While activists across the world were raising their voices against gender-based violence(GBV), few weeks ago, a Nigerian journalist was busying beating his wife, a medical doctor and mother of four.
In a viral video, the lady, whose face was bloody and battered, while weeping and agonizing over her plight, accused her husband of hitting her even, while she was three months pregnant.
According to her, he sat on her incisions and almost strangled her, before she raised the alarm.
Best-selling Nigerian author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, while speaking about domestic violence said, ‘it starts from the womb.’
We see gender violence, but violence by whom? Here is the United Nations(UN) statistics…137 women are killed by a member of the family every day. What it doesn’t say is that it is nearly always from a male family member.’
‘We must be forthright, in addressing this ugly pandemic. It is overwhelmingly women who suffer violence from men.’
‘Most of the pregnancies terminated are overwhelmingly female pregnancies and they are aborted specifically because they are female.’
‘A baby boy and a baby girl are treated differently, the minute they are born, infact, even before they are born.
Incidentally, the brutalized lady has gone back to her matrimonial home, under a purported reconciliation orchestrated by the state governor.
Her ‘supposed’ reconciliation with the man who nearly killed her is still baffling.
Many Nigerians were enraged by this move, but blamed it on the entrenched cultural and societal odds against widows, divorced and single females.
Dr. Amina Muhammed
Her case has raised many questions over the complexities of curbing domestic abuse in Nigeria.
The question is: ‘Will violence ever end in Nigeria and similar climes, where the lives of women and girls are shackled by obnoxious culture, religious chicanery and structural poverty.
Where then is the justice, given the nation’s lackadaisical disposition to such scandalous and heinous crimes.
Abusers often escape justice, due to weak legislation, enforcement, stigma and societal pressure, which tend to work in their favour.
Consider the traumatizing story of Fatima Ada Isiaku, a survivor of sexual violence.
‘At the age of 7, the abuse became worse,’ Ms Isiaku revealed during a televised town hall on sexual and gender-based violence and Spotlight Initiative’s efforts to address the issue in Nigeria.
‘I was a sex slave for complete seven years under my mother’s nose without her knowing that I was being abused.’
It wasn’t until the age of 14 that Ms. Isiaku’s mother finally listened to her, after performing an at-home “virginity test.’
When Ms. Isiaku explained that she was being raped by her stepfather, her mother told her to keep quiet and sent her to live at her uncle’s house. Two years later, her mother died and Isiaku was forced to return home.
‘My stepfather told me, ‘Your mother is no longer here to protect you’… he continued raping me,’ she said.
Isiaku said the abuse caused her to drop out of school, run away from home and begin drinking. ‘I was bullied. The stigma, friends abandoned me,’ she said.
Even today, she faces discrimination stemming from her sexual assault. ‘My stepfather told me, “Your mother is no longer here to protect you.”
Ms. Isaku’s story was a harrowing reminder of the devastating impact of violence against women and girls – what EU Head of Delegation Ketil Karlsen called ‘the world’s longest lasting pandemic.’
Women protesting against violence
‘Thirty-one per cent of Nigerian women aged 15 – 49 have experienced physical violence according to the 2018 National Demographic and Health Survey, though underreporting means true statistics are likely much higher.’
‘The town hall brought together survivors of violence, civil society representatives, government, police, and representatives from the EU and UN to discuss what needs to be done to end violence against women and girls in the country.’
‘It focused on improving survivor access to justice, the challenges of prosecuting perpetrators of violence, and the adoption of legal frameworks that protect women and girls, as well as highlighting gender-based violence services that are available.’
UN Resident Coordinator to Nigeria Edward Kallon spoke about the need for all of society to join the movement to eliminate violence. ‘It is not a woman’s issue, it is also an issue for men,’ he said.
This is quite tragic, justifying the international mobilization to end violence against women, popularly described as a ‘shadow pandemic.’
Incidentally, this year’s commemoration to end violence and harmful practices against women and girls ended with a renewed call to escalate the campaign.
The United Nations(UN) System’s 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence activities, annually held from 25 November 25 to 10 December, had a global theme tagged ‘Orange the World: Fund, Respond, Prevent, Collect!’
Ample evidence has shown an alarming increase in the already existing pandemic of violence against women, according to UN reports. The unprecedented solidarity to end this scourge offers hope.
In his speech entitled ‘Let’s all UNiTE to end violence during COVID-19 and beyond,’ UN Secretary-General Dr António Guterres said ‘violence against women and girls is a global human rights challenge. The COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed this issue as a global emergency requiring urgent action at all levels, in all spaces and by all people.’
‘Violence against women and girls is a pervasive global human rights challenge, rooted in unequal gender power relations, structural inequality and discrimination.’
‘That is why we launched the ‘Global UNiTE to End Violence against Women’ campaign. The COVID-19 crisis has further exposed violence against women and girls as a global emergency requiring urgent action,’ he added.
‘Rates of violence, in particular domestic violence, have dramatically escalated around the world. It is clear that the pandemic has exacerbated risk factors and laid bare the shortcomings of previous efforts to prevent and respond to this shocking emergency.’
‘In April this year, I urged the international community to end the shadow pandemic of gender-based violence once and for all, and make prevention and the redress of violence a key part of national responses to COVID-19.’
‘My appeal was answered with strong commitment and support from 146 Member States and Observers. I reiterated and relaunched that appeal several times. I do it again today,’ Guterres stated.
‘I have been heartened to see so many governments taking action to address gender-based violence during COVID-19.’
‘Civil society partners and grassroots women’s rights organizations have been indispensable in preventing and responding to violence against women and girls in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.’
He continued: ‘This year the United Nations flagship Spotlight Initiative, in partnership with the European Union, has expanded to three new subregions, investing in prevention and transformative sustainable solutions aligned to the Sustainable Development Goals(SDGs).’
‘However, much work remains to be done. Millions of women are being pushed further into poverty by the COVID-19 crisis, and all forms of violence against them are rising.’
‘In this context, the global community must continue to build on the momentum we have created to prioritize the voices, experiences and needs of women and girls.’
‘We must take into account the needs of women who experience violence, particularly those who face multiple and intersecting forms of violence and discrimination.’
His words: ‘Our priorities must first and foremost include urgent and flexible funding for women’s rights organizations, who so often act as first responders during crises.’
‘It is critical that services for survivors are regarded as essential and remain open, with adequate resources and measures in place to support health and social services to care for survivors of violence.’
‘Programming should also prioritize the quality and continuity of police and justice sector responses. But measures should not only focus on intervening once violence has occurred,’ he stressed.
‘They should aim to reduce the risk of violence occurring in the first place, he noted, while listing other priority areas: ‘This includes providing financial and material support to women and households as well as encouraging positive messaging around gender equality, stereotypes and norms.’
The UN chief also emphasized need to supported t access to mental health services and engaging key stakeholders, including women and girls, men and boys, and traditional and faith-based leaders. The more we know about the gender-based violence, the more we can effectively address it.’
The agency’s Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General of the United stated same.
‘It is important that we acknowledge the multiple forms of violence women and girls face, and the consequences they have for individuals, families, communities, and our shared agendas for development—the 2030 Agenda and the African Union’s Agenda 2063.’
‘From early forced marriage to femicide, from trafficking to sexual harassment, from sexual violence to harmful traditional practices: violence in all its forms is a global impediment to sustainable development, peace and prosperity.’
‘It prevents women from fully engaging in society, scars successive generations, and costs countries millions in health expenses, job days lost, and long-term impacts,’ she lamented.
Dr. Guterres called for more action in eradicating this human-induced pandemic.‘We have already made much progress in highlighting violence against women and girls as one of the most pressing issues of our time. But we must go further – much further.’
‘For this reason, measures should also focus on supporting institutions to collect and analyze data, where it is safe and ethical to do so.’
‘Violence against women and girls is a horrible and widespread affront to their human rights, and a blight on all our societies.’
Let us all UNiTE to end the violence during COVID-19 and beyond.
This is a task before all.
.Ojukwu is a Fellow of Hubert H Humphrey Fellowship, publisher, editor and serial newspaper columnist. She is a campaigner and advocate for improved socio-economic and health services for all citizens, as well as the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals(SDGS). Please kindly send feedback to [email protected]