By Azeez Naimot
It was so cold – the worse the world has ever seen in years: the disruption caused by the novel pandemic has brought the world to its knees overnight. Who would have thought one day, there wouldn’t ever be the overbearing blaring of horns along Lagos ever busy roads; that the economy would be shut down; that we would be lock down, fighting the demons in us just to stifle the spread of the virus which silenced scores?
According to Worldometer, an estimated two hundred and seventy-eight thousand, nine hundred and one patients have succumbed to the excruciating fangs of the virus across the globe. Despite outbreak, especially with the absence of an immediate cure in sight, a whopping one million, four hundred and seventeen thousand, two hundred and eighty patients have recovered. Thus, it isn’t a death sentence. It is more or less another historic phase of human of existence.
Far from it, the pandemic has tethered many a woman to the ugly post of their tormentors. But the world would barely listen to the teary tales. We’re more preoccupied by the flaring figures that we left our roof on fire. Truth is, the virus has duly announced its presence. From its origin in Wuhan, China, to the lands of those living at the lowest rung of the economic ladder, it has created the panic. Yes, all hands must be on deck to fight the virus. But a more pressing epidemic is eating deep into the fabrics of the society during this critical time: Domestic Violence!
Domestic violence is an act of intimidation, physical, verbal or emotional abuse which on its own, has become or is an epidemic. As Nigerians battle the Covid-19 pandemic, domestic violence is not new to the Nigerian society. Often, we usually wake up to read of murder and violence. The CLEEN Foundation in one of her surveys reported that 1 in every 3 women admitted to being a victim of domestic violence. Common forms of violence against women in Nigeria are rape; acid attacks; molestation; wife beating and corporal punishment.
In local communities, domestic violence is mostly perceived as what is due to women who nag, disobey or want to take over the mantle of authority from any man, who is always referred as the head of the house. Since women are now on lockdown, there have been various footages and pictures on social media where some men were seen venting their frustration and anger on women who are often tagged “lesser being”.
Since most of these men could no longer go out, staying indoor could easily trigger their frustration and anger because of the bleak economic shadow cast upon them by the lockdown. Most men vent this insolvency on their wives. In one of the video clip on social media that went viral, a man was frustratingly ranting after rounds of lovemaking that the wife could no longer endure it. He was not satisfied. Sex has become the means of sustenance during the lockdown. But often, it isn’t mutual.
In this setting, women have been subjected to marital rape. But most of these women bear the pain and grief in silence since there is no law enforcement agency to report the abuse during the lockdown. The stigma it will elicit also forced some women into a momentary retreat. No ear to listen to the silent throes.
The alarming rate of marital rape is becoming unbecoming. Unveiling provision defining rape according to section 357 of the Criminal code – “Any person who has the unlawful carnal of a woman or man, without her consent or with her consent. If the consent is obtained by force or by threat or intimidation of any kind, or by fear of harm or by means of false or fraudulent representation as to the nature of the act, or in case of a married woman, by personating her husband is guilty of an offense called rape.”
But alas, it is so pathetic – so sad that the Nigerian law hardly considers marital rape as a crime, though physical assault will succeed in case of any sexual force. In 2015, National Assembly enacted a law to curb Violence against person prohibition, which also embedded several marital violations as offences: rape, domestic violence. Most States have not domesticated the Act. But as we continue to experience an unprecedented surge within households during the lockdown, states governments need to domesticate the Act. It will give each court the authority to exercise jurisdiction regarding the Violence against person prohibition Act.
More often than not, domestic violence has incurred varying degrees of psychological torture that a once beautiful and accommodating woman has been transmuted into a recluse. These women now believe that abuse is naturally justified. But it isn’t. We must not be made to settle for less. It’s high time we beam spotlights on the fight against domestic violence!