The Nigerian constitution makes provision for laws guiding environmental justice and equity. However, even with these laws, the Nigerian female population encounters several challenges relating to environmental justice. The most prevalent environmental justice issue which Nigerian women face is domestic violence. About 30% of Nigerian women experience domestic violence from their sexual partners or spouses.
This epidemic occurs in different regions of the country and has shown no signs of reduction or elimination despite the provision of the Nigerian constitution. Over the last decade, hundreds of Nigerian women have died as a result of domestic violence. A considerable percentage of women who are married have experienced domestic violence at least once in their marriage. This breach of environmental justice has been linked to mainly cultural, psychological and social structures. A lot of Nigerian women are raised to see domestic violence as normal or acceptable.
Acts of violence against wives and female partners are seen as acceptable and a form of 'discipline'. Similarly, they are conditioned to accept and take the blame for acts of violence committed against them by their partners. In most Nigerian homes, female children are taught to be soft-spoken and submissive in order to avoid being hit by their future spouses. It is widely assumed that only financially dependent and uneducated women are victims of domestic violence. This is untrue. Domestic violence cuts across different sectors: The educated, rich, career women and free-thinkers are not spared. However, a great percentage of women who are victims of domestic violence are uneducated or financially dependent.
Section 19 of the Violence Against Persons Act 2015 clearly stipulates that:
" A person who batters his or her spouse commits an offense and is liable on conviction to a term of imprisonment not exceeding three years or to a fine not exceeding two hundred thousand naira or both."
This provision is a clear and direct prohibition of domestic violence and spousal assault. However, this law has not prevented or reduced the cases of domestic violence in Nigeria, especially in cases where women are at the receiving end. Only two in ten cases of domestic violence are reported to the authorities. In most cases, the women are advised by family and friends to settle it out of court, bear it or apologize to her spouse. In cases where the said family is religious, she is advised to pray about it.
Why are domestic violence cases not reported?
As stated earlier, a vast majority of cases of domestic violence against women are covered up instead of being reported. The prevalent reason behind this is social conditioning and the practice of victim blaming. Due to cultural and personal beliefs, women who experience domestic violence are subtly and outrightly blamed for it by friends, family or religious counselors. Most times, they are asked what they did to provide their spouse. These close friends and family usually insist that the woman must have done something to warrant the beatings or acts of violence committed against her. It is an inherent belief in Nigeria that acts of violence committed against female spouses are acceptable. Even the women are conditioned to have the same belief. As such, these cases are not reported because the victim either blames herself or external forces point accusing fingers at her.
Another reason why most domestic violence cases are not reported in Nigeria is because of the heavy importance the Nigerian society places on marriage. Most Nigerians are of the belief and opinion that marriage is the pride and bedrock upon which a woman's dignity lies. As such, the average female victim of domestic violence is reluctant to report cases of violence to the authorities. Their reluctance is powered by the fear that their marriage would crash and they would be mocked by society.
Domestic violence in Nigeria takes several forms. It could be physical or take other forms. Common forms of physical violence include: acid baths, assault and battery, rape, murder and so on. Between 2011-2013, there was a rise in the cases of acid baths on Nigerian females by spurned or bitter spouses.
Factors that Influence Domestic Violence Against Nigerian Women
Domestic violence is the most pressing economic justice issue being faced by Nigerian women because it affects all sectors, regions and classes of women. Violence against female partners and spouses in Nigeria is mainly caused by the social and cultural structure of the nation. In most Nigerian cultures, hitting or abusing your female spouse is seen as a form of discipline or chastisement. Within the cultural and social context, Nigerian women give up most of their rights and identity once they get married. They are expected to be completely obedient and submissive to their husbands. As such, the husbands are perceived to have the right to discipline or chastise them.
Another factor that influences domestic violence against women in Nigeria is economic inequality. A lot of Nigerian men earn more than their female counterparts. This further reinforces the belief that women are inferior species and as such, influences cases of domestic violence. In situations where the wife earns more money, her every action is branded as an act of disobedience and this influences her spouse to abuse her physically, emotionally and sexually.
Several NGOs have been set in place to protect women from this prevalent environmental injustice. However, the major challenge facing the reduction and complete eradication of domestic violence in Nigeria is the covering up and hiding of cases. As stated earlier, most victims of domestic violence, do not report their cases because of fear of being blamed or mocked. However, if these victims step up and report to the appropriate authorities, the epidemic of domestic violence can be tackled and eradicated once and for all.
The authorities should also take the necessary steps towards bringing abusers to justice. In a lot of regions, the police force and authorities blame victims of domestic violence and do not take up the matter.
Thus, there needs to be a complete turnaround in the attitude of the police force and more effective laws and acts should be put into place to tackle the issue of domestic violence against Nigerian women.
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