From The Desk Of Darlene Harris -THE CHALLENGES OF COMBATING DOMESTIC VIOLENCE IN NIGERIA by Sir Olusegun Lanre-Lyanda, Esq.
Yesterday I posted information on apps for Sexual Assault and Bullying that I received from Dr. Lissack. I hope you have considered the Sexual Assault App and the Bullying App for your children and you! I want to thank Dr. Michael Lissack for allowing the information to be utilized by And He Restoreth My Soul as well as other sites.
TODAY I am excited to introduce Sir Olusegun Lanre-Lyanda, Esq. from Nigeria. So many emotions surfaced for me as I read the article about the struggle be experienced in his country. But here in the United States of America, we are struggling with the same issues. It just magnifies the problem when you hear from those in another area of the world.
I know you will take something away with you once you read the article. Any comments can be sent to this website and I will forward them to Sir Olusegun. Thank you Sir Olusegun Lanre-Lyanda for your fight on the behalf of many.
I serve with HOPE of RESTORATION
Darlene J. Harris
Sir Olusegun Lanre-Iyanda Esp. lives in Ogun State Nigeria where he is a Legislative Draftsman, Arbitrator/Conciliator and Program Coordinator at Action Against Domestic Violence (ACADOV)-Nigeria. He is also a Champion of Vulnerable People’s (including Women and Girls) Rights. In addition, he works with State and non-State actors to improve Nigeria’s security and conflict management architecture and reduce the impact of violent conflict on vulnerable Nigerians.
A man of many parts, Olusegun Lanre-Iyanda is a Husband, Father, Lawyer, Public Speaker, Writer, Blogger, Broadcaster, Lover of God and
Olusegun LANRE-IYANDA Esq.
- Legal Practitioner, Top-Notch Legislative Draftsman
- Speaker & Specialist on Environmental Law
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- Refugee and Trans-Border Resettlement Law Specialist
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THE CHALLENGES OF COMBATING DOMESTIC VIOLENCE IN NIGERIA
The statistics are daunting. Domestic violence in Nigeria is on the up and up. 50% of women have been battered by their husbands. Shockingly, more educated women (65%) are in this terrible situation as compared with their low income counterparts (55%). Most endure, believing they have nowhere to go and in any case, believing, for good reason, that the law will not protect them (a staggering 97.2% of them are not prepared to report to the Nigeria Police).
Women are protected from discrimination under the Nigerian constitution but customary, and religious laws, including Sharia law in the 19 northern states, restrict women’s rights in practice. The Government is striving to improve women’s empowerment and eliminate discriminatory practices that are harmful to women, but its efforts are being hampered by long-held traditional practices and a tortuous judicial system. Discriminatory laws and practices, violence against women and gender stereotypes continue to hinder greater progress towards gender equality
There is a growing public awareness and understanding of domestic violence; however, women are often reluctant to report crimes to the police or seek assistance while prosecutions from domestic violence are low.
Forced marriage (often underage girls) although against the law, is still practiced, particularly so in the northern, primarily Muslim, states. The prevalence of forced marriage varies owing to factors of culture, religion, ethnic group, location, socio-economic status, education and tribe. Consequences for refusing a forced marriage can include physical violence, total neglect and ostracism. Although against the law and in decline, female genital mutilation (FGM) continues to be practiced with differing prevalence rates and type across Nigeria and by ethnic group, religion, residence (urban/rural), state, education and socio-economic class.
There is widespread under-reporting and reluctance amongst women to report abuse to the authorities. This is because the police are perceived as being reluctant to take violence against women seriously and pursue allegations. Prosecutions for domestic violence, for example, were low, although the courts are increasingly taking domestic violence more seriously
The police force is, however, working with other agencies to improve its response and attitude to gender-based violence, including establishing sexual assault referral centres and reconstituting the Gender Unit. There are also many developmental partners and advocacy groups like the Action Against Domestic Violence (ACADOV) some offering practical help and shelter to assist women though inadequate funding constitutes an impediment towards fully carrying out this task. Most Domestic Violence service providers always experience lack of funding, and this is the number one reason they were unable to serve targeted victims.
As Coordinator of ACADOV, I can report that in general, the Nigerian authorities are willing and able to provide protection from non-state agents, albeit women face greater difficulties in seeking and obtaining protection than men, particularly for sexual and gender-based violence.
Only 4 states of the Federation (Lagos is one of them while my State of Ogun is in the process of enacting one) have passed laws against the insidious crime, whilst several Bills against it languish in our male-dominated National and State Assemblies. Of the states that have passed it, the law is yet to be fully tested. Only recently in Lagos State-South West Nigeria, a 29-year-old banker, Titilayo Arowolo, was killed by her husband, Akolade, in a most gruesome manner(By the way Mr, Arowolo was recently sentenced to death for the murder of his wife during a domestic squabble, but he has appealed the judgment). Before that, the scandalous story of wife battering by the Nigerian High Commissioner to Kenya, Dr. Wilcox Wigwe and the Deji of Akure, Adesina Adepoju-a traditional ruler ,now deposed, who engaged his Olori, Olori Bolanle, (now deceased) in a public brawl made the rounds, thus bringing the issue of spousal abuse once again to the front burner.
Story after story, the monster called “domestic violence” (DV) shocks you the more and in my view, the Nigerian law and institutions have dismally failed to protect victims of DV.
In my over ten years of pursuing issues relating to DV in my State of Ogun and across the South Western part of Nigeria and Abuja, the nation’s capital, I have come to witness disheartening cases where State/social apparatus and institutions have failed woefully! I must declare though that generally women are more on the receiving end of the scale in this matter than men.
For most women, the nightmare usually begins after marriage as 80% of perpetrators never showed any indication of a violent disposition until a few days or years after marriage when the “ demon” would suddenly take hold of them.
Hear a typical story of a victim of DV:-
“No matter who I tried to speak to friends, relations and colleagues about it, everybody told me to hush. ‘Do you want a failed marriage?’ ‘Some men are just difficult’, I was told. ‘Try not to annoy him’ was another advice. I heeded all the advice and was determined to love more, submit more and do whatever it took to make the marriage work. No matter what I did, though, the raging incidents continued, it could be triggered by anything – a baby crying that I couldn’t make to keep quiet, a baby pooing in their diapers at an inconvenient time resulting in an unpleasant smell, a handyman not finishing a job he had been asked to do on time, running out of any particular food he ((husband) demanded for at the very time he requested for it”
The sad thing however is that institutions like the Church, family, friends and even hospitals are the first point of failure as they keep heaping the blames on the victim and massaging the ego of the abuser instead of finding solution until things turn awry and the victim either becomes a psychological wreck or decides to join the train of abusers and DV becomes a vicious cycle!
Sadly the society here thinks DV is a private affair. I fail to see the logic in this. Who says you need an abuser’s consent to tell him to end his abuse. Which wrongdoer consents to being corrected, chastised or being told to put an end to the wrongdoing? This is where the society here lets us all down.In my opinion Domestic violence is not a private family matter; it is harmful not just to the victim, but also to society as a whole. Everyone whose attention has been drawn to it must be sensitised to take a stand and speak up against it.Unfortunately, this is not the case here, While the civil society and NGOs like ACADOV are at the forefront of fighting incidences of DV, most Governments are only paying lip service to curbing or reducing it.For instance, I was informed of a male-dominated State Executive Council that refused to assent to a Bill against DV for the sole reason that “..it weighed too much in favour of women..” !I find this laughable, discriminatory, unfair, biased and silly that I caused a letter to be written to that Assembly ,the State Executive Council and relevant stakeholders pointing out the danger of jettisoning such an important and revolutionary Bill.
Though the attention of the Church in this crime has been drawn to this menace, it has largely failed to take the decisive step of “yanking” the victims from the mouth of this monster by habitually counselling the victim to be more.. “submissive”. One question-Is the woman an animal that has to be beaten, clobbered, brutalised and knocked to submission just because the “Holy Book” commands it?
Another victim (female of course) once told me something like this-
“…..This is the second crucial point when I believe I could have been helped, but my family failed me. They kept on telling me to bear with it as it would soon pass… My own father failed me. But it wasn’t his fault. ….either so he was unable to imagine it. He acted based on what he knew and expected…normal husband and wife squabbles and did what most fathers do – which is placate and appease an angry husband so peace could return to his daughter’s home…
The effect of all this was that I felt I was abnormal and overreacting. I tarted to believe that maybe all marriages were like mine and I had been making a mountain out of a mole hill. My response and coping mechanism was prayers and increased spiritual fervour. I prayed constantly and sought to make sense of it all but the Church isn’t helping. The Elders kept telling me to be more tolerant of his outbursts…I wish one of them were there when it happened….I wish they could exchange me for their daughters in such volcanic atmosphere…”
Lately at a workshop for stakeholders on DV and its effects on the society, I pointed out, to their rude surprise, that the central Government of my country is NOT helping matters at all in this regard as the ONLY law akin to discouraging DV nationwide- The “Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Act,2015 is applicable in the nation’s capital-Abuja as if it were the only place where DV occurs in Nigeria. The Law in Section 47 says “THIS ACT APPLIES ONLY TO THE FEDERAL CAPITAL TERRITORY, ABUJA”-To me this is an anomaly and an inverted piece of legislation which needs to be amended as urgently as possible given the rising incidences of DV across the length and breadth of Nigeria. Nigeria has thirty-six (36) States out of which only FOUR (4) has legislation or a semblance of it targeted at addressing issues relating to DV. As I write, there is the breaking news of a female lawyer in Ibadan, one of the big cities in South West Nigeria, who stabbed her husband to death after a domestic brawl. The story making the rounds is that this lady had been subjected to unceasing bouts of beating, torture, brutality, verbal and physical abuse in their less than three(3) years marriage before the latest incidence where she had to turn around and defend herself in such a violent manner which unfortunately resulted in the death of her husband. Since the matter is still under investigation by relevant authorities,-Action against Domestic Violence (ACADOV) is keeping a tab on developments in this matter.
The sad thing about domestic violence is that victims often are driven by the trauma to become a nervous wreck capable of doing anything including reacting in a most unexpected and violent way when the abuse becomes too much “burden” for them to bear. There was this case we were handling in Epe-a suburb of Lagos where the woman victim of prolonged DV set the domestic dwelling on fire to end it all. It took the intervention of ACADOV in cooperation with other caregivers through deep and emphatic counselling to “divorce” the woman from her DV-induced schizophrenia!
Experience on this side of the world has shown that many who go through traumatic events may find that it can take some time to re-adjust and cope for a period after the event. The residual mental, physical and spiritual effects of DV can permeate the daily lives of survivors, which make it difficult to heal. For some, there are severe effects in the immediate aftermath of an assault that may or may not last. For others, the effects come in waves and are not felt until the shock of the event wears off. This is where the Nigerian society has failed woefully in treating victims in this mould with kindness and understanding. I am appalled to see people ostracising a victim who has suffered mental wreck as a result of the trauma of DV.Some even label and stigmatise those who out of frustration, fought back and in the event, unfortunately, “killed” or “maimed” their abuser-husbands in the process. The society here has a tendency to turn against a woman who fought to wriggle out of a terrible situation with accusing fingers pointed to her almost on daily basis as “ murderer”, “killer of husband”, “witch”, “bitch” and such abusive appellations that further drives the victim down the road of continuous hurt and depression. In this crime and sadly too, the society has failed to come in when needed until things get awry, and the victim now becomes the villain!
Another sad development we have noticed in our activities is the rampant incidences of engagement in self-injurious behaviours by victims whereby they think such behaviours serve as a release of tension. It is an action that is not always performed with suicidal intent, although occasionally it can result in severe harm or death.
Some two years ago and lately, we experienced situations where the tendency is high for abusers to accuse their victims of cheating on them by having sex somewhere else solely for the reason that many abused women usually abstain from having sex with the abuser. I always wonder what perverted mind would expect anyone being tormented and abused in a domestic relationship to want to have sex with the abuser! This development often leads to increasing tension in the home. More often, it results in sexual assault of unwanted sexual act against or without a person’s consent. This type of assault encompasses more than violent physical incidents—sexual, physical, verbal or visual act that forces a person against their will to join in unwanted sexual contact or attention.
In summary, the issues relating to DV in my country are still far from being effectively tackled by government at all levels. In my State of Ogun the Government, after a long delay has just woken up to working with the Ministry of Women Affairs and relevant bodies like ACADOV in seeing that these issues are tackled and reduced to the barest minimum.
There is a centre-The Citizens’ Rights/Public Defender Department of the Ministry of Justice,- where abusers and victims are brought together with a view to resolving matters and in cases where the parties are unable to resolve issues at this level, the matter then proceeds to the regular Courts where the rights of the victims are pursued and the courts urged to enforce their rights.
There are situations where we obtain restraining orders against abusers which order are often aimed at stopping the abusers from one or all of the following:-
- Using derogatory sexual terms
- Sexually harassment
iii. Exhibiting an aggressive demeanour
- Seeing and treating victim as sexual objects
- Psychological abuse
- Perpetrating FGM or acts relating thereto
vii. Forcing child or children into early or unconsented marriages
viii. Economic abuse
- Abandoning victim or children of the union without any means of subsistence;
- Stalking or intimidating a victim;
- Inflicting any domestic violence on victim;
xii. Imposition of dress codes under any guise;
One of the high points of the Violence Against Persons Prohibition(VAPP) Act 2015 is the outright prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) by making it a punishable offence. This provision of the Act has attracted commendation and applause from members of the Society and the International Community at large. Female Genital Mutilation or cutting is the act of either partially or totally removing the external female genitalia or causing injury to the female genital organs for non-medical purposes. This act is ingrained in age long traditional and religious practices which most of the indigenous people of Nigeria are not willing to easily let go. This act is much more prevalent in the Northern part of Nigeria than in the educationally advanced and more open societies Southern Nigeria. According to the analysis of 2014 UN data, a quarter of the women in Nigeria have undergone FGM.
Another high point of the VAPP Act is the express prohibition of harmful traditional practices and harmful widowhood practices. These provisions of the Act are proper codification of the decision in the 1997 case of Mojekwu v. Mojekwu (1997) 7 NWLR 283, where the Court of Appeal per Niki Tobi JCA (as he then was) held that a court cannot invoke a customary law which is repugnant to natural justice, equity and good conscience. The VAPP Act provides a coverage on harmful barbaric customs. It is immaterial that the custom does no physical harm, so long as it inflicts psychological, emotional and economic harm on its victims- it is expressly prohibited by the Act. But as said earlier, this provision will only be meaningful, if, the VAPP Act is applicable nationwide.
To date, we have been successful in about 30% of all cases handled in concert with like-minded individuals and organisations and the battle is still long but winnable with dogged pursuit and determination by concerned groups like ACTION AGAINST DOMESTIC VIOLENCE (ACADOV) NIGERIA
WHAT WE DO AT ACTION AGAINST DOMESTIC VIOLENC E (ACADOV) NIGERIA.
o Conduct research on status of women;
o Conduct research on Domestic Violence
o Counsel abusers and victims of Domestic Violence
o We prosecute cases of Domestic Violence in Courts
o Organise seminars and workshops on Domestic Violence
o Engaged in advocacy on Gender and Children matters
o Resettle victims of Domestic Violence in concert with Government bodies
o Develop women empowerment indicators;
o Develop and implement women empowerment programmes and projects, including gender education, vocational skills training schemes, access to credit etc.;
o Execute special programmes to promote gender equality;
o Relate with federal and state Ministries of Women Affairs, Child and Social development on gender policy implementation.
o We provide confidential, multifaceted counselling, education and referral programs designed to help with personal and DV problems
o legal problems
o caregiving issues
o marital difficulties
o depression and the blues
o DV-induced anxiety and stress
o Referral and support issues arising from DV
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