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Domestic violence women’s cross to bear? (5)

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!

Renny (26), Journalist, is about to take the plunge into matrimony. She has been dating Layi (32) for over three years. She is however very reluctant because of what she describes as risky. She concludes her story below:

When it dawned on me that this was his intention, I turned him down. I tried to talk him out of it by telling him that his friend may walk in at any time and catch us at it. He then told me that the guy wouldn’t come back.

Then I realized that it was a pre planned action, he had probably figured everything out before bringing me over. Maybe I behaved childishly like someone said too. But since we had been dating for long, I just couldn’t see us doing it in a strange place. I found it ridiculous and felt cheap too, wondering why he wanted to treat me that way.

So, I turned him down, refusing all his pleading. It was then that he got angry and started slapping me around.

I stuck to my gun, gathered my things and went to the door, insisting that I wanted to go home.

At first, he told me we must wait for his friend, but when I told him I would find my way home, he was forced to lock the door and take me. Both of us refused to speak to each other all through the ride. He dropped me off at my house and I thought it was all over between us.

But the next day, he was at my place, begging for forgiveness. He said he did not know why he behaved that way and that I was the one who made him do it. It has been three years now and the story has been the same. That is why I am not sure about accepting his proposal.

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 either their sons or daughters to beat up spouses, or just met out punishment to their daughters-in-law as ther 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 tells her story:

When we got married, we didn’t have an apartment of our own to settle down then, because I was pregnant and I couldn’t continue to live in our house.

So, we had to stay in my husband’s room in his parent’s house.  We also did not want to rent an apartment since I already had a three bedroom bungalow under construction. It was bought for me by my parents.

At first everything was alright among all of us. I assisted in the kitchen and also in the house chores as much as I could. I even washed my mother-in-law’s clothes every weekend. This also includes her mother’s (my husband’s grandmother).

Since I lived in their midst, I had to make myself available for all their needs as expected of a daughter-in-law or wife according to our tradition.

When we had the quarrel that led to our exit, we had almost completed our place. We were biding our time to move since we were putting in finishing touches.

The misunderstanding was between me and my brother-in-law, the last born of the family.  It would have been a minor incident but for the way it was handled. However, it was the quarrel that opened my eyes and made me aware of the kind of people I lived with. Most of all, that my mother-in-law was not the person I took her to be.

On that fateful day, I was preparing to leave for work. My husband had left for his studio earlier in the morning. Apart from my two children, I had a niece living with me.

It was my niece that triggered off the clash. Tayo, my brother-in-law said he had been calling Lizzy so he could send her on an errand. According to him, Lizzy did not answer because it had become her habit not to, whenever he called her.


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