Violence is defined by the world health organization as ‘ the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person or against a group or community, which either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, mal-development or deprivation’. Violence against women is also known as ‘gender based violence’. These acts are different inhumane acts committed against women.
The United Nations declaration on the elimination of violence against women states that:
‘ violence against women is a manifestation of historically unequal power relations between men and women and that violence against women is one crucial social mechanisms by which women are forced into a subordinate position compared with men’..
Kofi Annan declared in the year 2006 that:
Violence against women and girls is a problem of pandemic proportions. At least one out of every three women around the world has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in her life time with the abuser usually someone known to her.
Some of these violent acts perpetrated against women by individuals include: Rape, domestic violence, sexual harassment, coercive use of contraceptives, female infanticide, female genital mutilation, marriage by abduction and forced marriage, forced abortion, assault, battery, trafficking women and forced prostitution. E.t.c
Violence against women negatively affects a woman’s wellbeing and participation in the society, most women who have been violated in one form or the other seem withdrawn from the society. Only few women defy the odd and get out from the situation. Many women in Nigeria go through the ordeal of violence, despite laws in place to checkmate violence. Most Nigerian women are facing violence in their workplaces, school, street, church, communities and home. Despite different conventions, laws and conferences held each time, violence is still prevalent in the society. Sometimes women are attacked by strangers, but most often they are attacked and hurt by people who are close to them such as their husband, partner, friend, brother, sister, father, mother, relation, clergy and boss at work place. E.t.c
Most women who have been violated are hurt by people who they are close to; most of these women whom I have interacted with are mostly dependent on their abuser for financial upkeep/ funds or for other basic needs of life. Most of these women are dependent on their abuser to the extent they cannot afford to buy sanitary pads or toiletries without the help of their abuser.
Financial constraints have prevented lots of women from leaving this abusive situation, be it in the work place, home and in the church. Most of these women do not want to come out from such abusive situation because they feel their abuser is all they have in the world and without their abuser they are nothing or because they are afraid of what their abuser would do to them.
A lot of women live in violence and prefer to die in violence or hoping that God will take care of it, most of them reject help out of such situation, they feel is shameful to expose their abuser or discuss about it while some feel in so far their abuser is giving them what they desire they can live with it.
The Way Forward:
1 Education and awareness- women need to be massively educated, education is a tool for fighting oppression, when a person is informed and armed with knowledge it helps the development of a person, reasoning and thinking. Awareness on violence against women should be created regularly teaching women that violence exists and how to curb the surge of violence. Most women do not believe that they are violated, most acts perpetrated against women they see it as part of life. Educating women will help them realize and know when their rights are violated and necessary action to take. There should be massive re-orientation program geared towards educating women on the need not to be overwhelmed by societal pressures to get the things they desire in life.
Most women do not know we have centers, associations and organizations that help women who have been violated in one way or the other for example: the Family Law Centers in various states, international federation of female lawyers (FIDA), National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) Women Development Centers or report to the Nigeria police Force. When a woman is armed with knowledge and well informed, she knows the right step to take at each time that is why education and awareness is essential and necessary.
2 Self-Empowerment/Self-reliance- women should start seeing themselves as persons who can achieve anything they set their heart on without being dependent on any person for their success in life. Like earlier pointed out most women who are violated are close to their abuser and most time these women are not willing to leave the abuser because they depend on their abuser.
Presently most women who are violated are dependent on their abuser and they feel without their abuser they cannot become anything in life. Every woman should bear this in mind:
‘’ our foremothers were people of ethics and value, supportive and hardworking, but in this present day we have women who are overly materialistic, a man is not a poverty alleviation scheme, be productive, empower yourself, learn to be independent, learn self- contentment and be supportive’’.
Every woman should learn to be independent, build their self-worth. Women should understand that the moment they depend on people for life needs, they tend to lose their value and likely prone to violence. As their abuser is fully aware they have nothing to depend on but on them.
Women who are CEO’s of their life without reliance on anyone are hardly affected by violence, because they know what to do and the right step to take if confronted with such issue. Most women have also reduced themselves to ready tools for male chauvinists to use as they please all for little financial aggrandizement. Most Women have been raped, assaulted, battered, trafficked and forced into prostitution and violated in many ways because of their over reliance on people. This underscores the salient fact that men are unable to do much when women place themselves in situations where they are easily exploited and molested.
3 Prosecution of offenders– prosecution of offenders will help go a long way to curb the surge of violence against women; it will serve as a deterrent to prospective abusers. It is disheartening that we have laws but little convictions have been made. The government/law agencies should ensure that offenders be duly prosecuted this will help reduce the rate of violence amongst women.
4 victims of violence should speak up- one of the major problem we have amongst women is that most women who are victims of violence do not speak up, most times they are afraid of what their abuser will do to them, they are scared, they are threatened by their abuser not to speak or they are shy or because of the shame. They prefer to live with the violence and cover their abuser.
Violence is not something we should live with, it affects the general well-being of a woman negatively; it is not something we should cover because of shame or because we are shy.
Women should know that if they keep quiet over their abuser, they only give their abuser the chance to continue with such act and they may likely die in violence. I have met women who believe that God will fight their abuser, but they have failed to understand that God has given us avenues and mechanisms to fight violence. A lot of women have lost their lives, fortunes and career because of violence and because they refused to speak out. Women should speak out, violence shouldn’t be seen by women as private problem but as a social problem.
5 Family– the family has a vital role to play to curb violence against women, teaching of equality of boys and girls in the family will help shape the mind of the children that no sex is superior or inferior to the other, that every person should be respected, treated and granted equal opportunity. It will help reduce violence as both sexes will see each other as important as the other and not subservient to the other. Parents should educate their girl child to be independent, girls shouldn’t be given out to early or forced marriage or trafficked or forced into prostitution because of financial constraint in the family. The family should equip and empower the girl child alongside the male child, the family should help both sexes grow together in peace and harmony, valuing each other, inculcating same moral/values standard for both sexes and not being selective on what to teach the male and what not to teach the female, or what the male should be or what the female should be or not be. Most men or persons exhibit anti-social behaviors and over bearing aggressiveness towards women because of the kind of upbringing and values taught to them in the family.
In conclusion many women have been killed, lives destructed, opportunities lost because of violence against women. According to CNN News report a woman is violated every 15seconds, two out of every three women whom are beaten either knew or were related to the abuser.
Women should learn to stand up for themselves, be independent, be self-empowered, seek education, seek for skill and set their heart to achieve things in life.
Violence if condoned continues and hardly stops, it becomes more of psychological problem, and the abuser sees it as a way of life. The family, society, church, government, community need to come together to fight this surge, speak and act on this. Every living person is prone to be violated in one way or the other, which is why we need to curb this issue regardless of the sex which is more prone to it.
About the author
Ulasi Ogechukwu Mary is a legal practitioner, a chartered arbitator and a social justice crusader. A prolific writer and columnist.