Violence against women and girls is a major health and human rights issue. A global phenomenon, gender is said to be the most powerful predictor of rape, sexual assault, and relationship violence, and are predominantly perpetrated by men, highlighting a masculinity patterned violence. Intimate partner violence – also known as domestic violence – is the most prevalent type of physical and sexual violence against women.

This raises the question: why does physical and sexual violence towards women come from those that are supposed to love and care for them?

A 2013 World Health Organization national studies published in UN Women showed that an estimated 35 per cent of women worldwide have experienced one form of sexual violence, either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or sexual violence by a non-partner, at some point in their lives. In some national findings this number goes up to 70 per cent in cases involving intimate partners, that is, a non-stranger. In Nigeria, women ages 15-49 that ever experienced sexual violence and among those that reported who committed the violence, 57.9 percent - 6 in 10 - were committed by current husband/partner, that is, an intimate partner.

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“ Violence against women and girls is a major health and human rights issue. “

Reporting violence and abuse against women

A 2015 United Nations Economic and Social Affairs data also published in UN Women found the following on reporting:

  • In the majority of countries with available data, less than 40 per cent of the women who experience violence seek help of any sort.
  • Among women who do, most look to family and friends and very few looks to formal institutions and mechanisms, such as police and health services.
  • Less than 10 per cent of those women seeking help for experience of violence sought help by appealing to the police.

From the above data on reporting, one is tempted to deduce that since, in the case of Nigeria for example, about 60 percent of violent and sexual abuse are the domestic type, reporting is then low because victims are reluctant to implicate their loved ones? This may not be sole causation for low reporting of abuse cases, but basic correlation may support a high significance.

So, for us in Nigeria, the Komunitii Square believe that a new and more innovative approach must be lent to the way we view and seek solutions to physical and sexual violence against women, starting with the domestic type. Going by the data on domestic violence – 60 percent of physical and sexual violence is perpetrated by loved ones – will paint the painful picture of what these women and girls have suffered during this Covid-19 imposed lockdown.

The preceding paragraphs present the ugly picture of another type of global pandemic, one that has been ravaging women and girls for years. It is estimated that ‘violence against women is as serious a cause of death and incapacity among women of reproductive age as cancer, and a greater cause of ill-health than traffic accidents and malaria combined,’ as reported by the World Health Organization.

There is indeed an urgent need to put necessary collaborative and sustainable capacities together to begin to address this pandemic. Solutions will begin by seeking innovative answers to the following questions:

  • Do we know enough about the nature and characteristics of the perpetrator here in Nigeria, especially the domestic type?
  • Given the ugly statistic on domestic violence in Nigeria – 60 percent of physical and sexual violence is perpetrated by loved ones, – what do we know about the characteristics of the victim in this case, and how can this number, from a victim perspective, be significantly reduced?
  • Multiple conclusions including the World Health organization refer to gender violence as a masculinity patterned violence. Does this have cultural undertones especially in our local context? Should advocacy be redefined with respect to our young men?
  • What has the law provided for in tackling this unpleasant societal ill, and how aligned are current legal prescriptions with the root understanding of the problem?

Indeed, change is long overdue. To adequately fight this societal ill of gender violence, we must address the culturally rooted issues that encourage violence as part of masculinity. Solutions can only be gender independent, as these acts have long and sustained impacts not just on the victims but also on their families, male and female.


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