This discussion is a very sensitive one and I want you reading to come with a very open mind for understanding and reasoning. Nigeria is one of the countries with so much but with so little when it comes to rights for other classes in society: especially the poor, women and children. These groups are now left somewhat vulnerable to many dangers, and in this case of women, it is abuse. All kinds of abuse, ranging from sexual harassment to wife battering to rape, you name it. The National Assembly is still yet to pass important laws such as the Domestic Violence Protection Bill, 2006, but are happy sending homosexuals to prison for their sexual orientation. So much for having priorities right in this country.
I will like to share a little experience I had sometime in March this year. I was at a friend’s in Lekki, and some other acquaintances came to join us. Among them was a guy and supposedly his girlfriend or someone he’s romantically inclined with. Pretty tall model physique, and light brown skinned. But there was a downside, the expression on her face. She looked so sad, as though she had been plagued with the whole weight of the world. I walked out of the gathering to receive a phone call and returned to see the guy confronting her about a message on her Blackberry and the next thing was he slammed the phone on the floor and accosted her with several slaps and punches. She started crying and I will never forget one statement she made, ‘I will not do anything until you tell me sorry.’ What?!
I was so livid even more when I heard that statement. How can this lady who is not more than 24, say such after being victim to a K.O fest? I wanted to go over to her to speak to her, but other friends in my company adviced me not to, to save myself being embarrassed by her and her Mike Tyson boyfriend. The couple walked off after that and I remember a friend saying in pidgin, it is a normal thing round here in Nigeria for a girl to get ‘brushed’ that way. They even went on to express that some women who are wives and mothers equally endure abuse from their spouses. I was tempted to launch into the typical ‘I-am- a foreigner’ argument, and that women abuse in England is not taken lightly to and those involved in perpetrating it are heavily prosecuted. The debate died there.
Now what has risen the discussion again is stories I have been reading about in papers, the internet and of course, word of mouth. Yesterday I read about somewhere in Western Nigeria (it was not specified for some reason), how a married woman had been subject to ridicule after she was caught having sex with another man. She was stripped naked in public, taunted and called all derogatory names. There were photos too, of her being pushed and prodded by a mob of men. I was so appalled. Why will Nigeria resort to that kind of justice? I was quick to conclude that perhaps it is lack of exposure and of course illiteracy on the part of those that carried out the public disgrace on the woman. But then I had to reason about it again. If those men were uneducated, what is the government doing to enlighten them about carrying out such acts? Or any NGOs doing to shed light on this problem of abuse? Government as stated earlier obviously find issues like this unimportant and NGOs like Project Alert and Women Consortium of Nigeria have been so amazing for their hard work towards enlightening and helping victims of abuse.
Okay now, I have heard many sides to this argument, that most victims of abuse find it hard to let themselves out of it, just like K whom I met last week near Obalende. A 31 year old mother of 2. She does not have a job and depends solely on her husband who works in a factory on the mainland. She said she constantly gets abuse from her husband over the most minor of things. ‘If my husband comes back from work and he does not meet food in the house, I am in deep trouble.’ She explained to me in pidgin. She told me she is used to it, because he is her only means of livelihood. She said if she actually had a job, she would have walked out of the husband long time ago. ‘What if you now find a job will you still leave?’ I asked her and she said she probably will not for the sake of the shame it may bring on her small children and on her own family. Typical example of victim in denial and delusion. K now seems to be very used to that cycle of abuse that she now considers such abnormality normal.
On the other hand, some manage to opt out of their marriages or relationships after so much experiences of abuse. This is close to home. A personal experience I witnessed. An aunt walked out of a 7 year marriage with her little daughter in February. She was constantly subjected to rape by her husband, and verbal abuse. She sought refuge with a lawyer friend, who helped process her divorce which successfully pulled through. Her husband has been subjected to paying monthly upkeep for their daughter. Some reading this may say exposure and literacy was what motivated her to leave, then argue that what about poorer women with no understanding and no hope of help? Personal empowerment helps women in vulnerable situations of abuse. It does not matter if you are educated or you sell pepper in Ita Faaji, so long as you know it is not deserving of you, you should be thinking of ways to stop it, which is usually “RUNNING” before you become a memory to your loved ones who still cherish you.
If you are a victim of abuse or know anyone that is in such situation, visit project alert and women consortium of nigeria for more information and help. Stay FAB and empowered.