I was tuned to a Lagos based radio station two weeks back when the news of a 31-year-old lady that was allegedly raped by a DPO (Divisional Police Officer) in the cell she was detained in filtered through. Read More: http://bit.ly/1jMSUIH.
Women and young girls have been meted out with unfair and marginalistic treatment in this testosterone filled world of men. I have led a small but consistent fight against this menace to society with my support for NGO’s that fight for women rights, helped educate girls on their rights in the society and stood up for fair and equal treatment of women. Read: Womb + Men = Women: http://bit.ly/1k2egBR
Women need to realize that nobody takes a ride on your back till you bend low enough to let them. Its time we all stand up and take a stand. Water has indeed passed garri.
I came across an article written by Biliki Bakare which on its own carries the message behind this movement. As a man or woman, boy or girl, lady or gentleman reading the article below, please don’t read it like you would just any other article. Read it with an open mind and heart. As you read, envision yourself in the shoes of that abused little girl, that beaten and battered up wife, that raped woman, that sexually assaulted girl or that forcibly married 13 year old girl. Read it with soul and come out with a conviction that truthfully ENOUGH IS ENOUGH and let’s give this Violence Against Women movement a much needed push.
Biliki Bakare’s article in its entirety:
TACKLING GENDER BASED VIOLENCE:
According to the United Nations, gender-based violence, interchangeably used with Violence Against Women, or at times, domestic violence, is any act of violence that results in or is likely to result in physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women or young girls, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty whether occurring in private [domestic]or public life. Gender-based violence is a global phenomenon and not limited to Nigeria. It occurs in various cultures, and affects people irrespective of their economic status.
The primary targets of gender-based violence are women and adolescent girls. They also suffer enormous consequences as compared with what men endure. As a result of gender discrimination and their lower socio- economic status, women have fewer options and less resources at their disposal to avoid or escape abusive situations and to seek justice.
In her journey through life, the female gender, (when lucky enough to be spared, as female foetuses are still being aborted in some societies), is often subjected to all types of problems. Chief among these is exposure to violence. At least one out of three girls and women worldwide has been beaten or sexually abused in her lifetime. Consequently, they suffer sexual and reproductive health consequences, including forced marriages and unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions resulting in deaths, traumatic fistula, and higher risks of sexually transmitted infections and HIV. Not too long ago in Lagos, a senior secondary school student with an ambition of becoming a medical doctor, was forcibly married off to an older man, who had defiled her before being rescued by the state Ministry of Women Affairs And Poverty Alleviation. Also in Kano State, a 14 year old girl reportedly poisoned her husband because she was forced to marry him.
Violence against women can be physical, sexual or psychological. Other types can be in form of neglect and abandonment and economic disempowerment. Physical violence can occur both in private and in public and it includes, but not limited to such acts as slapping, kicking, stabbing, shooting, hitting, pouring acid or any corrosive substance and in extreme case, murder. Other forms are harmful traditional practices and female genital mutilation.
It is a common practice these days for husbands to turn their spouses to punching bags and often vent their anger and frustrations on them. They label their wives as witches whenever they experience downturn in their economic lives or lose their jobs. Consequently, the wives suffer for the situations they did not partake in inventing in the first place. In most cases, the charlatans turned prophets and spiritualists are the major culprits. Similarly, if a woman earns more than the man, there may be conflicts in the home leading to domestic violence because the man may be feeling inferior and may believe the only way to assert his authority in the home is by becoming violent.
Sexual violence, on the other hand, is the abuse of women’s bodily integrity and this includes incest, indecent assault of young girls, rape, sexual harassment and child pornography .Incest which had hitherto been an abomination in Africa, in the olden days , is now common as even fathers now sexually abuse their young daughters.
But, perhaps, the most common form of sexual violence against the women folk is rape. Rape is having sex with a woman without her consent. Today, the rape epidemic in our society reflects the extent to which women’s human rights are flagrantly being threatened. Our laws and collective attitudes toward this weapon of domination and repression call to question not only our sense of justice but our level of civilization. Like a scourge, the regular cases of reported rape in the country’s media and confirmed statistics from some states are threatening to smother the essence of the society. Each day, the media are a washed with weird stories with varying degrees of ludicrousness ; from child defilement to the rape of old women. Nobody, not even infants is safe from the evil rampage of these randy felons on the prowl.
Psychological violence is a form of gender based violence which are often not immediately obvious to the eye. It happens when a person uses words or actions to control, frighten, isolate or take away another person’s self respect, causing severe psychological trauma. It can include put downs, name calling or insults, constant yelling, keeping victim from seeing friends or family or controlling what she wears, where she goes, who she sees etc.
Over the years, there have been agitations on how to stop domestic violence against women and children, but in 2012, the Lagos State House of Assembly made a bold move and passed into law, a bill to provide protection against domestic violence. Some states have also passed a law against this social menace but none of them have fully tested its efficacy.
Many victims of domestic violence usually lack the courage to seek legal redress on the violation of their rights due to lack of positive response from the society as the problem is often dismissed as a private one even by law enforcement agent and the fear of being exposed to more intense form of abuses. Domestic violence is so entrenched in our society that even the victims condone such violations of their rights as some perceive it as sign of love and the socio-religious belief that a broken marriage or relationship is a mark of failure in life. And also because many women and girls depend on financial resources of their husband, father or families, they are forced to put up with domination for fear of the withdrawal of this financial support.
Therefore, in order to tackle this hydra headed monster, women and girls should be sensitized and educated to draw a line between true love and abuse, should know the difference from being submissive and being out rightly stupid. Empowerment of women to avoid total dependent on their male counterpart is also very important as they will be able to take care of themselves and their children in cases of separation from their abusive spouses.
Society should desist from stigmatizing and humiliating victims as women in Nigeria face humiliating rules regarding evidence in court when it concerns violence against them. The victim of rape must provide the bed sheet slept on during the case of rape, pant worn must be presented unwashed and also medical report which in most cases are difficult to obtain because of the nature of our health facilities.
The issue of gender based violence is a social malady that requires holistic approach and solution from all stakeholders. The civil society groups, traditional and religious bodies, women rights groups, law enforcement agencies, all tiers of government and families must all work together with a view to stemming the tide of this dreadful societal ill.
*Bakare is of the Ministry of Information and Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja.
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