The European Union is carrying out a campaign to protect women and girls against gender-based violence. But stories flying all over the air have shown that both the male and the female are victims of violence.
It is actually true that women and girls are more exposed to domestic violence but we shouldn’t rule out the fact that the opposite sex also suffers this. As far as I could tell, violence knows no gender, age and status. I have read stories of men, whose wives (or girlfriends) killed or maimed, just as I’ve read about men doing the same thing to their women. So, it will be inappropriate for the campaign against violence to be targeted on the feminine gender alone.
Several researchers have delved into the major causes of domestic violence. They used data gathered from victims in deciding these. But one thing most of these researches have not really put into consideration is that a lot of victims may present doctored information so as to save themselves from shame or more harm. Some may also provide wrong or exaggerated information in order to get the other party punished.
The only way to end domestic violence in Nigeria is to look deep into the underlying causes and curb it from there. For one to actually find these causes, one needs to live in the midst of the people that have suffered from it, or that are still suffering it. Data collected from arranged interviews and meetings may not really be accurate. Spontaneous actions and expressions will provide deeper insights into why domestic violence is on the rise today.
Below are some of the underlying causes I noted from my own observations.
- Peer Influence: A good example of this is the influence men have on their friends. For example, a man whose wife is a career woman may be constantly advised by his friends that he shouldn’t allow her to earn more than him because she will “control” him if she does. Men in this situation usually make troubles to ensure that their wives are discouraged from their career pursuits.
The problem of peer influence can also be seen amongst women. For example, a woman who was told by her friends that her husband sleeps around will be forced to do “something” about it, especially when those friends insinuated that they wouldn’t tolerate such from their husbands.
- Societal Influence: After the influence of peers comes that of society. A man is expected to be “the man” of the house and therefore control his wife and children. The society doesn’t expect a man to take “any nonsense” from his wife. He is the head and must therefore subdue the other family members.
As for the wife, the society expects her to be that Mickey Mouse that must condone whatever her husband dishes her way. The expression, “he’s a man o” is all it takes to remind her that she should find her “place” and shut up. Besides, if she passes through any form of violence at the hands of her husband, the society will tell her to “manage” because marriage is all about “managing”.
- Social Media Influence: Of course a lot has been said about social media encouraging domestic violence. One of the reasons given under this is that people see the fake life of others and force their spouses to perform like them.
The influence of social media on the increase of domestic violence can never be over emphasised. It has brought so many good and evil to the doorstep of many lives. There is nothing you won’t see there – from how to kill to how to destroy. People really need to understand that things seen on social media should be taken with a pinch of salt.
- Pornography: A lot men are addicted to pornographic channels, both teenagers and adults. Yes, I know some women are also fans of these channels but they are more silent about it, unlike their male counterparts.
The problem that arises from addiction to pornography is that these addicts expect their spouses to perform the sexual “overtures” of these actors and actresses forgetting that they were just artists performing on stage. Failure to meet up to this expectation usually leads to verbal or physical fights and embarrassments.
- Mental Instability: Like someone rightfully said, a lot of people walking up and down our streets are mentally unbalanced. These people, especially men, will one day get married or they will have wives married for them by their relatives.
There are so many cases of mentally unstable men who beat their wives until they (the wives) run out of the house. Funny thing is that as that one is going, another is coming in without truly knowing the cause of the other person’s flight.
- Civilisation: Civilisation here is not about the developments that come from industrialisations and innovations. Civilisation here is the effect of westernisation on our culture. I’ll explain this.
I was speaking with someone a few days ago concerning the increase of broken homes in Nigeria today. We had time to look into some of the marital problems our friends were passing through and we realised that their spouses have had traits of violence, which they exhibited even while they were in secondary school. We also realised that our friends noticed (or rather claimed to notice) these bad behaviours after they were married. And that was when it hit me – we marry these days without actually knowing the characters of our spouses.
In those days, before someone marries, his family will do what we call “iju ase”, where they find the true character of the intended spouse and that of his family members. Any little questionable character attributed to this spouse or any member of his family leads to the break of the marriage negotiations.
Today, we meet people in the streets and marry them within one month. We no longer allow the elderly and more experienced people to decide for us. We tell ourselves that we are adults and make serious mistakes that can affect us throughout our lives. There is need to drop civilisation out of marriage matters.
- Arranged and Forced Marriage: I’ve seen parents arrange wives for their sons who do not wish to marry. I have also seen those who forced their sons or daughters to marry someone they don’t want to. Another case is that of boys who were forced to marry girls they impregnated (and teenage girls with unplanned pregnancy forced to marry old men). Majority of these marriages don’t work out.
- Extended Family Issues: I’m not going to talk about bad mothers-in-law and bad in-laws, those ones are clichés. My observation here is on extended family of the spouse that makes excessive demands. For instance, a wife whose parents kept tasking her husband financially may only expose her to emotional abuse from him. This is also the case with a man’s family that forgot that he has lots of responsibilities to bear and insists that he foots all their bills. Couples fight daily because of issues like this.
- Poverty: Of course there is no way I can pen down this article with mentioning poverty. I’m not saying that rich people don’t fight, but it’s more prevalent among the poor.
While I was in Ibadan, there was this area called Ikolaba village, which was inhabited mainly by the people of the lower class. I pass through that area daily while heading to work. Believe me when I say that I witness couples’ street fight on a daily basis. The causes of their fight always borders around “chop money”, “girlfriend matter” and “returning late”. For some reasons, these people have accepted that fighting is the only way to get their spouses to carry out is their domestic responsibilities.
There are other identified causes of domestic violence such as drug abuse, bad parenting, exposure to abuses while growing up, and so on.
Of course discovering the causes of a problem is a step away from solving it. But in this case, it won’t be easy because a lot of factors are involved – from societal factors to personal ones. However, I can only give the following suggestions:
- Ask before you leap. Whether it is marriage or girlfriend-boyfriend relationship (cases of violence have been recorded here too), ask and observe the other person before getting yourself involved. If you see what you don’t like, or what you can’t endure, kindly move on. Don’t tell yourself you can change the person or, how do they put it again, “love conquers all”. A lot of people that jumped in without proper “investigations” are either hopping out now or are stuck in the milieu.
- Talk to someone. A lot of people experiencing domestic violence find it too hard to talk about it. Sometimes reaching out to them could prove ineffective and disastrous as they seem to have accepted it as their fate and would rather die in it than accept help. But should you find yourself in this situation, let people know what you’re passing through. It helps a lot. You shouldn’t feel ashamed that you are passing through a lot in the hands of your partner; instead your partner should be the one feeling that shame.
- Uproot the causes. This is a call to prevent the factors that cause domestic violence. For instance, children that witness their parents fighting may assume that’s the perfect way to run a family. These children will grow up to become violent too. A young boy was overheard telling his younger one that he will beat her the “way daddy beats mummy”. So you can imagine what this young boy has turned into.
- Take a walk. This is one thing Nigerians don’t want to hear. They will prefer a person dying in his or her marriage than walking out of it. But I am here saying this loud and clear, if your marriage isn’t working, walk away. At least you will be alive to ensure that your children grew up in a safe environment.
As the EU continues with the campaign against gender-based violence, they should ensure that laws are created to protect both the male and the female. Nobody should be discriminated against.