Violence of various sorts has permeated in various aspects of our national life. From homes to the academic environment to places of work to the neighbourhood and even the social media, it’s still the same tale of woes. Sadly, this trend, instead of abating has assumed a more disturbing dimension in most recent times, probably occasioned by the harsh economic realities of the moment, increasing demand for protection of rights of the vulnerable and poor awareness of anger management.
Expectedly, like many other unwittingly endorsed crude and demeaning practices in our society, child marriage, domestic, sexual, verbal, and other genres of physical and emotional violence have continued to attract little or no condemnation by those who ought to speak up. Interestingly, the womenfolk have remained the worse hit in this antithetical culture.
According to a 2018 report by United Nation High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) in Nigeria, from January to December 2017, a total number of 1,639 survivors and those at risk of SGBV were referred to access specialized services including psychosocial counseling, medical care, legal and safety and security services. This number without any iota of doubt does not represent the total number of such cases across the country.
To buttress this assertion, there is hardly any day we do not hear of physical or sexual violence against persons and minors alike in our environments or somewhere else. With the advent of social media, many of such cases which hitherto were swept under the carpet are now beginning to come to the public glare. From randy neighbours to callous school managers, to incestuous fathers, uncles and other blood relatives, including some individuals masquerading as religious leaders, the stories have remained the same. Sadly, in a society where reports of such nature is seen as a dent on the moral of the victim and a burden to her already troubled soul, a lot of gender-based violence have been sealed in the belly of long lasting secret while the predators walk with their shoulders high, scavenging for more victims in their kitty. Few of the reported cases emanated from the urban centres where there is an appreciable level of awareness, access to the social media platforms and indeed the mainstream media. What then becomes of the fate of the Aishas, Ugonmas and Yemisis residing in the remotest parts of our dear country who also face similar challenges?
Ochanya Eliabeth Ogbaje again is a sad reminder of how we have failed as a society to be on the side of the victim and publicly shame the perpetrators of such evils acts among us. In a 2018 intervention titled “Ochanya: When We’re All Violated” this writer attributed the demise of Ochanya, a teenage schoolgirl who was raped to death by her uncle and son she lived with in Benue state to uncertain reaction of the society to her plight. She was unsure of what treatment awaits her if she eventually speaks up on the perennial sexual exploitation and father and son festival of gang rape she endured. Not even the wife of Mr. Ogbuja, the rape knight could give the helpless Ochanya a shoulder, a lady under whose roof the little education seeking teenager passed on in a gruesome manner, bearing with her a heart full of grief, pain and unexpressed frustrations.
According to the UNHCR report earlier mentioned in this piece, from the total number of 1,639 SGBV survivors across Nigeria in 2017, only about 156 accessed case management services and 226 benefitted from legal assistance through UNHCR’s Access to Justice Project implemented in North East by Nigerian Bar Association (NBA). Additional engagements were established with the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) and Legal Aid to expand access to justice and promote protection and preservation of the rights of women and children in Adamawa and other Northern states.
Concerned by the growing rate of violence then, the 8th National Assembly in 2015 passed into law the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act which among other things prohibits all forms of violence against persons in private and public life and provides maximum protection and effective remedies for victims and punishment of offenders. Paradoxically, this has made little or no impact in curtailing the ugly trend as it continues to spread like a wildfire with unassuming audacity in a way that should get any concerned citizen worried.
The disturbing viral picture of a 10-year-old rape victim, Masenengen Targba who recently put to birth through cesarean section (CS) in Benue speaks volume on how much sexual violence reigns supreme in our midst. There is never a short supply of this saddening and sickening story in any blog site one can click on. Like the overwhelming insecurity in Nigeria today, cases of rape do not attract any surprise like in the past. We have developed thick skin to it and it startles us no more since there is little or no punitive measures to hold perpetrators accountable.
Wife and husband battery is now a cancer that has defied all cures. Not even the series of premarital counseling has done much in checkmating menace. It has been deeply entrenched in our society to the extent that those who ordinarily should provide moral compass have been caught helplessly in the act as well, an indication that anger management has nothing to do with religious status.
This writer’s closeness to a friend police investigative officer has enabled him appreciate better the number of undocumented domestic violence rocking various homes. For obvious reasons which among other things include family intervention, laxity of security agencies, fear of separation and discrimination, unsolicited meddlesomeness by third parties and lack of confidence in the judiciary, many of such cases die in the piece of paper where they are recorded (if any) at the police stations. Only an insignificant percentage finally finds their way to court where they are suffocated with litany of adjustments.
Men are not immuned from domestic or sexual abuse. Men who suffer random abuse in their various homes have on their own maintained an unholy silence in the name of protecting the ego of their masculine while their spouses continue to have a field day mindlessly torturing them physically, verbally and denying them their conjugal rights. They are afraid that they may be mocked when they speak up. This is more prevalent in households where the wife is the breadwinner. The story of the abused husband if ever told is grossly undertold.
Parents who force their teenage girl child to early marriage are dangerous to the society. This is an obsolete, archaic and primitively crude culture observed mostly in Northern Nigeria. The concomitant health and social effect of this such as obstetric fistula, cervical cancer, lack of happiness, mutual love and amplified antagonism are either not put into consideration or deliberately ignored.
The legion of legal system in our country has not done enough in deterring violence against persons or provided succour through speedy dispensation of justice to both the victim, accused and the society. They should be strengthened to function optimally without fear or favour. A lot of people still wonder why a certain Adamawa senator who allegedly assaulted a lady in an Abuja adult shop still walks the street a free man.
Enemanna is an Abuja-based journalist