Screams from nearby homes were the ingredients that made the soup of our night, before each day bade us farewell.
The pristine home opposite ours that belonged to the masculine factory worker, his smallish wife and three children boasted of the loudest and most hysterical screams. Every night – just a little after the 20th hour, the high pitched screams tore roofs and bled ears.
“Ikpo is battering his wife again”, mama would whisper in disgust to my sleepy eyed papa.
“Ikpo’s wife is a bad woman”, papa would mutter.
Mama would shake her head and snap her fingers in a fit of aversion, the way other local women did and mutter a faint curse (or whatever it was) of tufiakwa .
The other house wasn’t far away too, it stood shoulder to shoulder with our own home; although demarcated by a dwarf fence that couldn’t keep a chicken away.
The screams that erupted from there weren’t like the Ikpos, it rather sounded much like a brawl and a scuffle in a bar concurrently. The couple of the home bore popular street names like, Double Ninja or Power house duo. Both the Man and the woman vaunts with great agility and vigour no other couple had; but sadly, they used this as a tool against themselves.
The fights weren’t always an equal match as one would reckon. At times the fluffy face and black eye of the woman greeted us in the wee hours of the morning, other times the limping figure of the man would be sighted springing about.
Even though we don’t relay this to fear to another, we anticipated so badly, the day one of the Ninjas would be brought out of their house, sheeted in white while mourners grieved.
This unequivocal fear evoked my interest in matters of domestic violence around me; spurring me to ask the real questions that needed the real answers.
Why were men spurred to hurt their partners and why were women always the victims?
What makes society believe that the woman is always the one at fault?
What are the thoughts of society when a woman batters her man?
What? What? What?
I guess you would expect the answers to be much far-fetched or rather punctuated by the taciturn noise of hoity-toity words.
However, the basic truth is that the Nigerian society has failed to define the peculiarities associated with both genders and blended it into the notion of marriage.
So far, the idea of marriage still remains in the view of most average Nigerians, to be beneficial only to the female folk and appears more of a burden to the male.
It is perceived widely, even amongst most literate persons, that since a man has gathered enough to get married then he is supposed to be appreciated for it by his partner, for so much as a lifetime.
Comprehending the concept of domestic violence according to AIHIE Ose N. phD; “domestic violence is the intentional and persistent abuse of anyone in a home that causes pain, distress or injury. It refers to any abusive treatment of one family member by another, thus violating the law of the basic human rights. It includes battering of intimate partners and others, sexual abuse of children, marital rape, traditional practices, as well as other emotional or psychological deprivations.”
In Nigeria, the average woman remains a first class victim of domestic violence. This is especially so when the woman seems to be economically dependent on the man. The Nigerian society is basically patriarchal and women’s place within the scheme of things is decidedly subordinate. Domestic violence therefore functions as a means of enforcing conformity with the role of women within customary society.
It therefore does not matter if the woman is economically dependent or not, her position, like that of the children, is subordinate.
Like the popular Pied Piper tale, when matters have risen to the extent a woman becomes an apology for making headway, she will dance like one among the many other mice heading towards the cliff.
Consequentially, the woman fears to complain or speak. The unwritten dictates of society refuse to give her a chance to be heard. The average deduction would project the woman as ungrateful, lacking submissive spirit and intemperate. This of course, explains why several women remain shackled in the binds of internal violence before eventually speaking out in order not to be perceived wrongly.
The most obvious examples of domestic violence are often physical; where physical force is exhibited such as beating, flogging, knocking, punching, choking or confinement. In effect, a man is often given enough room to explain the reasons for his actions, giving some reasons as feeble as inability to cook properly, noise making or nagging.
Other examples abound, though not as evident as the physical assaults, it still slowly seeps out sanity from the minds of its victim. Emotional abuse and neglect is a core reason for this.
Most men pride themselves in their abilities to “restrict” their partners through the application of verbal abuse. The resultant effects might appear soothing to him but will forever effect pain and regrets to the other partner.
While, we as well believe women are the central victims of domestic violence, most Nigerians find it amusing when a woman is culpable of maltreating her man and see no actual problem with that. This as well also begins a new trend of domestic violence as calls are made to emancipate the average Nigerian woman from the bonds of domestic slavery.
It is however, a good point to note that not all Nigerians are appreciative of domestic violence, a strong faction of society revolts against the application of violence in relationships.
Either way, the heartfelt pains of the average Nigerian in any relationship should be redressed by the perspective of society towards gender and its peculiarities early enough before – the pied piper plays his tune and comes for the children (this time the men).
How long shall society play this tune, whilst we tread blindly to the cliff?
Mbam Chukwuemeka can be reached through firstname.lastname@example.org
AIHIE Ose N, phD prevalence of domestic violence in Nigeria: implications for counselling.
Stratus, M (1994) beating the devil out of them; corporal punishments in American families. New York. Lexington.