1st December, 2014
Seven years after the Lagos State House of Assembly passed the Protection Against Domestic Violence Law in 2007, too many women in Lagos and in other Nigerian states with similar laws are still falling victims of domestic violence on a daily basis.
Although gender-based violence is a form of violence that results in physical, sexual and psychological harm to either women and men, it is women who suffer the most from such abuses in Nigeria.
These forms of violence include domestic or intimate partner violence, rape as a weapon of war, sexual violence and abuse, psychological and emotional abuse, sexual harassment or violence in the workplace or in educational institutions and harmful traditional practices, including female genital mutilation, early marriage, forced marriage, bride kidnapping, and dowry-related violence.
Many women in Nigeria are still being beaten by men on a daily basis and a section of the penal code applicable in northern Nigeria still allows men to copiously and legally beat their wives as long as they do not injure or kill them.
In the North East, many girls are still being kidnapped by Boko Haram terror group and the Chibok girls abducted by the same group in April are still in captivity six months after.
In many parts of Nigeria, women who have been raped are still being stigmatised and even punished for indecent dressing. Instead of support, they are often ostracised by their families and communities after experiencing sexual violence.
In places where there are competing power structures, women and girls are also vulnerable to being bartered or traded to settle dispute, to pay off debts, or improve social, political, and business relations.
Women who report sexual abuses to the police are often not attended to and many are simply advised to go back and beg their husbands. Many women in the process have been killed by their violent husbands.
The law seems only to exist on paper but is never fully implemented. There are also many women who, out of fear of being stigmatised, prefer to suffer and even die in silence.
In Lagos for instance, many victims are also not aware of the existence of about 109 prominent organisations in the state that render support services for women facing such abuses.
These organisations, including the Centre for 21st Century Issues, Mirabel Centre, Women Arise, Centre for Peace Initiative among others are often poorly funded.
Many of them depend on international organisations and few state governments for support. The private sector often shuns them.
And when women are abused, these organisations are often unable to seek justice in court for the victims because of limited funding.
This, certainly, is not the right path to follow as a country. We must take the issue of violence against women seriously, implement the laws and support organisations that stand up for Nigerian women.
As activists across Nigeria continue to agitate during a 16-day campaign started on 25 November for an end to violence against women, we join them to say enough is enough . Let’s protect our women.