Based on a conducted survey, personal and work experiences garnered, I will be writing on a series of topics on women’s issues in Africa and using Nigeria as a case study, with the belief that these issues will be relevant to other low-income countries across the globe.
First Series: Domestic Violence and Justice for Women
Domestic violence (DV) or Gender-based violence has been in the development discourse for a while now. It is also a global challenge that international organisations are seeking to eliminate based on its detrimental psychological, physical, and mental effects. Nigeria, like any patriarchal country, is no exception.
One of the questions posed in the independent research conducted on Domestic Violence with 80 participants from all the geopolitical zones in Nigeria was “if justice is served for abused victims who report cases of domestic violence in Nigeria” 46 people (agreed), while 33 people (Disagreed). Statistically, this depicts that the majority believe that justice is served, however, with a 13% difference between the people who think justice is served and those who believe otherwise,
The above result begs the following questions:
- Are Nigerian women aware of their rights?
- Are Nigerian women aware of the appropriate authorities to approach on issues regarding domestic violence in Nigeria?
- Is justice always served for women with issues around Domestic Violence?
Based on my experience as a social worker, I dare to answer NO to the above questions and below are my reasons:
The percentage of women who visited my former workplace is minute, compared to the larger percentage of other women who were or are not aware of such institutions. Also, based on several complaints on DV on social media on major women’s platforms in Nigeria, I could infer that many Nigerian women lack adequate knowledge of appropriate authorities or organisations to approach. Hence, they are also unaware of their rights. And even if they knew, some factors have impeded them from speaking out and seeking justice. Below are some discussions around some of the factors that were generated from the questionnaire for these series
Culture of Silence
Many women who are victims of DV in Nigeria, prefer to suffer in silence and not seek help. This could be a result of harsh criticisms from family or community members. A cycle of domestic violence cycle in the family, where the mother had the same experience, and neither spoke out nor sought help. Many times, the daughter is required to act the same way to protect the image of the family or bear it all for fear of societal stigmatisation and cultural values.
The usual panacea for some Nigerians DV victims is to approach religious leaders such as pastors and Imams to mediate in the issue. More often than not, the woman is blamed and required to be a ‘home builder’ regardless of the harm caused and ill-treatment. Religion is also used as a weapon, to advocate forgiveness thereby, enabling the men to continue in the despicable act without fear of consequence. Thus, many Nigerian women cultivate silence culture and do not seek help.
These same cultural and religious reasons, underpin the treatment meted to women when DV cases are reported to the police. They are often told to go and ”settle it in the family way”. Phrases like these deter Nigerian women from speaking out. They also reinforce the belief that ” justice is not served for victims who report cases of DV”.
Despite the results from the survey, and the popular belief that there is injustice for Nigerian women, it is noteworthy to state that both governmental, and Non-Governmental Organisations, have come a long way in combatting DV and serving justice to victims in Nigeria. Across the federation, Ministries of Women Affairs, Community Development, and Social welfare, popularly known as ‘Welfare’ abound, where cases of DV are legally dealt with by professionals and sanctions are placed on culprits. Invitation and undertaking letters, prison sentences among others are issued, are some measures, adopted at the Ministry to fight this problem.
Also, local NGOs such as Project Alert, Women Empowerment and Legal Aid, Women’s Right Advancement and Protection Alternative (WRAPA) among others have been doing awesomely, regarding this. Project Alert, for instance, has over a decade been a major front liner in combatting this challenge. From providing legal aid representation for indigent victims to providing safe spaces for victims and finally empowerment of the victims, they are your plug, in issues relating to DV. Similarly, International organisations such as UN Women, Women for Women International among others have also been playing advocacy for some gender-friendly bills such as the Gender and Equal Opportunities Bill aimed at eradicating all forms of violence against Nigerian women to be passed into law.
In sum, the dichotomy of justice or injustice for women who are victims of DV in Nigeria is subjective, depending on awareness, level of exposure and education, the environment or location of the affected women or victims and other factors. Thus, the onus lies on the government (Ministry of Women Affairs and Social welfare) across the federation and NGOs with thematic areas in DV, to create more awareness on their programmes and projects using platforms such as radio, televisions, social media, campaigns among others to encourage women, so more women can seek justice without fear or reproach.
Are you a DV victim in Nigeria? Speak up and seek justice.
Nothing is worth your life and you deserve better.
Thank you for reading. If you agree or disagree, please, share your views in the comment section below, your comments are very welcomed. Also, feel free to share suggestions on the kind of data and topics you would like me to provide on Women’s issues in Africa.