Nigeria is signatory to most of the international instruments like that of CEDAW and UNICEF on violence against women. Yet these obnoxious practices against women have persisted over the years because they are often neglected. The 1999 population reports asserted that these practices are most pervasive, yet least recognized human rights abuses in Nigeria. The gains from these practices {if any} pale in comparison to the disadvantages, yet they are still perpetuated to a great extent, our sophistication and all notwithstanding. For instance, one wonders why sane and sometimes learned parents would send their ten year old daughter into marriage to a man of sixty who already has four wives. Why (with the help of women themselves) should the elders of the land force the widow to drink the water washed off her husband’s corpse and made to carry the corpse to ‘evil’ forest or some other such stuff? Why the girl child is forced to undergo circumcision, trafficked abroad for God knows what, denied access to her late father’s property? Who benefits from such barbarism and to what extent does these justify carrying out these obnoxious acts?
United Nations in 2006 observed that;

“ Every day, women all over the world are abducted into forced marriages, subjected to harmful traditional practices, married while still children to far older men… Every year, the plight of these women is too often ignored, consigned to the back pages of newspapers or relegated to no more than a passing mention in mainstream broadcast – if at all”.

Most regions in Nigeria are notorious for one or more of these practices. In the East, the terrors of widowhood rites and male child preference are prevalent. Apart from the physical abuses associated with these rites, most times the family’s possessions are confiscated from them especially in the absence of a male child. I can fully attest to this as a victim. Having lost my dad at the age of nine, I can still recall the scraping of hair, the seclusion and isolation, surrounded only by the daughters of the land {umuada}, most of whom were strangers to us. I remember my mother hugging me over and over so tightly as if her life depended on that contact and to assure herself that I was still there, the only part of her that was still same. However, this was just a tip of the iceberg. After my Dad’s burial, we started losing our possessions to these uncles of mine, from household items to land, houses until it got to the point where we no longer had a roof over our heads when we visit the village. Of course, you are wondering why we should stand and do nothing. No, there were series of meetings to demand, plead with these people to desist from this wickedness, but then, mum has no male issue so there was no case. The Lawyer hired was able to only secure a parcel of land temporarily; after all, there is no man to inherit it and there was no will.

In the North, child marriage is the order of the day. These children, some of them attend primary school from the husband’s house! These child-wives are not physically nor mentally equipped to take on this task which it seems society has pushed them into. More often than not, this results in wife battering since the girl child cannot live up to expectations. Of course, the greatest challenge here is V.V.F.,( Vesico vagina fistula) and other such health complications which turns some of these kids into social nuisance loitering the streets because they have become outcasts. There was the recent case of the small girl in Northern Nigeria who poisoned her would-be husband and his cohorts to death in protest. What I fail to understand is how a mother who passed through this ordeal will allow her child to be subjected to same, but then again, she is underpowered, thus has limited options.
Female Genital Mutilation {FGM}, erroneously tagged female circumcision is practiced more in the South though paradoxically; the operation tends to take more extreme form in the North. FGM involves cutting of whole or parts of the female sexual organ. The agonizing part is that older women themselves inflict this torture on the younger ones, inadvertently, to please the men folk since the practice is believed to enhance fidelity. The relationship between fidelity and mutilation beats me. In fact, research has revealed that FGM is neither therapeutic no reasonable, the beliefs are mere assumptions and thus, baseless.

The commonest of all forms of violence against women is domestic violence. So many women suffer so much pain in their homes through battering, rape and its attendant psychological trauma in the hands of their husbands. Homes that are supposed to provide refuge and peace becomes house of horror, yet they endure because marriage is for better for worse. What type of upbringing will children from a family where the father indecently assaults and batters their mother have? Can there ever be genuine justification for this atrocity? But because it is a woman, it doesn’t really matter; after all, it is the man’s world.

The consequences of all these harmful practices spills over to not just the immediate family but the society at large, thus the need for all hands to be on deck to stop these menace. Chances of HIV/AIDS are increased, broken homes resulting in churning out of miscreants, perverts who molest members of the society, become rampant, maternal and child mortality rate is increased and then the silent killer of psychological stress. These erroneous beliefs could be summarized as economic vulnerability, dependence and ignorance. Nevertheless, women should arise and stand up to men and the society. Why aid the man to torture fellow women, why keep mute and wait to be butchered to death? There are NGO’s and such organizations as FIDA – International Federation of Female lawyers, Widows Development Organization {WIDO}, that are always available to assist women in such predicaments as these.
Nigerian women will remain unsung, unknown, unappreciated, unrewarded and subjugated until we are able to rise up and say no. It is our battle, our fight and it must start from us before we start looking out for outside help.
Men! Please make provision for the future. You may think you have the best brothers and sisters and uncles but please, the Bible says that the heart of man is dangerously evil. Protect your family by writing a will. If you belong to the school of thought that believes the wife is not worthy of inheriting your property, please do it for your children, bequeath the world you think you posses to them if that will make you feel better. No one knows tomorrow.

The Nigerian government should do well to implement the contents of these legal instruments. Passing bills is just not enough, implementation is the key word
here, action and more action is needed. The bureaucratic tapes should be reduced. Law enforcement agencies should help in enforcing these laws rather than treat victims like culprits.
The media as agenda setters can do well to use that power in reporting and safeguarding the ‘weaker sex’.
I leave you with the words of Daniel Defoe

“For I cannot think that God Almighty ever made them (women) so delicate, so glorious creatures; and furnished them with such charms, so agreeable and so delightful to mankind; with souls capable of the same accomplishments with men; and all, to be only stewards of our houses, cooks and slaves”.

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