OPINION: Addressing Gender-Based Violence In Nigeria, By Alisa Samuel
Domestic or gender-based violence is violence directed against a person because of their gender. Both women and men experience gender-based violence but the majority of victims are women and girls.
Gender-based violence and violence against women are terms that are often used interchangeably as it has been widely acknowledged that most gender-based violence is inflicted on women and girls, by men. However, using the ‘gender-based’ aspect is important as it highlights the fact that many forms of violence against women are rooted in power inequalities between women and men.
As earlier stated, gender-based violence are experienced by both men and women but the focus here is on violence against women in honor of the recently celebrated international women's day that was themed: “I am Generation Equality: Realizing women's rights”.
What some people don't know is that gender-based violence is not only a violation of individual women’s and girls’ rights. The impunity enjoyed by perpetrators, and the fear generated by their actions, has an effect on all women and girls. It also takes a toll on a global level, stunting the contributions women and girls can make to international development, peace, and progress.
The deprivation of women resulting from violence should be of central concern to governments and to societies at large as an intrinsic human rights issue and because of the epidemic’s negative impact on economic growth and poverty reduction.
In Nigeria, like in other jurisdictions, Gender-Based violence remains a challenge that significantly constrains women’s autonomy and opportunities. The country's representative of the United Nations Population Fund, UNFPA, Dr. Eugene Kongnyuy on 18th June 2019 said despite the progress made by the Nigerian government, approximately 80 million women and girls are still victims of Gender-Based Violence.
Gender-based violence takes many forms including physical, sexual, emotional, and mental. Common forms of violence against women in Nigeria are rape, acid attacks, molestation, wife-beating, and corporal punishment.
The exploits of the likes of late Professor Dora Akunyili, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Oby Ezekwesili, and Chimamanda Adichie should be a reminder that gender should not be a barrier in the quest for greatness.
How Can Gender Based Violence Be Addressed In Nigeria?
To address gender based violence in Nigeria, we must first make concerted effort to tackle the root course of the problem. The following suggestions will go a long way.
1. Changing Wrong Social Norms:
Social norms are shared beliefs about what is typical and appropriate behavior in a valued reference group. They are rules of behavior to which a person conforms. In most areas, it is socially acceptable for men to beat up their wives in the name of correcting them.
There is a stigma associated with a woman who seeks a divorce to escape an abusive environment, which leads to her being socially isolated. Many consider the discussion of gender-based violence as taboo or a “domestic” issue, except child sexual assault, which most people think is a serious issue.
Many people justify these social norms with particular interpretations of religious teachings, further solidifying discriminatory gender roles and keeping women in a vulnerable position.
An unmarried woman has more freedom of movement than a young married woman. However, each is at risk of being labeled a “wayward girl” and being ostracized for participating in certain types of work, mainly male-dominated occupations or for working late at night. These attitudes put women who work outside the home at a higher risk of sexual harassment or nonpartner assault. This point of view is more entrenched in areas where harmful social norms against women are particularly prominent.
Deliberate effort must be made at all levels to change wrong social norms that promote gender-based violence.
2. De-emphasizing gender roles:
An economically active woman may attain some financial independence, but this does not translate into a change in her social role as the provider of care for the household. Even if a woman participates in economic activities requiring hours of manual labor, her primary duties are to care for household needs, to support her husband, and to dress modestly.
Boys are taught to be aggressive due to their role as protectors. They are raised to carry out strenuous tasks, such as hunting, shooting with bows and arrows, farming, and protecting the family. Girls are raised to perform more subservient tasks, such as sweeping, scrubbing walls, and collecting firewood. They are taught to cook for the family so that they can become good wives and mothers in the future.
Other gender role expectations for a woman include wearing the hijab outside the home (for muslim women), cooking and cleaning, raising children with good moral values, seeking permission before leaving the home, and more generally to be a “good wife” or a “good woman.”
When a woman deviates from this role, either by contributing more to the household income than her husband or by neglecting her wifely duties, such as cooking, caring for children, or having sex with her husband, it can lead to tension and conflict. Such a deviation is a major contributor to intimate partner violence in households. Women participating in male-dominated occupations, such as
quarry work, are blamed and abused by their husbands and families-in-law for not fulfilling their wifely or domestic duties.
Parents must begin to make delibrate effor to de-emphasize gender role for their kids. Male and female kids should be allowed to perform all roles in the household, at school and in the work place. This will help reduce incidences of gender-based violence.
3. Discouraging male superiority:
In many areas in Nigeria, the male is clearly perceived as the superior sex. This view is tied to his role as the breadwinner and the patriarch who makes all decisions. Some people use religious and cultural arguments to justify the man’s superiority and woman’s subservience. Some men say that wife-beating and marital rape is justified if the wife refuses sex, does not dress modestly, or is disrespectful to her husband.
In many cases, when men cannot establish financial supremacy over their wives due to a lack of economic opportunities, they resort to violence to exert control and power in another way.
The time has come for us collectly promote gender equality in our society. This will help in no small measure to check gender based violence.
4. Stiff Laws To Punish Offenders:
The federal government of Nigeria has ratified multiple international laws and conventions to address the historical discrimination and marginalization of women and girls, including gender-based violence. Examples include The Childs Rights Act of 2003, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), ratified in June 1985; the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol), ratified December 16, 2004; and the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act, which was finally passed in 2015, more than 10 years after it was first presented to the national assembly.
However, these agreements have limited application to the states. Two key laws addresses Gender based violence: the Child Rights Act and the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act of 2015, both passed by the federal government but not by many of the 36 states, making them inapplicable in those areas. Twenty-four states have ratified the Child Rights Act; 12 northern states have yet to do so.
The main barriers to the domestication of these laws are resistance based on entrenched norms of gender inequity and opposition to concepts around equality and rights that are perceived as foreign.
All states in Nigeria should be compelled through relevant legislation to domesticate laws aimed at reducing incidences of gender-based violence. Also, those found guilty of domestic violence should be made to face the full wrath of the law.
Knowing fully well that Nigeria is a highly religious country with different major belief systems and the religious leaders are held in high esteem with fear, respect, and love. Our religious leaders must imbibe the habit of teaching their congregation the need of saying no to gender-based violence and ensuring that people are treated right in various spheres of influence.
While Religious leaders do their part, parents and guidance should also ensure that they educate their wards at home into the realization that your gender doesn't matter but your contributions to society should be the key factor. the idea of "catch them young" is very key and while you educate them, ensure you act it out for them to see.
Until the issue of gender-based violence is taken seriously, women will continue to suffer a whole lot of injustice. its time to ensure that perpetrators of such acts are penalized according to the degree of the violence.
We all deserve a fair chance to work and ensure that every aspect of society feels the impact of the woman because she carries a whole lot of solutions required for the progress of the society and the world at large.
Say no to gender-based violence!