It takes different forms and is usually carried out by familiar members of the home. The Nigerian woman in the home can best be described as the silent voice who bears the heavy burden of being violated in the home without any hope of being free until it becomes too late.
Reports made by brutalised women to the police often end up being trivalised and more than often, the women are told to return home to beg their partners for the purposes of an amicable settlement as such issues are always termed a family matter. Despite the growing recognition of violence against women, violence continues to increase unabated. There is therefore the need to stop it.
This paper will attempt to examine the various forms of domestic violence that occur in the home, causes and effects of such violence, existing laws shall be examined to find out if these laws have been adequate in reducing domestic violence as well as providing recommendations to stem domestic violence.
Violence according to the United Nations Declaration on The Elimination of Violence against women is defined as:
Any act of gender-based violence that results in or is likely to result in physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering in women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty whether occuring in public or private life.’
The above definition encapsulates domestic violence by extending it to private life which includes the home.
Article 2 describes violence to encompass , but not be limited to the following:
Physical, sexual and psychological violence occuring in the children in the household, dowry-related violence, marital rape, female genital mutilation and other traditional practices harmful to women, non-spousal violence related to exploitation.
Oxford Dictionary of Law defines Domestic violence as Physical violence inflicted on a person by their husband, wife or cohabitants.
Domestic violence is usually perpetrated in the home away from the eyes of the public and is said to cover a wide range of violent acts such as physical assaults, blows, beatings, shovings, aggressive behaviours/ maltreatment.
This has been described as Violence prepetrated by known and identified perpetrators, partners, both intimate or peripheral, boyfriends, current and retired, husbands, former partners or former husbands, fathers, step-fathers, fathers in law, brothers of both full and half blood or sons and other relatives.
A United Nation Fund for Women(UNIFEM) has reported that on the average, at least six out of ten women have been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused by an intimate partner in the course of their lifetime. Many of the victims do not speak out about the violations of their rights due to lack of positive response from extended family members and regulatory bodies. It is estimated that one in every three women suffer domestic violence from the hands of those who claim to love and protect them.
In Nigeria, domestic violence is seen as a norm as over the years, it has been used as a manifestation of the unequal power relations between the male and female which has led to the domination of the woman. This has hindered the full advancement of the woman in all spheres of life.
This unwholesome act has led to the maiming and in some extreme cases killing of many women. It was reported recently that a highly placed traditional ruler , Oba Adepoju Adeshina, The Deji of Akure beat up Bolanle Adeshina, his wife in the full glare of the public, and injured her severely to the extent that she had to be admitted into the hospital. When confronted with the matter, he simply stated that it was a domestic matter. This is what often occurs when any attempt is made to prevent such assault.
It is a widely known fact that women are always the victims and men ,the perpetrators. Research has shown that 50%-60% of all domestic abuse and violence are against women.
Forms of Domestic Violence
Domestic violence that occur in the home are of various types and shall be examined.
This involves the use of aggression in inflicting harm on a woman. It is usually termed assault and battery under criminal law. It also entails the slapping, battery, beating, torture, rape, acid baths and even death of the victim which is known as honour killing.
The use of force and roughness is usually applied which often times causes severe physical injury or damage and is usually carried out by a familiar person in the family .A newspaper recently reported the unfortunate incident of the gruesome murder of one Mrs Titilayo Arowolo who was killed by her husband. Before her death, she was the bread winner of the home and had been subjected to various acts of domestic abuse which always left her with bruises. Physical violence also extends to slavery, slave-like practices and trafficking.
The beating of women known as wife battering and children in Nigeria is widely sanctioned in Nigeria culture and is used as a form of discipline with the caveat that it should not be excessive in the sense of inflicting grievous bodily harm.
This positon sadly is behind the beating of wives who are regarded as property of the men and are regarded as children who are prone to indiscipline and excesses, which need to be curbed.” This notion is so deeply entrenched in the cultural mind-set that the Penal Code which is applicable to the Northern part of Nigeria provides that a husband is permitted to beat his wife for the purpose of correcting her, subject only to any native law and custom in which such correction is recognised as lawful and provided that the result does not amount to the infliction of grievous hurt.
Another type of physical domestic violence is the use of acids which are often used on women .This is carried out with an evil motive of causing a permanent disfigurement . The acids are purchased on the streets and are in the form of sulphuric
acid, hydrochloric acid, and phosphoric acid. These acids are corrosive chemicals which are routinely used in laboratories and factories. Acid baths in Nigeria gained popularity in 1999 when a former beauty queen was permanently disfigured by her boyfriend for refusing to renew their relationship.’
In another similar incident, it has been reported that one Deborah Adeyemi aged 40 years who was married to Superintendent Adeyemi for 22 years with children was sprayed with acid by her husband based on an allegation that she had a relationship with his friend and had built a house without his knowledge. 1t has been noted that there are no age limits to the victims as both old and young women and girls are victims.
Many cases of acid baths are as a result of the refusal of the woman to renew or at times submit to a relationship with the perpetrator. The offence, it is noted, is a bailable one and has probably not deterred perpetrators from carrying out acid baths on their female partners when they refuse their advances
Many battered women are usually passive and do not leave the abusive and battering relationships. Only few of the women fight back. Physical violence violate conditions that make for human development of the victim. Among the various forms of domestic violence, physical violence ranks high and is often sparked by various reasons like arguements over maintenance allowances, household responsibilities, widespread deepening poverty and other issues.
This is another type of violence that is perpetuated against women in the home. Verbal violence focuses on the woman’s intelligence , sexuality, body image and capacity. Women are commonly seen and referred to by the male folk as stupid, sluggish, slut, whores, fat, ugly, lousy mothers and lazy .
They are most times compared unfavourably with other women with the sole aim of putting them under perpetual shame, subjugation and fear. Daughters and women are often times thought of as good for nothing and not worth educating.
The psychological effect that most verbal sentences of many husband have left on their wives, has caused a lot of damages to many family units in Nigeria. Many women have therefore decided to divorce their husband thus abandoning their children to suffer while many have committed suicide for lack of counsel and courage. Verbal violence also includes comodification of women.
This means the act of treating women like a piece of property to be owned, inherited and treated as a sexual object, Examples of this class of violence against women includes when women are subjected to prostitution, rape, forced labour All these are used as instruments of verbal abuse that send insulting messages to the integrity and dignity of womanhood and have led to the demoralization of many women.
This term is used to denote sexual exploitation and sexual abuse. Sexual violence against women is a human rights violation that cannot be justified by any political, social, religious or cultural claim rather it results in physical, psychological and emotional harm.2° Sexual violence that occurs in the home can be said to be of various types which are wife rape, incest and rape of house maids. Emphasis will be however be on wife rape.
Wife rape can be said to be unlawful sex act obtained from a wife without her consent. Although wife rape has been recognised in other jurisdictions, it is yet to be recognised in Nigeria. This is as a result of the patrichal system where the wife is seen as a chattel to be used at will. The Criminal Code 21 provides only for the offence of rape and does not provide for wife rape.
Section 357 of the Criminal Code defines rape as:
Any person who has unlawful carnal knowledge of a woman or girl, without her consent, or with her consent, if the consent is obtained by force or by means of threats or intimidation of any kinds, or by/ear of harm, or by means of false and fraudulent representation as to the nature of the act, or in the case of a married woman, by personating her husband, is guilty of an offence which is called rape.
The Penal Code also defines rape as:
A man can be held guilty of rape if he has sexual intercourse with a woman without her consent, or with her consent if consent is unlawfully obtained.
For the offence of rape to be proved, there must be proof of the physical element of penetration and to aid the proof beyond reseasonable doubt, prosecution must focus on two vital sections of the Code, which were insights as to matters in respect of which proof must be adduced and to be able to do this, the physical aspect which is referred to as the actusreus must be proved.
Section 6 of the Criminal Code defines unlawful carnal knowledge as carnal knowledge which takes place otherwise than between husband and wife . From the definition above, it presupposes that carnal relations which take place between husbands and wives are not primafacie unlawful. .This position of Section 6 creates a spousal immunity to a husband whose act against his wife could otherwise be termed rape.
To ensure that this crime is reduced to the minimum, it is the humble view of the writer that Sections 6 and 357 be amended to include spousal rape to enable a woman press charges.