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Domestic violence women’s cross to bear? (4)

By Yetunde Arebi
When two people fall in love, the general belief is that the two relate in peace, love care and harmony, watching out for each other and each other’s backs, no matter what. It is on this premise that they take the marital vows, the man assuming the headship of the new family. In the olden days, the man was regarded as lord and master of his house, he had the final say over all that lives under roof.

His wife is also regarded as one of his possessions because he paid the bride price, thus he is allowed by culture and to a large extent the law to take measures he deems fit to protect his investment. Thus, wife battering or chastising, now identified as a form of domestic violence has always been accepted as one of the many ways a man can correct or discipline an erring wife.

Though, even back in the olden days, the act is usually received with mixed feelings among diverse people. However, with the era of male supremacy gradually fading out, and more women gaining financial and educational leverage, many, including men, now see wife battering as an attack and abuse of the supposedly weaker sex. Add to this is the enactment of laws by at various levels of government in the country against domestic violence, some of which attract stiff penalties if found guilty of.

However, despite the fact that the act is fast becoming unfashionable, many women still experience awesome display of power by their spouses. In taking another look at this age long practice, we ask some of our respondents how it feels to be physically abused by some one who is supposed to love and care for you? How much do they know about the laws that have been enacted to protect them? What should a woman do, if she is being physically abused by her man?

How can this law come to her rescue? Please, do send in your views/contributions on this issue to The Human Angle, P.M.B. 1007, Apapa, Lagos. or e-mail address: Happy reading!

A Yoruba adage says when an elder is in the market place, you will never find a child’s head bent to the wrong side. This means that where you have elders, things are supposed to run smoothly or peacefully. Unfortunately, this is not usually the case.

Reports abound of incidents where in-laws have either joined hands with their sons or daughters to beat up spouses, or just met out punishment to their daughters-in-law as they please.

Adeshola, (32), a civil servant and her husband, Sesan (35), an artist, had to live for almost three years in her husband’s parents house before moving to an apartment of their own. Shola said though she and her husband had always had their fights, she never expected his people to join him in beating her up. She continues her story:

We were all in our room when he came and started shouting, “didn’t you hear me calling you? You this wicked girl! That is how you always pretend not to hear when you are being called”. As he shouted, he marched up to where Lizzy was sitting and slapped her across the face.

I couldn’t believe my eyes, so I challenged his action. He just turned on me to  mind my business or he will give it to me as well. I told him he could not because I had done nothing to him. More so, I felt insulted that such a child who was only as old as my own younger brother could say such a nasty thing to me.

But in a flash, he just turned round and slapped me across my cheek as well. That was how the fight started. My children, apparently shocked by what was going on, started weeping. As we punched and kicked each other, my mother-in-law came to the room. It was actually her action that broke my spirit.

It looked as if they had planned every thing together. She didn’t attempt to separate us or ask questions. Mummy (as I called her) just began shouting at me that I am a very troublesome woman. She said I have always caused trouble between everyone ever since I came to their house. That it is not enough that I fight my husband over every little thing, but that I now have to fight her son.

She kept on abusing me, calling me all sorts of names while Tayo and I continued to fight. Then she too joined the fight and started slapping and hitting me. They both said I could leave my husband if I wanted to, since I was of no use to them any way. They told me for the first time, the reason my husband had married me in the first place. That it was because my parents were rich.

They said they will ensure that I leave their house without taking my husband with me. Since they were sure that I could not be a good wife to him anyway. That once I take him away from them, they know I will only make him suffer.

As I fought with mother and son, Aunty Victoria, my sister-in-law, rushed into the room and saw that her mother and brother were beating me up.  She was shocked. She couldn’t help herself and started crying and scolding her mother. The fight had to stop at that point and I started weeping. I had never suffered that much in my entire life.

I told her that my own mother would never have done what she did to my husband. I told her that I was really disappointed by her action because I least expected it since I took her as my own mother. I informed her also that her own daughters will suffer same treatment in their respective homes, because of what she had done to me that fateful morning. Perhaps I said too much, but my message went home just as intended.

Instantly, mummy started begging me that she didn’t mean to do what she did. She said it was my niece who had been annoying her for a while. That it was the devil that got into them and that such a thing would never repeat itself. But as far as I was concerned, it was not a good enough excuse for what she did.

That day, I made up my mind to leave their house. I took my children to stay with a neighbour for the day. Instead of going to the office, I went to my husband’s office and told him what has transpired.


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