Women & Discrimination – NIgeria-P3
HEALTH DISCRIMINATION AGAINST WOMEN
The health of the Nigerian woman is not spared from the rot that militates against women’s rights. The rate of maternal mortality is quite alarming as Nigeria contributes 10% to global maternal deaths. Abortion and pregnancy related complications are also a bane of women’s right to life and health. Young women are the most exposed and vulnerable to and affected by HIV/AIDS. Many cannot negotiate safe sex.
NIGERIAN WOMEN AND ILLITERACY
In spite of the constitutional guarantees of equal access to education for all by the federal Government of Nigeria, nationwide campaign for the enrolment of all school-age children and programmes for adult and non-formal education, there are still traditional obstacles to female education and curricular insensitive to gender and to civil and political rights. The Population Reference Bureau (1998) gave the statistics of Nigerian men and women in primary school in 1990 to be 67% as against 28.5%. It also gave the figure of Nigerian enrolment in secondary school in 1980 as 25% male and 15% female, in 1995, 35% male, were enrolled in secondary schools and 29% female. According to the Women’s Consortium of Nigeria (2004), the UNESCO rated Nigeria as one of the nine countries with the highest rate of illiteracy and women constitutes the largest percentage. The Education system in Nigeria, according to Nnandi & Nnandi (1996) is characterized by the existence of three important education inequality variables. One of the variables is the gender differential in education in general and in Science/Technological disciplines in particular, All the three variables have been lamented upon as being detrimental to national development in the long run (Nnadi & Nnandi 1996; Sambo 1996).
According to Sambo (1996) and Umar (1996), educational imbalances against females are well-known facst at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels. The disparities in education also affects the labour market, Osuala (1984) was of the opinion that some firms discriminated against women in their employment policy and that female participation rate in the civil service is much lower than that of the male. In the 21st century there is the need to uphold the declaration of the United Nations of 1976-1985 on Equality, Development and Peace.
VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN
The issue of violence against women is generally a contemporary issue particularly in the developed countries of the world. It poses as a major obstacle to growth and development especially in the third world countries. In Nigeria, violence against women (especially domestic violence) had long existed to a considerable degree. However, neither the government of any level or the society perceives it as a social problem, but as a family or personal problem. To worsen the situation, the law enforcement agents keep no records of complaints of cases of violence, whether domestic or otherwise. Although either the men or women may commit the acts of violence, however, because of physical, educational, psychological and economic difference, acts of violence are more frequently perpetrated against the women folk in the world over, inclusive of Nigeria. The lack of sensitivity to female folk, subjected to violence in Nigeria undermines women’s rights to protection under the law.
“Violence against women” means any act of gender-biased violence that results in physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women including threats of such acts, cohesion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life as systematic rape.
This is the fate of thousands of women in Nigeria. Violence against women is a consequence of the historically unequal power relations between men and women. It is contrary to the women’s human rights and fundamental freedoms. It is a national reality existing in all societies regardless of income, class and culture. All women are affected. It is not certain if there is a woman who at one time or another in her life, had not been afraid merely because she is a woman. Simply working in the street after dark or working at night may represent serious personal safety problems for women. It is no more an inevitable part of life than poverty. It arises from the patriarchal system, which since time immemorial has exerted control over women’s lives.
Violence against women affects all women and girls. Those who are particularly vulnerable are women who live in extremely precarious conditions or who are discriminated against on the basis of race, language, religion, and ethnic group. For example, in many parts of the country, widows are forced to marry their late husband’s brothers (Imosemi, 1999). In some parts of the country and specifically among the Benin, Ishan, and Yoruba, customary laws for instance, forbid women to inherit their husband’s property even if the wives purchased most of the properties. In some parts of the country and especially among the northerners, parents select husbands for their daughters. Young girls in Northern Nigeria are forced to marry men chosen for them by their fathers without their own consent or that of their mothers in most cases.
It was observed by Kaita (1969) that there were instances when young girls of between 12 years and 14 years were withdrawn from schools to be married to men as old as their fathers or even older. All these injustices and discriminatory attitudes against women must be redressed in the 21st century. Physical, sexual and psychological violence against women between a couple and in the family consists of battering, marital rape, dowry-related violence, incest or spousal violence e.g. a son’s violence against his mother. Violence occurring within the community includes: sexual harassment, rape, sexual assault, and intimidation at work, forced treatment, abusive medication, the exploitation and the commercialization of women’s bodies. Violence against women also includes contraception imposed by constraint, forced sterilization or abortions, selective abortion of female fetuses and female infanticide. Domestic violence on women has been on the increase in Nigeria. Examples abound on pages of newspapers of such violence. As reported by the daily newspapers and Fadeiye and Adenegan (1999), Charity Agbaruku’s boy friend poured acid on her in 1992, in 1995, Rashidat Kuti was attacked by her cousin over a minor quarrel. The same year, Deborah Odeyemi’s husband poured acid on her. Oyibo (1999) also reported an incidence where the late Ego Osadebe died as a result of the acid poured on her by her husband in 1998. All these wicked acts meted on the female citizens of Nigeria should change.
In 1998, CEDAW also raised concerns about the prevalence of violence against women and girls, “including domestic violence and sexual harassment in the workplace,” in Nigeria. The minister for women affairs and social development responded that the government had difficulty addressing the issue because “women hardly report violence to the police for fear of reprisal from both the husband and wider family.” Five years later, a study by Amnesty International in Lagos found that there still were very few criminal prosecutions in such cases.
There was a display of violence against our women demonstrated through heavy-handed tactics of some of the security agents. This is an emerging form of violence as a result of women’s more active and dynamic participation in civic action. In 2005 a group known as the Concerned Mothers of Nigeria went on a peaceful protest to call attention to the spate of domestic airline mishaps in the country. The protest is remembered more for the treatment the women received at the hands of the police. They were rough handled and this led to some of them sustaining injuries and being hospitalized. It is on record that the then Inspector-General of Police Mr. Sunday Ehindero apologised the women. Apologies may be soothing in the short term but are not an effective tool in the fight against gender-based violence.
The incident raised a few eyebrows and then became buried amongst other national issues at the time. It made the headlines for a few days and was consigned to the dustbin of history. A few weeks ago a similar incident occurred in Ogun State .
In Abeokuta , a group of women went on a peaceful march to protest what they perceived to be an injustice being perpetuated against female law maker Hon Titi Oseni of the Ogun State House of Assembly. Unfortunately the protest also turned very ugly. Members of the police in a bid to disperse the women tear-gassed, beat and chased them with dogs. Footage of a mobile policeman wielding a baton and chasing one of the women demonstrated the extent of the brutality. Many of the women including the elderly amongst them sustained injuries and were left breathless and disoriented from the effects of the tear gas. The women were neither armed nor threatening and it was quite disheartening to see them bloodied, battered and bruised after the authorities had dispersed them.
The danger of women being confronted with violence from the hands of the police during peaceful protests is that such behaviour is bound to discourage them from participating in civic action. Active participation in civic action and exercising of fundamental human rights will be grossly stifled and undermined by the over -zealous response of security agents. If care is not taken the democratic space will be the poorer for it without the voices of women being heard. Should such cracks be allowed to widen within our democracy?
WHAT ARE THE CAUSES OF VIOLENCE
Several factors could trigger violence against women. Such factors include but not limited to education, poverty, frustration, and loss of job, disaster and misfortunes. For instance, a man who lost his job or who cannot live up to his responsibilities in the home, may end up being violent and the victim invariably will be the wife and the children. In addition, lack of education, Ignorance, and cultural attitudes and practices have bearing on violence against women in Nigeria.
There are different forms of violence against women in Nigeria. These include: wife battering, physical assault by a spouse or partner, sexual abuse, rape, sexual harassment, degradation and exploitation, inhuman treatment of widows, and female genital mutilation to mention but a few. Cases of violence often result in physical harm, injuries of various degrees, and even death in extreme cases. For instance, the case of one chief Emeka Ani (popularly known as Emeka Wawa) of Ransome Close, Ajao Estate, Lagos, Nigeria, is a perfect example of where violence result to death.
Emeka Wawa was said to have beaten his wife (Mrs. Patricia Azuka Ani) mercilessly on December 14, 2001 and threw her down from their one-story building residence, from which she died few minutes after. It is also important to note that acts of violence against women in Nigeria are usually associated with lack of education, and usually perpetrated by persons close or known to the victim, such as close relatives/family members, partners or friends.
Is there any form of protection or prevention of violence against women in Nigeria? There are plenty of laws, which afford protection to women who are victims of violence. For instances, right to life and dignity of the human person and accordingly, no person shall be subjected to torture, inhuman or degrading treatment. Additionally, Article 5 of the African Charter on Human and peoples Right (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, Cap. A2, L.F.N., 2004 is to the effect that every person is entitled to respect for his life and integrity. Within the purview of the criminal law, a lot of protection abounds. Under the Criminal Code and the Penal Code, any act of violence against anybody (including women) which act amounts to a criminal offence will be punished. However, criminal offences, which result from acts of violence by spouses or partners, are rarely prosecuted, unless where such act results to death or murder. More so, the law enforcement agents usually treat such cases as family or private problems, which should be resolved at family level. Additionally, cultural practices or beliefs support wife battering or assaults. It is generally believed that women should be beaten from time to time to curb their excess or make them fall in line, or make them submissive. Women need to be educated to know their rights and be able to defend themselves.
Furthermore, it is pertinent to note that there is no Federal law in Nigeria as it obtains in most developed countries of the world, which specifically prohibits violence against women or afford protection to women victims or would-be-victims of violence. However, in Lagos State of Nigeria, there is a ray of hope for women victims or would-be-victims of domestic violence with the recent enactment of Domestic Violence law of Lagos State, 2007(the law):
- The law generally prohibits any act of violence against any person and places a duty on the police, health workers, and other law enforcement agents and essential duty workers to render assistance to any victim or would-be-victims of violence (whether man or woman). The police are also empowered to make arrest without warrant at the scene of domestic violence. However, this is limited to Lagos State, in the eastern Nigeria, the situation is different, women are victimized everyday and lack of education or knowledge of their rights makes it worse.
There are also no social measures by the government at any level in Nigeria for prevention of violence or protection of women from violence.
REALITY IN ADDRESSING VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN IN THE COUNTRY:
Domestic violence is part of the systematic violation of the dignity and rights of women in Nigeria. There is no report on the real extent of domestic violence in the country. The government is very slow in putting measures in place to combat domestic violence against women and children. Despite the existence of Ministries of Women Affairs at federal and state levels, not so much is being done in ensuring the protection of women and children from domestic violence. Apart from the Bill on CEDAW, several other Bills introduced into the National Assembly regarding the protection of the rights of women, have not succeeded in being passed into law indicating a total lack of commitment to outlawing violence against women. By the end of the 2007 legislative, The Violence Against Women (Prohibition) Bill 2003 has not been formerly raised on the floor of the House; Domestic Violence Protection Bill 2005 has passed first and second readings in the House but it is still at committee level; Draft Bill on Elimination of Violence 2006 has only passed first reading at the National Assembly; The bill on the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women has also not been passed into law