Violence against women is defined by the United Nations defines 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 in private life.”
Women have continued to be victims of violence in this country particularly with the insurgency in the North-East. Violence against women does not only violate their human rights but also subjects them to a whole lot of short term and long term problems.
The murder of women and girls, incessant abductions, sexual violence especially rape, and domestic violence among others calls for concern as the country joined the rest of the world on Tuesday November 25 to mark this year’s International Day of Violence Against Women and also kick start the 16 days of activism on violence against women. The 16 Days campaign runs from November 25, International Day of Violence Against Women to December 10 which is the International Human Rights Day to symbolically link violence against women and human rights and to emphasize that such violence is a violation of human rights.
A Pandemic in Nigeria; Violence against women
Violence against vulnerable persons, including women, is prevalent in Nigeria. In addition to physical, sexual and emotional abuse, many women in Nigeria experience female genital mutilation/circumcision, forceful ejection from home, and other harmful traditional practices stemming from long-held cultural beliefs. Section 55 of the penal code (applicable in Northern Nigeria) legalises corrective beating of a child, pupil, servant or wife as long as this does not cause grievous bodily harm. A 2012 report by the British Council stated that violence has become endemic in some public institutions including the police force and schools. Sexual harassment, including demanding sexual favours in return for employment or grades, is considered to be widespread.
Almost every one of the obstetricians surveyed in a study on the causes and management of violence against women said they had managed a case of violence, with the husband as perpetrator in an estimated 70 percent of cases. Spousal rape is often overlooked or tolerated and yet to be codified as a criminal offence in Nigeria.
The 2013 National Demographic and Health Survey showed women who are divorced, separated or widowed are far more likely to have experienced physical violence than other women with 44 percent of them reporting experiences of violence since age 15, compared with 25 percent of women who are married or living with their male partners, and 33 percnt of never married women. It also showed that women in urban areas are more likely than their rural counterparts to report having experienced physical violence. Although regional variation is stark, with 52 percent of women in the South-South reporting gender based violence compared to 13 percent in the North West, the low rate of reporting in the North is likely due to under-reporting.
Given the prevalence and intensity of violence against women and girls, it is not surprising that many are calling it a pandemic, equal in concern to HIV and malaria in Nigeria.
Despite this, the legal and judicial systems provide women with little protection against violence. While rape is punishable by life imprisonment in Nigeria, the laborious process of proving rape, the pain and shame of reliving the experience coupled with societal pressure to keep silent, victim blaming, and stigma, often dissuade women from reporting sexual violence. The police often dismiss cases of domestic violence as a ‘family affair’ and are reluctant to intervene even if the woman has sustained serious injury. Customary law offers even less protection. Under sharia, a husband can withdraw maintenance if his wife refuses sexual intercourse and a woman alleging rape must produce four witnesses. A 2010 Africa for Women’s Rights report reported that if the rape is not proved, a woman can be punished for adultery with a prison sentence or flogging.
This reality highlights the need for legal reforms and access to justice for women whose rights have been violated. Some states have laws in place to address domestic violence, such as the The Prohibition Against Domestic Violence Law No 15, 2007 of Lagos State and the Gender-Based Violation (Prohibition) Law, 2011 of Ekiti State. But, until the VAPP Act, there was no federal law specifically addressing sexual harassment and domestic violence in Nigeria.
Role Of The Nigeria Government And Civil Society In Ensuring Women Justice
The Nigeria government and civil society groups has put in place numerous measures to help safe guide the rights of women suffering from violence and some can be outline below.
-enactment of the violence prohibition act
-jail terms for persons caugth violating the rights of women
-fair hearing on all domestic violence against women
-free access to lawyers for all women violated
The Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act
The Act is the result of 14 years of activism by civil society. Starting just after the transition to democracy with the formation of the Legislative Advocacy Coalition against Violence against Women (LACVAW) in 2001, activists have consistently pushed for national legislation prohibiting violence against women. The content of the Act is home grown, reflecting the realities of violence in Nigeria today, even as it incorporates provisions based on Nigeria’s commitment to international human rights principles. First presented to the House of Representatives in May 2002, the Bill on Violence Against Women became a Bill on Violence Against Persons in 2008 when it was harmonised with 8 other Bills on gender based violence in the National Assembly. It took another seven years for it to become law.
Under the newly enacted law, spousal battery, forceful ejection from home, forced financial dependence or economic abuse, harmful widowhood practices, female circumcision or genital mutilation, harmful traditional practices, substance attacks such as acid baths, political violence and violence by state actors (especially government security forces) are offences. Victims and survivors of violence are entitled to comprehensive medical, psychological, social and legal assistance by accredited service providers and government agencies, with their identities protected during court cases. The National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) is named as the service provider.
Female population accounted for more than half of Nigerian population and they experienced gender based social injustices that prevented full exploration of their potentials. One of these social injustices is domestic violence against women. The problem of violence against women in Nigeria had not been given adequate attention both at the individual and government levels. This article did a general review of the present state of situation as regards domestic violence against women in an African sub-culture society like Nigeria. It explored the religious influences vis-à-vis the gender roles imposed on women by African culture and practices and the role of Nigerian government so far. It also proposed the way forward in mitigating domestic violence against women in Nigeria.
“Domestic violence”. Punch. Retrieved 2013-09-21.
“Entrenched Epidemic: Wife-Beatings in Africa”. The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-10-04.
“CULTURAL BELIEFS FUEL DOMESTIC VIOLENCE”. Daily Trust. Archived from the original on September 26, 2013. Retrieved 2013-09-21.
“Why fewer men are beating their wives”. Standard. Retrieved 2013-10-05.
CLEEN Foundation. “National Crime Victimazation Surveys”. 2013.
“Nigeria.” Social Institutions & Gender Index. Social Institutions & Gender Index, n.d. Web. 01 May 2016.
Noah, Yusuf. “Incidence and Dimension of Violence Against Women in the Nigerian Society”. Centrepoint Journal, 2000.
“Eradicating domestic violence in Nigeria (1/2)”. Daily Times. Archived from the original on November 18, 2012. Retrieved 2013-09-21.