Violence against women is a universal development that occurs in a variety of societies across the world. It is not limited to obvious physical violence as its scope comprises forced marriage, rape, sexual harassment, intimidation at work and in educational institutions, forced pregnancy, forced abortion, trafficking, criminal coercion, kidnapping, unlawful imprisonment and forced prostitution among others.
A recent study indicates that the proportion of women who have actually been abused in a variety of ways ranges from 69% to 10% depending on the country. In Nigeria, for instance, marital abuse has become a scourge and there is a report that 50% of our women have been beaten by their husbands at one time or the other and incredibly, more educated women (65%) falls into this awful category as compared with their low income counterparts (55%).
Violence against women and girls is a global form of human rights abuses.
Besides violating human rights, it also hinders productivity, lessens human capital and undermines economic growth. It has been proven that six out of every ten
Women experience physical /sexual violence in their life span. According to a 1994World Bank report, violence against women is rated as more risky than other threat factors facing girls and women such as deadly diseases and decayed infrastructure. Similarly, latest studies have ascertained probable connections involving violence against women and HIV /AIDS. This has been further established by a survey among 1,366 South African women which revealed that women who were physically abused by their partners were more prone to HIV infection than those who were not. Being a global phenomenon, many countries have made progressive efforts to address the scourge of violence against women and girls.
A 2006 United Nations’ study on violence against Women shows that 89 countries had some legislation on domestic violence, while a reasonable number of countries had established national plans of action. For instance, rape is a punishable act in at least 104 countries, while 90 countries have enacted laws against sexual harassment. However, much still need to be done in many countries to successfully deal with this evil act against humanity. For instance, about 102 countries are yet to have explicit legal proviso concerning violence against women while matrimonial rape is yet to become a prosecutable offence in about 53 nations. Violence against women is entrenched in the socio-cultural complexes of diverse societies of the world. Many victims of violence against women usually lack the courage to seek legal redress on the violations of their rights due to lack of positive response from the society. In Nigeria, victims often ignore such violations of their rights as a few identify it as mark of love and the socio-religious conviction that a broken marriage or relationship is a mark of failure in life. As a result of poverty and financial reliance on men, a lot of female victims may well also choose to suffer silently for fear of forfeiting the economic support of the male perpetrator. This trend is obvious in numerous of the reported cases where victims favor to withdraw their complaints where it becomes obvious that punitive measures will be meted out to the abusive spouse. Their usual objective is for the authorities to appease rather punish the abusive partner for fear of backlash.
On the other hand, where the victim is bold enough to seek legal remedy, the Nigerian legal system does not really help matters. The result of most legal proceedings is typically the extinction or straining of the relationship of the litigants, and this is true of a victim who takes the perpetrator to the police station or the court for redress under the existing law. The police also operate from the prejudices and stereotypes of the male dominated customs and traditions of the society. Many victims of domestic violence, who lay complaints at police stations, are habitually mocked, humiliated, and their complaints trivialized, possibly because the complaints desk officer equally engages in acts of violence against women . There is, therefore, need for a spirited public enlightenment campaign on the evil of violence against women. The populace must be sensitized on what constitutes violence against women, stipulated punishments for perpetrators and other such related issues. It is also essential that a special complaints desk is made available in all police stations to address all issues relating to violence against women. This, of course, leads to the issue of training for special officers who are to handle the beat. It is also necessary to organize constant training for legal officials, law enforcement agents, legal practitioners and others who are critical stakeholders in the matter.
Similarly, law enforcement and court mechanisms also have to be made friendly and accessible to women. A major obstacle, however, will be changing the societal attitude and traditions that tend to treat women as inferior beings. In this regards, more women need to recognize and understand their privileges. Also, there is a strong need for people to really appreciate the necessity to defend women in addition to treating them with dignity. In the same way, NGOs and Women rights campaigners have to synchronize efforts, share information and resources to expose men that engage in domestic violence against women. At the community level, religious and local leaders must come together to condemn dishonorable conducts against women.
Altogether, we must design innovative strategy that connects between men, gender and violence, and bring men firmly into prevention equation. The idea is to eventually put men at forefront of campaign against acts of violence that are targeted at women. As it has been firmly established, the subject of violence against women has gotten to an alarming level that calls for tactical planning and resolution among all stakeholders. Every segment of the society must, therefore, provide a common front in order to frontally tackle and dislodge this evil from our society before it gets out of hand. The earlier we set out to do this, the better it would be for us all.