Lawyers, cleric, victims and others in Nigeria condemn wife battering
By Sandra Umeh and Deborah Akpede
Battery can be described as an act of using intimidation to establish power and control over another person, and such intimidation is often expressed through beatings.
In many societies, women are at the receiving end of this intimidation. Also, a large number of battery cases occur in developing societies where many cultures perceive women as playing second fiddle.
In recent times, this gender-based domestic violence has assumed an alarming dimension.
A legal icon, Itse Sagay, noted that although many cases of wife-battering are not documented, a large number of them have resulted in deaths and dissolution of marriages.
He said most victims of domestic violence opt for judicial separation to save themselves from untimely death. He, however, noted that many still stay in the pain and anguish to save their marriage for the sake of their children’s future.
He blamed battery on inadequate enforcement of laws, noting also that some victims do not report cases to the appropriate authorities.
He urged enactment of a specific legislation to check this abuse of women.
Mr. Sagay, a Professor of Law, said that there are non-governmental organisations willing to help victims of battery to seek justice. He advised women to make use of such organisations.
The Chairman of the Ikeja branch of the Nigerian Bar Association, Onyekachi Ubani, noted that some developing societies including Nigeria see battery as a family matter to be handled internally.
He said that in such societies, women erroneously accept battery as part of marriage.
Mr. Ubani identified economic hardship as a major cause of domestic violence.
“A lot of husbands are finding it increasingly difficult to meet their financial obligations in the home. This leads to the twin evil of frustration and violence,” he said.
He said that in developed countries, women are known for their contributions to the running of the home, and that in such countries, battery is minimal.
“The situation is different in Nigeria where men bear the financial burden and expect total submission from the women,” he said. “They get easily irritated at the slightest provocation, and resort to beating the women.”
Mr. Ubani urged spouses to exhibit a high level of mutual tolerance to avoid battery and the effects of divorce.
A marriage counsellor, Patrick Ebiem, also said that battery is one of the major reasons why women file for divorce.
“Some women in Nigeria are suffering from this domestic violence. Many men beat up their wives for frivolous reasons,” he said.
Mr. Ebiem also noted that many battered woman still want to keep their marriages because of the value the Nigerian society places on marriage.
“Some battered women are enduring their marriages; they refuse to file for divorce because of their children’s future,” he said. “They don’t want to be single mothers or divorcees.”
He equally urges amicable resolution of conflicts by couples, saying that broken homes have turned many children into social miscreants due to lack of parental training and care.
Victims narrate ordeal
A victim of domestic violence, Joke Olaiya, said she lost two pregnancies to regular beatings by her husband.
“I was in coma for three days and the baby was dead before it was taken out of my womb,’’ she lamented.
Another victim of violence, Yetunde Akintoye, believes that drunkenness by men fuels battering.
She claimed that her husband removed one of her teeth while beating her when he was drunk.
Rhoda Adereti, a psychologist, identified transfer of aggression as another cause of battery.
“Many men transfer aggression to their innocent wives, which may result from loss of jobs, query from office and others,” she said.
She advised women to stop dating men who show traces of violence. This, she said, will save women from being victims of battery in marriage.
“It is better not to enter the relationship, especially when the lady has seen traces of violence in the man,” she said. “You cannot afford to keep staying with a man that beats you always. One day, he may even kill you.”
It’s a condemnable act
A pastor of the Assemblies of God Church in Lagos, Humble Ololo, said Christianity and other religions condemn wife-battering.
“Men are not allowed to beat their wives. Women are not expected to beat their husbands,’’ he preached, and advised couples to settle misunderstandings amicably.
He said that desperation to be married pushes many women into wrong relationships that can lead to battering.
The cleric urged battered women to also seek divine intervention.
According to the President of the Oshodi Customary Court, A.I. Olorunimbe, battery is a good ground for dissolution of a marriage under the Nigerian law.
“The court does not treat an allegation of battery with levity because it can lead to loss of lives.
“Sometimes, it is the women that push their husbands to the wall through their abusive words, disobedience, or lack of care.
“But some men are just too wicked that no matter what the woman does, they believe a wife is a servant and battering her is necessary,” she said.
The judicial officer called for enlightenment of men on the evil of drunkenness, smoking and drug addiction which, she said, fuel battering.
A lawyer, Afolabi Orekoya, urged government to put in place stiffer penalties against battery to reduce the menace.
“Government is not treating the matter with the seriousness it deserves,” he said. “When a battered wife goes to the police station to report her husband, the police will tell her to go and settle it with him, and that they cannot interfere in a couple’s internal matter.”
Mr. Orekoya wants governments to adequately support agencies and non government organisations that take care of battered women.
A lawyer and social critic, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, said that marriage is for companionship and love, and should be devoid of violence.
“A man who batters his wife has descended to the level of an animal. This is not the plan or purpose of God for marriages. It portrays lack of confidence,’’ he said
Mr. Adegboruwa called for the establishment of a social welfare institution in Nigeria for monitoring marriages.
This, he said, has become necessary because of Nigeria’s cultural milieu which denies women the opportunity of being heard, but gives men increased opportunity to molest women.
He also advocated for women education and empowerment, arguing that the majority of domestic violence has to do with poor education and low financial empowerment.
Analysts urge gender sensitisation training for security agents, judicial officers and lawyers with a view to combating domestic violence.
They also urged the passage into law of the Domestic Violence Protection Bill, 2006 still before the National Assembly.
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