaulted by four officers of the Nigerian Navy for flimsy excuse that Miss Okere was delaying them in traffic on MuriOkunola Street, Victoria Island, Lagos, while on the convoy of Rear-Admiral Harry Arogundade.
The video which went viral, sparked outrage from Nigerians as she was brutalised, dragged on the road and her blouse stripped off, thereby exposing her nakedness.
Miss Okere sought justice in court as she sued Rear-Admiral Harry Arogundade and four naval ratings, C.I. Jeremiah, S.A. Bullem, S.A. Kaniga and Francis Okolaogu, for assaulting her. In 2010, the trial judge, Justice Opeyemi Oke, of the Lagos High Court sitting in Igbosere, awarded N100 million as damages to Miss Okere and also ordered the respondents to write a letter of apology to the claimants, which should be in at least four newspapers within one month of the judgment.
This barbaric kind of violence against seems to be rearing its ugly head again. Recently, another video went viral of security aids of Governor Ifeanyi Okowawho stripped a woman naked, tied both her hands and legs and flogged her with a piece of wood.
This recent event makes one wonder if this public show of force is now a trend with issues of violence against women. If it is, how can women defend themselves?
“Violence has always been in both the public and private domain,” says Iheoma Obibi. But added that the current spate of assault of women by security forces is because “the state has not demonstrated the political will to discipline staff who are violent towards women”.
Reacting again, Mrs Agbonkese says: ” Violence Against Women is endemic, and a scourge that has become a hydra-headed monster. For too long women have been suffering the consequences in silence but with much awareness and sensitisation campaigns, we are now seeing more reports in the media. I don’t want to agree that violence is moving from domestic to the public place. The violence has been in both spheres hindering women’s peace and development.
The impunity of the offenders and complicity of protection agents has given rise to violence and shrinking safe spaces for Women and girls in Nigeria”. She added “Women are no longer safe at home, on the streets, neither are girls safe at home, school or public places.
Girls have to contend rape by family members and strangers. Their personal belongings of underwears, sanitary pads are sought after by ritualists. It’s unsafe to be a Nigerian woman or girl as access to justice is minimal or non-existent.
Girls are drugged, stripped naked for flimsy allegations why? Because there is no enforcement of the law on protection “.
While the law may usually be slow on matters such as this, in the above case, justice was served in full, hot, and on time.
Not only did Governor Ifeanyi Okowa order the sack of Friday oEluro, the said aid, his chieftaincy of the title of “Onyewebudan son of Owa” was also stripped off him by the Obi of Owa, HRM (Dr.) E. O. Efeizomor.
With the spate of actions taken in favour of abused women in recent times, women can no longer afford to keep quiet. It’s time for abused women to come out of the closet and shout at the top of their voices. They can do it well with the help of social media.
Violence against women is not only a crime; it is a violation of women’s human rights.
Most of the success stories recorded so far were largely due to the role played by the media. ” There is more reporting of violence,” says Ms Obibi “but there is a lot that we need to do”.
As a consequence of the UN General Assembly’s resolution 48/104 of 20 December 1993, in 1999, the General Assembly, led by the representative from the Dominican Republic, designated 25 November as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.
From country to country and city to city, one women must continue to take action against violence. One of the steps 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”.
It is essential because the effect of violence is profound and far-reaching, not only to the victims but, also to children of victims. Numerous studies have shown that children growing up with violence are more likely to become perpetrators of violence in the future.
In public and private life, violence or the threat of violence frightens many women and keeps them from freely and wholly contributing to the social, economic, and political development of their communities.
This situation further inhibits women from exercising their human rights, and it circumscribes women’s capacity to function as full citizens in society.
Society must also find ways to subdue this evil act by eliminating first, the negative stereotypes that justify gender-based violence.
Religious bodies also have a role to play to ensure that women in Nigerian women have liberation from gender discriminations imposed on them bicultural practices.
The government on their part must continue to provide that gender perspectives should be in policies and programmes related to violence against women.
Commendation goes to Lagos State in this regard as it is very pro-women. Besides the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), it also has several other laws like the Lagos State Domestic Law, the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act put in place in 2015.
If victims of violence continue to cry out, backed by these laws, there is no doubt that the full weight of the bill would come down on perpetrators of this evil act. And when you serve the law, it will be hot and spicy.
” The STATE has not demonstrated the political will to discipline staff who are violent towards women” —–Iheoma Obibi
“The impunity of the offenders and complicity of protection agents has given rise to violence and shrinking safe spaces for Women and girls in Nigeria”. ——————-Louisa Ekhomun Agbonkhese
Dr Gbonjubola Abiri
Dr Gbonjubola Abiri is a Consultant Psychiatrist, Managerial Psychologist, and the M.D /C.E.O of Redi-Med Consulting Services, a Medical Consultancy firm.
How would you assess men with violent behaviours?
Subjective and objective means can be adopted. The individual methods entail clinical interviews of the violent men, significant others and other eye witness accounts on the history of violence (either physical or verbal). Objective means involves using psychological instruments. Different clinical scales can be used to assess violent behaviours; structured interviews that focus on specific actions associated with violence, as well.
How can women protect themselves from such people?
The best and safest means is to avoid being in the situation in the first place. Quite often, victims of abuse had been ignored or dismissed the warning signs such as unwarranted curses, overtly jealous partners, over- possessiveness, monitoring of movement and activities, occasional slaps, psychological abuse and then injury.
Abused people often abuse others. The victims of abuse should seek help. Members of the mental health team including Psychologists and Psychiatrists are available to help.
Above all, the man should be reported to appropriate authorities to take actions including the use of deterrent behaviour, so that other people will not fall into harm.
It is also good to train women on self-esteem, confidence, loving and accepting themselves.
The place of combat sports such as Taekwondo, Judo, Karate etc. is also essential. The idea is not to breed violent women but to help women improve their self-esteem and body image, and also learn to protect themselves.
By Jemi Ekunkunbor