By Bianca Iboma
A non-governmental organisation (NGO), Live Abundantly Empowerment Initiative, has pledge to stand against any form of domestic violence against women and children in the society.
The convener of the initiative, Dr. Amar Onyerinma, said that despite various laws in the country that protected the rights and well being of women and children from all forms of violence and abuse, majority of those affected were not knowledgeable about their rights.
She made this statement during the symposium/ Gala/fundraising ceremony at Southern Sun Hotel, Ikoyi, Lagos.
Amar regretted that the few women with understanding of their rights were scared of stigmatisation and threats from the perpetrator. “They forget that for any society to enjoy peace, it must stop violence and find better ways to communicate effectively with respect. Some women are going through a lot of emotional abuse in their homes.”
She regretted a situation where a man woke up in the morning and told his wife how foolish she was, how she could not accomplish anything. “Imagine living with a man that abuses his wife every day in front of their children. No respect! It is emotional abuse and the law prohibits it.”
She further regretted that domestic violence affected not just the victim but indirectly all those who witnessed the violence: Children, relatives and everyone. “It predisposes the children to trauma and other psychological problems throughout their lives; they may learn to become future victims or abusers later on in life, hence the cycle continues,” she said.
Onyerinma disclosed that incidences of domestic violence cut across social and economic background; women were mainly victims while the men were perpetrators of domestic violence.
Domestic violence, according to her, was taken seriously in western world. Nigeria, she said, had started some campaign against it but still needed to do more to have a better way of dealing with victims of domestic violence.
She commended the Lagos State government for taking the lead by dedicating its staff and policemen, who were trained in supporting victims of domestic violence to the campaign.
Stressing that public education was needed to curb domestic violence, she noted that some of the victims died because they didn’t report their ordeal to anyone due to shame.
A co-initiator of the programme, Mrs. Tolu Shodipe, pointed out that there were other forms of violence that the law had prohibited, which included sexual abuse, physical abuse, starvation, economic abuse, intimidation, harassment and stalking, hazardous attacks with poisonous and offensive substances and damage to property, among others.
Shodipe encouraged women and children to speak out, as their well-being determined the happiness of the home and strengthened the society.
“Accessing justice in Nigeria does not have anything to do with status – whether one is married or not, working or not. As long as one is in Lagos State, living together in the household, even if it is domestic aide, they have a right and are covered under the law,” she said, adding that there were various procedures to seek justice and someone could do that on behalf of another person.
“Even if the person has a mentally-challenged daughter that was raped, once they speak out, you don’t need their consent before helping them to get justice. The society must learn to respect women. The safety and respect of women and children are very important in national development. The well-being of women would add to their productivity because it is only a sane society that can manage challenges,” she stated.
The Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Fatai Owoseni, lauded the initiative of the NGO, saying that it was relevant for groups to encourage government efforts in the fight against all forms of violence against women.
Owoseni recalled that in Lagos, there was zero tolerance for domestic violence and issues against women and children. “This is a brutal form of gender-based discrimination and violation of human rights against women. Culprits have to be punished regardless of the emotions that usually prevent the police from taking lawful measures against perpetrators.”
He described women as often too emotional and lacking the commitment to persecute perpetrators. “The limitation has been the commitment from the women; that is why the menace is on the increase. They lack the commitment and will to pull through until a major disaster takes place.”
He observed that most times the women withdrew their cases before they were started because family members always reminded them that the men were their lawful husbands and fathers of their children.
He added that apart from creating the awareness for women to know that domestic violence was a crime, the police were working with NGOs and other corporate bodies who were ready to protect the right of women and children by teaching them what they needed to do to prevent the phenomenon from getting worse because usually, emotional and psychological violence took place before the physical abuse set in.