Opinion (27/11/17): Odumakin And The War Against Domestic Violence, By Ayo Oyoze Baje
“Courage is the first of all human virtues” – Socrates
The iconic name, Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin easily comes to mind anytime and anywhere the querulous and contentious issue of domestic violence comes to the public sphere, for heated discourse and needed action. She is the president of the globally recognized human rights groups ‘Women Arise for Change Initiative’ and ‘Campaign for Democracy’. Both groups have handled more than 6,000 cases of gender-based domestic violence in Nigeria over the years.
Perhaps, there will be another time and place to eulogize this unique Nigerian woman of uncommon courage, candour and compassion, who, in my humble estimation rightly deserves a national honour. That is, for her unflinching zeal and commitment towards the drastic reduction of the socio-economic malaise that has sent not a few fellow Nigerians to their early grave.
So, as the world keys into this year’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, which began on 25th November and related activities stretching to 10th December, 2017, the Human Rights Day, Nigerians cannot but be seriously concerned about the swelling wave of domestic violence spreading across the country. But first, what is it, the root causes, signs and signals as well as the solutions that would drastically reduce it to its barest minimum?
According to Wikipedia:‘Domestic violence’ is now commonly defined broadly to include “all acts of physical, sexual, psychological or economic violence” that may be committed by a family member or intimate partner. In the Nigerian scenario a consultant psychiatrist, Dr. Maymunah Kadiri, says about 25 per cent of women in Nigeria have to go through ordeal of domestic violence. The worst forms of them are battering, trafficking, rape and homicide. While domestic violence is a violation of fundamental human rights, which the Nigerian Constitution is against there are no stringent enforcement. According to the Cable, only 2 per cent of such crimes are reported.
Lagos state alone has recorded a total of 852 cases of domestic violence between January and September 2017, according to the State’s Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Team led by the State’s Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr Adeniji Kazeem. He made this public while commemorating the Domestic and Sexual Violence Awareness Month,
Odumakin in a recent lecture described the domestic violence menace as a Tsunami, by reeling out several related disturbing incidents. For instance, women are subjected to different forms of violence- physical, sexual, psychological, and economic- both within and outside their homes. There was the instance of a woman who couldn’t get pregnant but unfortunately when she finally put to bed, she was beaten to death by the husband because he thought the baby looked like his father, instead of him! Also, a banker was stabbed to death 76 times by her husband on her husband’s birthday. Modupe’s hair was scrapped with a bottle by her husband.
Another housewife, by the name Fatima had her face lacerated by her husband because of lack of fish tail in his meal! A mother of three, was physically abused by her husband for her failure to cook the meal of his choice even when he gives her N3,000 to prepare meals for the whole month! A woman’s eye was blinded with a knife by her husband on the excuse of infidelity. There was the dastardly tragedy of one Obanye Chizoba whose face and bosoms were distorted by the acid poured on her by her uncle’s wife. A 96 year old man physically abused his 86 wife who he caught having an affair with an electrician. There was the despicable act of a father who slept with his three daughters and impregnated them many times, while his wife was forced to abort them! A house girl was chained and abused in Arepo. One Roseline was suffocated by her husband but was resurrected, yet her husband finally slit her throat a few months later!
But some men also suffer at the hands of their wicked wives. The recent act of Maryam Sanda, now in police net for allegedly stabbing her husband Bilyaminu Haliru Bello, severally on his genitals that led to his death comes to mind. nswIt was based on allegations of infidelity after seeing a text message on his phone. Yet, there have been other incredible acts of domestic violence.
The irony in all these crimes is that most, if not all could have been prevented! So what are the root causes? In Odumakin’s candid view: “domestic violence is caused by the abuser’s desire for power and control. This stems from an imbalance of power between the sexes and often time not caused by alcohol, drugs, unemployment, stress or ill health. These are only excuses or justifications for an abuser’s behavior. Society’s stereotypical beliefs and negative attitudes towards the roles of men and women, have promoted this more”. Well said.
The first firm step forward towards reducing domestic violence cases is by mass public enlightenment. This should involve related government agencies, human rights groups and the mass media. They should work with the community, local schools and local companies to organise workshop and seminars, town hall meetings and other group sessions to talk about this issue.
In this regard, one would commend The Sun Newspaper for staging a walk against prevalence of violence affecting women and children in the society beyond reporting the vices. The walk was graced by human rights activists, journalists and entertainment celebrities from the Nollywood and music industries. Nigerians should borrow a leaf from the Joe Slovo Foundation that is raising funds to support various groups helping female victims of Abuse, Violence and Assault.
One would also want to identify and commend the patriotic efforts of both Governor Akinwunmi Ambode and the wife, Bolanle for raising the stake against this monster. For instance, the Lagos State Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Team, DSVRT, set up by the government has revealed that in the past two years, it has helped to raise the bar in seeking justice and welfare for victims of various forms of abuses in the state.
Furthermore, Ambode is adding bite to the state’s bark against domestic violence. A Nigerian woman identified as Mary Sunday who was assaulted by her fiancé Isaac Gbanwua, a police officer and suffered burns has thanked the Lagos state governor Ambode for sponsoring her treatment in India at a cost of N9.5 million.
On her part, Mrs. Bolanle Ambode, has condemned in the strongest possible terms, the vexed issue of domestic violence, against the backdrop of one Mr. Lekan Shonde, who allegedly beat his wife to death at the Egbeda suburb of the state. Also, the governor of Edo State, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, has called for global alliance and enactment of responsive legislation to stem the tide of gender-based violence and trafficking of girls to assure better future for girls and women.
All hands must therefore, be on deck to pilot family affairs out of the stormy waters of domestic violence. It is an ill wind that blows no one any good.
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