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Domestic Violence: A Time To Fight Back

The death of Osinachi Nwachukuwu shocked many and provoked controversies, especially regarding her marriage (Kaduna, 2022). When I learned of her death, I was first sad that such a great singer was gone; later, as more details began to emerge, I soon began to wish that we got things right in our country, sooner than later. Notwithstanding the myriads of testimonies that have flooded the online space, the true cause of Osinachi’s death can only be established by an autopsy (Das and Chowdhury, 2017). Until this is done, statements about her death cannot hold water.

There are speculations that Osinachi was a victim of repeated domestic violence from her husband (Sahara Reporters, 2022). Other sources report that she died of throat cancer and that as a matter of fact, she was on life support for approximately two months before her death (Tugbobo, 2022). While we continue to wait for the report of the definitive cause of her death, we all must agree that this incident has vigorously stirred discussions on domestic violence online and offline.

Domestic violence (DV), or intimate partner violence, is defined as “a pattern of behavior in any relationship that is used to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner” (United Nations, n.d.). DV also refers to injurious physical, sexual, and psychological behaviours occurring within the context of an intimate union or any other type of union (Sardinha et al., 2022).

The experience of DV has become common in recent times. To further demonstrate this, I shall briefly take you through some very disturbing statistics. Studies show that globally, about 1 in 3 women and 1 in 10 men 18 years of age or older experience DV (Huecker, King, and Jordan, 2022). According to Sardinha et al. (2022), worldwide, about 38-50% of murders of women are committed by their intimate partners causing significant economic and social impacts for individuals and the government. The prevalence of DV against men is pegged at 3.4% to 20.3% (Kolbe and Büttner, 2020). A study reported that out of every three (3) deaths due to DV, two (2) are women (Benebo, Schumann, and Vaezghasemi, 2018). In their research on the prevalence and determinants of DV in an urban community in the southwest, Oluwole and Onwumelu (2020) recruited 400 women aged 18-73 years. They reported a lifetime prevalence of DV of 73.3% within their study population. Sadly, DV does not seem to be declining. Over the years, trends show a steady increase in the rates of DV. In Germany, 100,766 women were victims of DV in 2013, but in 2018, over 114,000 women became DV victims (Armstrong, 2019).

If we took a survey now, a good chunk of us may attest to have been victims or witnesses of DV. I recall many years ago when I was a secondary school student. We had a neighbour who invited us to his wedding ceremony. I recall vividly how the MC had asked him at the reception how he would react if his wife failed to prepare food for him for whatever reason. He smiled and answered boldly that he would “call her honey.” To paraphrase his response, I think he meant that he would understand and appreciate the challenge that may have prevented her from preparing his meal and perhaps support her. A few days after returning from their honeymoon, this couple broke into a fight that left both of them badly injured. I still wonder what may have caused that fight. About a year ago, a patient presented to our emergency ward with burns. As we resuscitated and clerked her, she told us she got the injury while preparing breakfast for her children. The truth, however, was exposed when her relatives met her husband in the ward. We soon got to know that her husband had been physically assaulting her for years.

In the past few days, I have read a series of arguments on DV. Some quarters believe that the media is unnecessarily being too loud about violence against women and deliberately underreporting violence against men. Other people argue that women who are victims of DV must have brought it upon themselves. One writer on this forum wrote that “a man can never beat a good wife.” In other words, this writer implied that all female victims of DV are bad (disrespectful, abusive, disloyal, wicked, etc). But are these claims true? The statistics above objectively prove that violence against women occurs at proportions far above violence against men worldwide. This does not deny that there are men that are victims of DV, but If we continue to separate DV along gender lines, we may never get to its roots. I wonder why DV is now discussed in two contexts: against women and men. Do we imply that the effects of domestic violence against men and women differ? Or does the law prescribe different punishments for men and women who kill their spouses?

Saying that only “bad wives” are victims of DV is shocking. We tend to sit in the comforts of our homes and assert skewed opinions that are nothing but baseless. Most of what we know is limited to what the media reports but we manage to alter the narratives of events in ways that suit our beliefs. For example, because some of us have concluded in our hearts that only “bad wives” are victims of domestic violence, whenever we come across stories of women that are physically assaulted by their husbands, we quickly assume that they must have done something terribly bad to warrant her husband’s actions. We do not query the husband, and we are hardly bothered that the man may have infringed on the rights of the woman. We do not bother that this may have been a case of attempted murder, and if nothing is done, the husband may eventually kill her, or another victim. Our entire focus falls on the woman, and we begin to probe the “evil” she must have committed. I ask, aside from a direct and immediate threat to life where alternative actions are impossible, is there any other acceptable reason to assault a human or to commit murder? Assuming a wife abuses her husband, does this qualify as a reason to physically attack her and inflict varying degrees of life-threatening injuries on her? If this were so, would the wife be also permitted to assault and kill her husband if he abuses or disrespects her? If we continue like this, our society would become a replica of the animal kingdom where actions are directed by primitive instincts rather than objective reasoning.

Why do spouses physically assault themselves? Why would a husband hit his wife? Why would a wife attack her husband? To get to the roots of domestic violence, we must trace the causes. Economic problems, husband’s drug/alcohol abuse, husband’s family interference, husband’s suspicion, religious and cultural misunderstandings, husband’s remarriage, and children from previous husband’s or wife’s marriages were some identified causes of DV (Rahnavardi et al., 2017). In a local study (Igbolekwu et al., 2021), 82.3% of respondents believe that the major cause of DV against women is the economic dependence of women (or wives) on men (or their husbands), 52.3% agree that communities tolerate and encourage some abusive behaviours, and as much as 61.5% of the respondents think that some religious and traditional beliefs support DV.

A BBC report (Obidiebube, 2018) made a shocking revelation: Section 55 of the Penal Code (applicable in Northern Nigeria) allows a husband to physically assault his wife as far as it does not cause serious bodily harm. What is more shocking is the Law’s definition of bodily harm. The Law defined bodily harm as harm severe enough to warrant hospital admission for a minimum of 21 days! Ironically, we also have a Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act for 2015 that stands against different kinds of violence. This disparity in the law further makes it difficult to secure justice for victims of DV.

Some of our cultural practices support DV. Historically, in the Igbo culture, for instance, the dominant role of women “is to make pure wives for their honourable husbands. In marriage, they are expected to be submissive to their husbands, do housework and domestic chores, farming, and bear children” (Egbo, 2021). But are these roles still exclusively for women today? [b]Times have changed and the economy has become complex. These days, to maintain a home, both husband and wife have to earn some money. If a husband and his wife leave for work at 8 am and return at 5 pm, would the husband be fair if he expects his exhausted wife to hurry to the kitchen and begin to pound akpu for dinner because it is exclusively her responsibility according to the African tradition? In some instances, if the wife fails to do this, she is considered disrespectful and not submissive and she may be beaten. Some of us are hypocritical without knowing it. Civilization and technology have happened to the original African tradition but instead of accepting and living with all the good changes that come with these, we tend to be selective. We accept changes that suit our purpose and favour us and deny changes that may favour others. For example, we accepted Western education because it promises to improve our lives. We accepted computers and other technological devices because they ease our lives. But some of us refuse to accept that role of the African woman in our society has greatly changed. With the advancement of knowledge, we now know that men and women are both humans and no one is above the other. They both have equal rights and equal responsibilities. Cooking, washing dishes, bathing children, and sweeping are not exclusive roles of women just like going out to look for money is not an exclusive role of a man. [/b]

I believe the first step to stopping domestic violence is redefining marriage. Some of us have lines in our heads separating the responsibilities of a husband and a wife. In real sense, such distinct lines do not exist. Couples ideally should live in a fluid environment where things flow naturally. The idea of marriage is to have two people come together, support each other, and improve their lives while mutually enjoying their days. Marriage is a way of life and not an obligation where responsibilities are shared and delegated. In marriage, any capable hand can meet any responsibility without waiting for anyone. A husband should be able to bathe his children, sweep the house, do the laundry, and cook breakfast whether or not his wife is at home. A wife should be able to do these things, and provide/contribute money for upkeep on impulse.

By God’s design, true love should be the fuel that should power the home. This is lost when people marry for the wrong reasons. If pure, undiluted love is lacking in any home, domestic violence is likely. If you love your wife as you love yourself, you would never raise a finger to hit her, unless you can hit yourself. If you love your wife absolutely, you would not have unrealistic expectations of her. If you love your wife as you love yourself, forgiveness, moving on, and not archiving faults should be natural habits.

Dear Parents, it is high time we began to raise our children the right way. If we train them well and demonstrate good examples before them, they would not grow to become monsters to their spouses. Dear fathers, if you hit your wife in front of your children, expect the same from them when they grow. If you sit in the parlour, watching TV all day without helping your wife in the kitchen, expect your son to be a bad husband when he grows up.

The government has a lot of roles to play in combating domestic violence. Strong laws must be made and the government must have the willpower to enforce these laws.

As private citizens, we also have roles to play if we must kick out DV. The mind-your-business culture is not African. Here, we do not mind our businesses! If you suspect your neighbour is a victim of DV, act immediately and report to the authorities whether or not the neighbour confides in you.

Our religious leaders must modify their teachings and encourage their members to take decisive steps if being abused. Members should be encouraged to separate from their spouses and they should be supported. Our religious leaders must be willing to get the authorities involved if they suspect that their member(s) is/are victim(s) of DV.

As I conclude, I would like to leave this last note to victims of DV. Please, prioritize your life over anything. Your life is paramount. Separate yourself from your spouse now that you still can. Beyond this, you should also report him/her to the authorities and ensure he/she is prosecuted and put behind bars for a long time. If you take these actions, you would have successfully protected future victims of your spouse.

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Re: Domestic Violence: A Time To Fight Back by TONYE001(m): 5:48pm On Apr 13
Works Cited

Armstrong, M. (2019, November 25). Violence against women continues to rise in Germany. Statista Infographics. https://www.statista.com/chart/20087/domestic-violence-against-women-germany/

Benebo, F. O., Schumann, B., & Vaezghasemi, M. (2018). Intimate partner violence against women in Nigeria: a multilevel study investigating the effect of women’s status and community norms. BMC Women’s Health, 18(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12905-018-0628-7

Das, A., & Chowdhury, R. (2017). Searching cause of death through different autopsy methods: A new initiative. Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care, 6(2), 191. https://doi.org/10.4103/jfmpc.jfmpc_194_16

Egbo, G. (2021, June 13). The Life Of An Igbo Woman Pre-Colonial Times. The Guardian Nigeria News – Nigeria and World News. https://guardian.ng/life/the-life-of-an-igbo-woman-pre-colonial-times/

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Kaduna, G. (2022, April 9). Osinachi Nwachukwu brutalised by husband before her death — Singer alleges. Premium Times Nigeria. https://www.premiumtimesng.com/entertainment/music/522872-osinachi-nwachukwu-brutalised-by-husband-before-her-death-singer-alleges.html

Kolbe, V., & Büttner, A. (2020). Domestic Violence Against Men— Prevalence and Risk Factors. Deutsches Ärzteblatt International. https://doi.org/10.3238/arztebl.2020.0534

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Rahnavardi, M., Shayan, A., Babaei, M., Khalesi, Z. B., Havasian, M. R., & Ahmadi, M. (2017). Investigating Types and Causes of Domestic Violence against Women and Identifying Strategies to Deal with It from the Perspective of Victims. Research Journal of Pharmacy and Technology, 10(10), 3637. https://doi.org/10.5958/0974-360x.2017.00660.6

Sardinha, L., Maheu-Giroux, M., Stöckl, H., Meyer, S. R., & García-Moreno, C. (2022). Global, regional, and national prevalence estimates of physical or sexual, or both, intimate partner violence against women in 2018. The Lancet, 399(10327), 803–813. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0140-6736(21)02664-7

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