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EDITORIAL

Curbing domestic violence in marriages

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NEWS of gospel singer,  Osinachi Nwachukwu’s death remains in circulation even weeks after it happened. The controversial circumstances around it made the matter so.  She  died after an alleged case of domestic violence. Some unconfirmed reports claim that her husband had a hand in the death. This has   been trending in both social and contemporary media for weeks.

  IN AS much as it is not our position to state  that she died of homicide or as a result of domestic violence since it is yet to be established by the appropriate authorities, making conclusions  based on the allegation of some family members whilst the matter is still being investigated is beating the gun. However, the issue of troubled marriage, unhealthy relationship comes up in the star act, Osinachi’s death.

INCIDENCES of Domestic Violence cut across social and economic background. Although women are mainly victims and men, largely  deemed  perpetrators of such  violence, women are increasingly becoming perpetrators of domestic violence too.

  IN NIGERIA, Domestic violence is a crime under the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act (2015). The Federal Government of Nigeria and states have declared zero tolerance to gender-based violence.

  NATIONAL Demographic and Health Survey in 2008 showed that domestic violence cuts across all socio-economic and cultural backgrounds.  28 per cent of all women, almost a third of all women in Nigeria, have been victims of  physical violence, a significant number in a country of over 200 million people , where over  half are women. But the people’s beliefs and norms may be contributory to the matter.  Up to 43 per cent of women involved in the study  thought that wife beating could be justified on the grounds of matters like burning the food; arguing with the husband; going out without asking permission; neglecting the children; and refusal to have sexual intercourse with husband. Statistics on domestic violence in Nigeria, according to National Population Commission (NPC) and ICF Macro 2009, show that  Nigeria has one of the highest rates of domestic violence in Africa.

  SHOCKINGLY, majority of women in the study are convinced that wife- beating on any of the grounds was justified. Amnesty International calls Nigeria’s rate of domestic violence “shocking,” and has called on the local governments to do something to stem the violence that: “On a daily basis, Nigerian women are beaten, raped and even murdered by members of their family for supposed transgressions, which can range from not having meals ready on time to visiting family members without their husband’s permission.

  DOMESTIC violence affects not just the victim but indirectly all those who witness the violence; children, family, relations and witnesses to the physical abuse and violence. It exposes  the children to trauma and other psychological problems throughout their lives and worryingly, they may learn to become future victims or abusers later on in life and hence that way, the cycle continues.

  ACCORDING to the National Demographic and Health Survey in 2008, over a quarter of the population of all women in Nigeria have experienced domestic violence.  Also, the State’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2013 noted that, domestic violence “remained widespread and was often considered socially acceptable” in Nigeria. The Gender in Nigeria report 2012 also indicated that young women between the ages of 15 and 24 were most likely to have experienced physical violence. These figures give much cause for concern.

  IT IS well understood that a lot of people choose to stay and endure a troubled relationship or marriage  because of fear of the unknown.  They fear that they would lose a roof over their heads, may become financially worse off or that  society does not value a woman who leaves her husband even if it is to save her life and those of her children.

  AGAIN, not withstanding that the basis of marriage, according to  most religious faiths  is love between man and woman for companionship, procreation, and family integration, among others, there are several faith-based groups that are keen on the fact that marriage is  meant to only be parted by death.

 BUT apart  from being an emotional relationship, marriage can indeed  be an obligation because in it,  one is bound by an oath and it  can be a commitment if one gets to the level of having a child or children. It is equally a social contract because the church and society witnessed it, even as it is a spiritual pact because in Christianity, for example, in the Catholic Church, it is seen  as a spiritual obligation which makes one committed to the children to stay back even when he/she feels like taking a walk.

  AGAIN for Catholics, it is a sacramental commitment which is why one who wants to leave may not leave because of fear of losing sacramental benefits. 

  AS A matter of fact, traditional, religious or court marriages have laid down rules that guide and instruct couples about the rights and privileges as directed by the holy books, traditions, customs and law of the land.

  YET, in some marriages, the rules or laws guiding the institution have often been compromised leading to an untimely death for some women and men, with the spate of domestic violence increasing. Most women, who are mostly victims of domestic violence have refused to also speak up because of the ugly culture of silence in toxic marriages and the doctrines against divorce in religious circles, as well as very rigorous  procedures involved in divorce cases

  THIS is why  the society has to begin to reappraise her stance on marriage since  for every violence and aggression done physically, sexually, emotionally,  financially or otherwise, there are many more people, especially young ones who are given a legacy of hate and intolerance –  who are growing up convinced that physical violence is the only answer to stress in relationships.

  WE THEREFORE call for a review and a robust public education aimed at households, schools, churches, hairdressers, barbers, market-places, health centres,  workplaces, communities and all public offices.

  FAITH leaders can hold open workshops to promote healthy relationships and for supporting victims of domestic violence. These can  send clear messages that under no circumstance is domestic violence acceptable and that if a family member is the perpetrator, they should address it and not condone the violence.

  CHURCHES, mosques and the traditional institution should re-strategise towards preaching mental, emotional and physical safety of men and women in marriages rather than hammering against divorce even where life is being threatened.

  COUPLES must be made to understand that covering up toxic marriages will not stop domestic violence rather,  it will further encourage the ugly trend, making the children in such marriages mentally unstable and depressed.

  THE media and  civil society organisations need to swing into action by educating women on their rights and privileges as well as the need to seek help rather than the mentality of enduring abusive relationships.

  ON THEIR  part, government at all levels should establish  marital laws to make couples aware of the penalty and its implications when either partner is abused or rights are violated. Society  should map out  funding for support services and  help women to be economically independent.

  RELIGIOUS and traditional institutions, as well as the immediate families must join NATIONAL LIGHT  in this fight to rid our society of such acts before they become vast and common place

  ABOVE  all, society should stop sentencing people to death in hostile marriages because of the  stigma and the way  unmarried and single parents are regarded.

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