In the heart of Africa lies Nigeria, a country rich in culture, history, and potential. However, beneath the surface of this vibrant nation, a silent epidemic rages on—a scourge that has scarred countless lives and continues to inflict pain and suffering. Domestic violence in Nigeria is an issue that has been shrouded in silence for too long, affecting women, men, and children across all social strata. This article seeks to shed light on the pervasive issue of domestic violence in Nigeria, exploring its roots, consequences, and the urgent need for change.

Domestic violence in Nigeria is not a new phenomenon. It has been a part of the social fabric for generations, often accepted or ignored by society. The issue encompasses physical, emotional, and psychological abuse within the home, and it disproportionately affects women. According to the National Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS), about 28% of Nigerian women aged 15-49 have experienced physical violence since the age of 15. This alarming statistic underscores the widespread nature of the problem.

One of the significant factors contributing to the persistence of domestic violence in Nigeria is deeply entrenched cultural and societal norms. In many communities, traditional gender roles and patriarchal values are prevalent. Men are often seen as the heads of households, with the authority to control and discipline their wives and children. This dynamic can create an environment where abuse is tolerated or even justified. Ugbede, a university student in PAAU, witnessing his father’s abuse of his mother left deep emotional scars. “I remember hiding under the bed with my younger sister,” he says.

“We would cover our ears, but we could still hear everything. It’s something that stays with you.” Ugbede’s experience reflects the profound psychological impact domestic violence has on children. The trauma of growing up in a violent home can have long-lasting effects, shaping their attitudes and behaviors well into adulthood.

Additionally, some cultural practices, such as bride price and early marriage, can exacerbate the problem. The payment of a bride price can create a sense of ownership over the woman, leading to her subjugation and increased vulnerability to abuse. Early marriage, which is still common in some parts of Nigeria, often places young girls in relationships where they have little power or voice, making them more susceptible to violence.

Economic dependence is another critical factor that perpetuates domestic violence. Many women in Nigeria are economically dependent on their husbands, which can trap them in abusive relationships. The lack of financial independence makes it challenging for victims to leave their abusers and seek help. This economic dependence is often compounded by limited access to education and employment opportunities for women.

While Nigeria has made some strides in addressing domestic violence through legislation, significant gaps remain. The Violence against Persons (Prohibition) Act (VAPP), enacted in 2015, is a landmark law that aims to eliminate violence in private and public life. It provides protection for victims and prescribes penalties for offenders. However, the implementation of this law has been uneven across the country, with some states yet to domesticate it.

The Nigerian legal system also faces challenges in effectively addressing domestic violence cases. Victims often encounter barriers when seeking justice, such as long delays, corruption, and a lack of sensitivity among law enforcement officials. Many cases go unreported due to fear of stigmatization or retaliation from the abuser.

The impact of domestic violence extends beyond physical injuries. Victims often suffer severe psychological and emotional trauma, which can have long-lasting effects on their mental health. Anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and low self-esteem are common among survivors. Children who witness domestic violence are also deeply affected, with many experiencing emotional and behavioral problems that can persist into adulthood.

Civil society organizations play a crucial role in addressing domestic violence in Nigeria. These organizations provide essential services such as counseling, legal assistance, and temporary shelter for victims. They also engage in advocacy and awareness campaigns to change societal attitudes and promote gender equality.
One notable organization is the Mirabel Centre, Nigeria’s first sexual assault referral center. The center offers free medical, legal, and counseling services to survivors of sexual and domestic violence. Since its inception, the Mirabel Centre has helped thousands of women and children rebuild their lives after experiencing abuse.
Breaking the silence around domestic violence is a critical step towards addressing the issue. Public awareness campaigns, community dialogues, and media coverage can help challenge the stigma and shame associated with being a victim. Education is also essential in changing attitudes and behaviors. Schools can play a vital role in teaching young people about healthy relationships, gender equality, and respect.

Support networks are crucial for victims of domestic violence. Friends, family members, and neighbors can provide emotional support, assist with accessing services, and help create safety plans. Communities can also establish support groups where survivors can share their experiences and offer mutual support.
Religious institutions, which play a significant role in Nigerian society, can also be powerful allies in the fight against domestic violence.

By promoting messages of love, respect, and non-violence, religious leaders can help change harmful attitudes and behaviors. Just like the case in Kano, Aisha, a community leader, speaks passionately about the cultural and religious barriers that perpetuate domestic violence. “Many women believe they have to endure abuse because they are taught to obey their husbands,” she explains. “Religious leaders need to speak out against this misinterpretation of faith.” Aisha’s words emphasize the need for religious and cultural leaders to take a stand against domestic violence and advocate for the dignity and rights of all individuals.

Addressing domestic violence in Nigeria requires a multifaceted approach that involves all sectors of society. Legal reforms are necessary to ensure that laws like the VAPP Act are effectively implemented and enforced. Law enforcement agencies need training to handle domestic violence cases with sensitivity and professionalism. Access to justice must be improved, and corruption within the legal system must be addressed.

Economic empowerment programs for women can help reduce their dependence on abusive partners. Providing education and vocational training can open up opportunities for women to become financially independent. Microfinance initiatives and small business support can also play a role in empowering women economically. Asmau, a schoolteacher in Egume, shares her personal ordeal of enduring years of abuse from her husband. “He would beat me for the smallest things,” she recounts. “I stayed because I had nowhere else to go. I was not working, and I feared for my children’s future.”

Asmau’s story highlights the economic dependency that traps many women in abusive relationships. Without financial independence, leaving an abusive partner can seem like an impossible task, exacerbating the cycle of violence.
Engaging men and boys in the fight against domestic violence is crucial. Men can be powerful allies in challenging harmful gender norms and promoting equality. Programs that focus on positive masculinity, respect, and non-violence can help change attitudes and behaviors.

Involving men in discussions about domestic violence and encouraging them to speak out against abuse can create a supportive environment for change.
In conclusion Domestic violence in Nigeria is a deep-rooted issue that requires urgent attention. The journey towards eliminating this scourge involves challenging entrenched cultural norms, providing economic opportunities for women, improving the legal and institutional framework, and breaking the silence around the issue. Civil society organizations, support networks, and religious institutions all have vital roles to play in this fight.

By working together, Nigerians can create a society where everyone, regardless of gender, can live free from fear and violence. It is a long and challenging road, but with determination and collective effort, change is possible. The lives and well-being of countless individuals depend on our commitment to ending domestic violence once and for all.

Attaboh Precious Ufedojo
A Mass Communication Student Of Prince Abubakar Audu University

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