DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN IN THE FAMILY: A CASE STUDY OF UGHELLI-NORTH LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREA OF DELTA STATE
Violence against women in the family has been a universal social problem that kills, tortures, and maims. Victims or violence, in the hands of the man they trust and love, suffer physically and psychologically. They are unable to make their own decisions, voice their own opinions or protect themselves and their child for fear of further repercussions. They are denial of their human rights and have their lives stolen from them by the continual presence of threat of violence. Violence or at least the fear of violence is a part of every women life. If she is not a victim at one time or another, she knows someone who has been victimized lately. There has been a greater understanding of the problem, its causes and consequences, and an international consensus has been initiated on the need to deal with the issue. Data analysis shows that women’s economic dependence on men, as a result of marginalization in a ‘man’s world’, conventional family structure, and the treatment of domestic violence as a private matter serves to give impetus to the hydra-headed enigma.
However, strategies and interventions, by way of an integrated approach, have been highlighted to combat it. The study area is Ughelli-North Local Government Area of Delta State.
1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
The family is often equated with sanctuary-a place where individuals seek love, safety security, and shelter. However, this false idea is slowly fading. Evidence shows that it is also a place that imperils and breeds some of the most drastic forms of violence perpetrated against women and girls.
Domestic violence against women and girls continues to be global epidemic that kills, tortures and maims-physically, psychologically, sexually and economically. It is one of the most pervasive of human rights violence, denying women and girl’s equality, security, dignity self-worth, and the right to enjoy fundamental freedoms. Although violence against women is ubiquitous, cutting across boundaries of culture, class, education, income, ethnicity, and age, domestic violence is the most prevalent, yet relatively hidden and ignored form of violence against women and girls.
While reliable statistics are hard to come by, studies estimate that, from country to country, between 20 and 50 percent of women have experienced physical violence such as slapping, beating, arm twisting, stabbing, strangling, burning, kicking, and the like, at the hands of intimate partners of family members.
Violence in the domestic sphere is usually perpetrated by males who are, or who have been in positions of trust, intimacy, and power-husbands, boyfriends, fathers, father-in-law, step fathers, brothers, uncles, sons, or other relatives. The terms domestic violence “as used here in, includes violence against women and girls by an intimate partners, including a cohabiting partner, and by other family members, whether this violence occurs willing or beyond the confines of the home” (Mehrkhan, in WHO, 1996).
Violence against women is often a cycle of abuse that manifest itself in many forms throughout their lives. Even at the very beginning of her life, a girl may be the target of sex-selective abortion or female infanticide in cultures where son preferences are prevalent. During childhood, violence against girls may include enforced malnutrition, lack of access to medical care and education, incest, female genital mutilation, early marriages and forced prostitution, or bounded labour.
Some go on to suffer throughout their adult lives and old age-battered, raped and even murdered at the hands of intimate partners, as well as being inherited by her in-laws (WHO, 1996).
Most women who leave home as a result of incessant, assault, often return, studies have shown that quite apart from the stress and suffering arising from the violence itself many had experienced a number of problems seeking help the majority had initially turned to relatives and friends who, although they had provided support and sometimes temporary accommodation, often made it clear to the women that they did not want to be involved in the couples domestic problems (Borkowski, et al, 1983).
Due to the patriarchy system that pervades the society, women are seldom guaranteed a place in their family of orientation. Even though most societies proscribe domestic violence against women, the reality is that violations against women’s rights are often sanctioned under the garb of cultural practices and norms, although misinterpretation of religious tenets.
The conventional family structure, which also stems from patriarchy, also determines the tacit acceptance of wife abuse in most cultures. Here married women have few, if any rights. Thus, a man is seen as having the right to beat his wife, his children and other female members of his family (O’connell, 1994). Some cultures still excuse a man who kills his wife if he suspects her of adultery. Even rape in marriage is accepted, at least, tolerated in many family structures. This reflects the idea of the wife as the property of her husband (Kirby, et al, 1997).
When the violation of women’s right takes place within the home, as is often the case, the abuse is effectively condoned by the tacit silence and the passivity displayed by the state and law-enforcing machinery. In a number of cases, the police had been called. They were reported as having often taken the view that since it was a “domestic” matter, little could be done (Borkowshi, et al, 1983). As depicted by Ashley, Jack (in Hansard, 1973), domestic dispute “tends to be parroted as an incantation for inaction”.
When women contact local authority, social services, social workers had discouraged them from leaving their husband in the evident belief that they should try harder to keep the marriage together. Since there were few, it at all, refuges; those women who did attempt to leave had great difficulty finding accommodation where there was no risk of further assault (Borkowski, et al 1983).
In the divorce courts itself, court officials and judges quite often seemed curiously incurred to the violence. Some were skeptical about women’s allegations of violence even though all the cases were undefended and the evidence was not challenged by the respondent (Borkowski et al 1983). Despite the widespread existence of this problem-domestic violence-defendant police officers and court officials either deny the existence, prevalence, and seriousness of violence against married women or they treat as a private privilege of marital discipline, rooted in the view that women are the property of their husbands and that the state should not interfere. The police refuse to arrest violent husbands or give other needed aid and protection to plaintiff victims.
While the family court was enacted to given practical advice to battered wives-who do not have lawyers to assist them-the court personnel infact deny women access to court. Each agency sends women to the other. Neither the policy nor the court enforces the law, plaintiffs are left remediless. The result is increased fear, injury, or even death at the hands of their violent husbands (Hirschm 1981).
Studies have shown that battered wives tend to withdraw their complaints perhaps because there are few alternatives for them to start a new. A Washington, D.C. study indicated that of 7500 wives who tried to bring changes against their abusive husbands, only 200 succeeded (Edmiston 1976). This is due largely to economic reasons. Gelles (1976), found that women with few resources, for example, no job, or little education, is less likely to seek help, and children of very young ages are instrumental in dissuading their mothers to take action. One mother I knew suffered a broken arm, numerous bruises, and other injuries that remained with her assaultive husband until he began to batter their two-year old daughter. At that point, she left him, went home to her own parents only to return to her beloved batterer several months later (Hirsch, 1981).
Observing the conventional family structure in Nigeria, we seem to have more varieties of family types than ever before. We see more people co-habiting, divorcing, re-marrying as well as different types of extended families and a whole range of nuclear families some more isolated than others, (Kirby, et al, 1997). This structural variation has been linked, inter alia, to problems of domestic violence, within families. The Nigeria “patriarchal family characterized by kinship network is gradually being supplanted by an isolated nuclear family” (Ogege in Jike Led, 2002). This alteration in structure according to Ogege, has inevitably striped the institution of its traditional functions of care, concern and the like. Since family members now work away from home, the family and the interactions within it have become less observable. Since social control and observability are positively correlated, what happens within the family unit is private and thus, less subject to accountability to others (Laslett, 1973). This has resulted in the invisibility of battered women whose unseen and often unacknowledged abuse is compounded by low self-esteem where women often blame themselves for their suffering (Kirby, et al, 1997).
For (Cheal 1991), this has its root in the social isolation experienced by many women living in private families. Separation of family life from public life and the role that women are expected to play as ‘blinding agent’ in maintaining family integrity (Liljestron, 1982) both reinforce cultural beliefs that family problems are private troubles and that women have the primary duty of resolving them (Cheal, 1991). Since there is no one to interfere with the violence, there is a great tendency for violence to occur as the negative sanctions of their unavailable. The near passivity of neighbours also reinforces the widespread conception of family as a private institution.
Under the Nigerian common law, a “husband and wife are considered to the legally one person. It was the husband, however, who had the power. At marriage, women were related to civic death since they lost their individual legal and property rights.
It is pertinent to note that under our patriarchal system, it was the man-father “who owned the daughter and who sold her to another man” (Hoebel, 1966). Although bride price did not necessarily give a husband and his kinsmen; a right to do harm to his wife, payment for a woman, and patriarchy in general, became fertile soil for the abuse of women, who were not, of course, given the same privileges (Hirsch, 1981).
Most religious traditions are basically patriarchal in nature and establish the husband as superior and master to his wife (Hirsch, 1981). The Christian faith is a case in point. The patriarchal power is reinforced in the Old Testament. God becomes angry with both Adam and Eve for having eaten of the forbidden fruit but says to Eve:
…your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you (Genesis 3:16).
The Christian church did not relieve wives of the ‘iron fist of their husband. According to Saint Paul:
Wives be subject to your husbands as to the Lord for the husband is the head of the wife (Ephesians 5:22-23) in some societies, a woman was forbidden to strike her husband but her husband had the right to hit her (Hirsch, 1981) San Barnerdin, during the Renaissance, write about the guidelines for beating ones wife:
“And I say unto you, men, never beat your wives, while they are great with child for there in would lay great peril. I say not that you should never beat them; but chose your time (cited in Hirsch 1981).
It is unfortunate that even today, many men beat their wives, especially during pregnancy very often, domestic violence is triggered off by a minor event, such as non satisfaction on the part of the man, with the performance of domestic duties by the wife (Dobash and Dobash, 1980), the wives refusal to wake up at midnight to satisfy the sexual urge of their husband, and the life. Many women are apparently almost literally beaten into submission and share their husband view that they deserve to be punished (Kirby, et al, 1997). Many wives believe that given a certain circumstance the husband should beat his wife (Parnas, 1967). One woman reported being beaten be her husband if she served him soup which he considered too cold.
Many women who are battered loath the battering but find it difficult to leave a terrifying situation. Shame is an important factor according to Owen (1975), the battered wife feels ashamed to let other people know about her situation. One young woman who married at the age of seventeen against her parent’s desire did not tell them of her abuse because “she made her bed and had to lie in it” (Owen, 1975). This goes to show that some women feels that some how, she is responsible for or deserves the beatings as there is something wrong with her.
Why does a man need to resort to in order to maintain his homeostasis?
(Elbow, 1977) in her attempt to describe the common characteristics of wife abusers posited that one of the basic defense mechanism of most abusers is that of projection. The abusers projects unto his wife the cause of the marital discord that is the batterer is unable to accept responsibility.
It is a fairly common myth in our society that women like to be treated roughly by men and that women enjoy being controlled by physical means (White Hurst, 1974).
Snell and his associates (1964) labeled such women as coming from working-class families given to rough living. For them, these sorts of women get perverse excitement from living in a violent, emotionally charged relationship. When such women seek help are seen as the problem, rather than problem being understood as one of victimization (Edmiston, 1976).
Literature abounds on the seriousness of this hydra-headed enigma. Even at that, debate regarding the magnitude of the problem is clouded by the fact that domestic violence is a crime that is under-reported and under-recorded. When women file a report or seek treatment, they may have to contend with police and health care officials who have not been trained to respond adequately or to keep consistent records. On the other hand, shame fear of reprisal, lack of information about legal rights, lack of confidence in, or fear of the legal system and the legal costs. Involved make women reluctant to report incidents of violence (WHO, 1999). Most of the cases reported are mainly done informally, to relatives and friends who do not have formal documentation of the incidence.
Most of the data available on violence against women are believed to be not only conservative, but unreliable. This makes it critical in determining the magnitude of the problem and identifying priority areas for intervention. It is however, estimated that today, over 200,000 husbands consistently abuse their spouses (Zullo, et al, 1976). This goes to show the rather dangerous prospects women face in conventional heterosexual partnerships (Kirby, et al, 1997). Domestic violence against women in the family is thus, fact, not fiction (Hirsch, 1981).
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE RESEARCH PROBLEM
The incidence of domestic violence against women in the family is a regularly occurring phenomenon. Violence or at least the fear of violence is a part of every woman’s life. Each woman knows someone who has been the victim of a violent involved at one time or another.
The mystique of the family as the private peaceful cradled of safety and emotional support has influenced the lack of attention given to the violence that does occur, especially to women. And in many societies, paddling a wife for misbehavior by the husband is the norm.
Violence against women in such societies is thus, condoned and has become institutionalized by it. Battering is viewed as a private, family affair, and beating ones wife is considered to be a marital prerogative.
A battered woman finds it difficult to take action against her husband. She often finds herself in a financial blind. Living with a violent husband is thus seen as better than trying to make it alone (Owen, 1975).
Rather than appreciate women for their domestic inputs, unleashing assault has become the norm. My interest in this topic was prompted by two events I witnessed, recently: a severe violence of not water-kitchen alleged late preparation of supper which was treated with levity by state security instruments and the community; and incessant battering my elder sister received at the hands of her husband; friends and relatives, although they provided supports, declined taking action in resolving their domestic problem.
These happened at Emervor in Isoko North Local Government Area of Delta State. The situation is however, not new. These are but a few of the imponderable assault that women face in the privacy of their homes.
In recent years, concerns for the battered women has mushroomed so that legislation and services have grown to deal with the issue. An international consensus has also developed but progress has been slow because attitudes are deeply entrenched and, to some extent because, effective strategies to address violence against women are still being defined. Consequently, women World-Wide continue to suffer.
There is little or no awareness on the part of women folk, that women and children have a right to state protection even within the confines of their family home. Laws enforcement and judicial systems condone or do not recognize domestic violence as a crime. Instead, it is tagged “family matter” which should be settled in house.
The appalling toll on this issue will not be eased until families, government, and institution civic society organizations address the issue directly. “Victims of violence we are; but perhaps continuing to publicly acclaimed our indignation will help to ameliorate an injustice perpetrated against one-half of the human race” – women (Hirsch, 1981). This is the bane of this study.
1.3 OBJECTIVE OF THE STUDY
In this study, the researcher intends to set out the magnitude, dimensions, and factors perpetuating domestic violence against women and girls, as well as its impact on the rights of women and children and its social consequences.
This study will also attempt to stress the need for coordinated and integrated policy responses, enhancing partnership among stakeholders, setting up mechanisms for monitoring and evaluating programmes and policies, implementing existing legislation, ensuring greater transparency and accountability from government in order to eliminate violence against women.
This is because change is not only necessary but also possible.
1.4 RESEARCH QUESTIONS/PROPOSITIONS
1. The treatment of domestic violence as private matter is responsible for its persistence;
2. Economic reasons hinder the persecution of men for violence against women.
3. Conventional family structure serves to rein force domestic violence.
1.5 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
Much has, however being done in the area of domestic violence against women to create awareness. But it is still baffling to note that the problem is not being given the due attention it requires. It is hoped that this study would give fresh impetus to the campaign against violence against women in Isoko North Community, most of the local are illiterate and, or are ill-educated on the rights and protection of women in the constitution of the state. It is hoped that this study would in explicit terms educate and inform the women at risk and other shareholders, of protective measures available in them.
ü It is also expected that his study would help to inform and educate members of the society and professionals who came in contact with those assaulted to enable them understand gender based violence, appreciate the trauma of those suffering and on the need for attitude change towards the roles and status of men and women.
ü This study would also, be significant to policy makers and legislators in that it would attempt to spur them into pursuing policies to eliminate discrimination against women, and also to include legislation to modify or abolish existing laws regulations, customs and practices which constitute discrimination against women.
This study would as well draw attention to the real life context of the assault women, her hopelessness, dependency, restricted options and her consequent need for empowerment.
1.6 SCOPE OF THE STUDY
The population under study comprises females and males in Ughelli North Local Government area of Delta State. The area of interest to the study vis-à-vis violence against women in the family includes dimensions of the problem, the causes and consequences of domestic violence, as well as its socio-economic costs.
While domestic violence against women in the family was the research central concern I emphasized more of marital violence within the context of overtly present domestic violence. I did not attempt to introduce criteria as to the frequency of assault or the degree of injury that might have been sustained. And as far as the world “marital” is concerned, I adopted that couples own perception of themselves as partners, whether or not they were legally united married. This, therefore, includes those who were cohabiting as well as those who were separated or divorced but sill in contact.
1.7 DEFINITION OF BASIC CONCEPTS
As used herein refers to “any behavior which threatens or causes damage physical or psychological to a person. Violence unlike force is considered to be socially non-normative. It is okay to punish a child by slapping him, but not okay to slap him so hard that visible bruises result (Hirsch, 1981, O’Brien, 1971).
As used here in, refer to the types of relationships involved rather than the place where the violent act occurs.
Includes violence against women and girls by an intimate partner, including cohabiting partner, and by other family members, whether this violence occurs within or beyond the confines violence of the home.
Refers to a social group whose members are united by ties of blood, marriage, or adoption and who live together, cooperate economically, care for the young and create a new culture.
Refers to threat or actual physical assault by husbands or male partners upon their female counterparts wives.
Refers to infliction of violent assaults frequently upon a woman to whom one is married to.
Refers to unlawful sexual intercourse with another person-women-without that person consent.
As used here refers to the subjection of a woman to sexual activity likely to cause physical or psychological harm.
Means to take undue advantage of; to maltreat; to violate; and to betray a confidence.
As defined by Firestone (1970) and as used here, broadly means the rule of men.