THE CONCEPT OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
Across the world, in rich and poor
countries alike, women are being beaten, trafficked, raped and killed.
These human rights abuses not only inflict great harm and suffering on
individuals, they tear at the fabric of the entire society.
1.2 THE HISTORY OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE IN NIGERIA
The concept of domestic violence is one
that has existed since time immemorial. In the early days, domestic
violence was often referred to as ‘wife beating’, which was seen as a
show of love by a husband to his wife. Women were socialized to accept
and sometimes encourage it. Violence against women by male partners
became widely condoned by many Nigerian societies where the belief that a
husband may chastise his wife by beating her was deeply embedded in the
In Nigeria, there is this notion that a wife is the husband’s property. This is related to the traditional African patriarchal society that defines the gender power structure.
For instance, upon marriage, a woman surrenders to her husband
exclusive sexual rights and obedience. This invariably gives her husband
the liberty to violate and batter her if he feels that she has not
adequately fulfilled her obligations, or for any other reason. Take for
example in Akure, Nigeria, a report taken by the International Review of
Law shows that in their culture, domestic violence could not be
reported because, it is embedded in their culture and tradition to do
so. According to a respondent:
“We do not report cases of domestic
violence in our culture because we believe that reporting destroys
family. Our culture is against going to court on family related matters.
Domestic violence is considered as a family issue that a family head
“The institution of marriage confers
ultimate authority on men once he has paid your bride price wealth
(dowry). Once you have got married to a man, you are forbidden to go
back to your parents or report your husbands. You cannot take your
husband to court and return to him. We assume court destroys marriage.
That is what we were brought up to believe as women”
“Men are seen as a ‘wife’s crown’ in our
culture. If you lose your husband, you lose your crown. No more respect
for you! It is better to keep it to yourself if you don’t want to lose
your respect in the community. Our culture is against reporting domestic
violence. The society tags a divorce or separated women and calls them
names, such as ‘returnee’, ‘gigolo’, ‘cursed’, ’harlot’, ‘never
Where the socio-cultural context of
domestic violence is largely dependent on the gender power relation, men
are always right; they always win in any case against their wife; the
female relatives of a man are usually the first to accuse the woman and
find her guilty irrespective of obvious signs of physical abuse.
Violence against women is a
global phenomenon present in every society, cutting across boundaries
of culture, class, education, income, ethnicity, and age. Even though
most societies proscribe violence against women, it is a global epidemic
that affects women physically, physically, psychologically, sexually
and economically. It is one of the most pervasive of human rights
violations, both men and women are victims of violence. However, women
suffer both from the same sorts of violence as men, as well other forms
of violence that happens only or mostly to women, because they are
DEFINITION OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
Various writers have done various works on domestic violence.
According to The office of Violence against Women, 2007,
Domestic violence is a pattern of
abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to
gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner. The
definition adds that domestic violence can happen to anyone regardless
of age, race, sexual orientation, religion or gender, and can take many
forms, including physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional, economic and
Domestic violence is the intentional and
persistent abuse of anyone in the home in a way that causes pain,
distress or injury. It refers to any abusive treatment of one family
member by another, thus violating the law of basic human rights. It
includes battering of intimate partners and others, sexual abuse of
children, marital rape and traditional practices that are harmful to
According to the Deputy Prime Minister in Ireland,
Domestic violence is defined as
…The uses of physical or emotional
force or threat of physical force, including sexual violence in close
adult relationships. This includes violence perpetrated by a spouse,
partner, son or daughter or any other person who has a close or blood
relationship with the victim. The term domestic violence goes beyond
actual physical violence. It can also involve emotional abuse, the
destruction of property , isolation from friends, family and other
potential sources of support, threats to others including children,
stalking and control over access to money, personal items, food,
transportation and the telephone.
World Health Organization has defined domestic violence as:
The range of sexually, psychologically
and physically coercive acts used against women by current or former
intimate male intimate partners. Whilst women, men, boys and girls can
be victims of domestic violence, women and girls are disproportionally
The United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women defines violence against women as:
“Any act of gender based violence that
results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or
psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such
acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in
public or in private life” 
According to the Black’s Law Dictionary, domestic violence is:
“The infliction of physical injury or
the creation of a reasonable fear that physical injury or harm will be
inflicted, by a parent or a member or former member of a child’s
household against a child or against another member of the household”
The Medical Dictionary defines domestic violence as:
“Intentionally inflicted injury
perpetrated by and on family member(s). Varieties include spouse abuse,
child abuse, and sexual abuse including incest .Various kinds of abuse
such as sexual abuse also happen outside family unit. Domestic violence
is a pattern of sexual, emotional, psychological or financial abuse of a
former or current partner often punctuated by physical assault or
credible threats of bodily harm, occurring in the home”
In the words of the Former UN Secretary General, Mr Ban Ki-Moon:
“Millions of women and girls around the
world are assaulted, beaten, raped, mutilated or even murdered in what
constitutes appalling violations of their human rights. From battlefield
to home, on the streets, at school, in the workplace or in their
community, up to 70 percent of women experience physical or sexual
violence at some point in their lifetime. As many as a quarter of all
pregnant women are affected. All too often, perpetrators go unpunished
women and girls are afraid to speak out because of a culture of
impunity. We must fight the sense of fear and shame that punishes
victims who have already endured crime and now face stigma. It is the
perpetrators who should feel disgraced, not their victims”
In my own humble opinion, domestic
violence has to do with the infliction of pain ranging from physical
battery, assault, psychological abuse, sexual harassment and so on, on a
partner. The concept of domestic violence is one that is limited by age
or sex, in other words, domestic violence is not glued to a particular
sex or gender but it must be noted that domestic violence is more
paramount with female folks. This is due to the fact that the female
folks are sometimes perceived as weak and can therefore easily be
subjected to ill treatment. Domestic violence in my opinion includes
sexual violations such as rape. This issue of rape is one that is very
delicate. Rape is rape. It should not be heard that rape is condoned
under any circumstance whatsoever. A man that rapes his wife, is
nevertheless, guilty of rape and should not be allowed to hide under the
protection of “marriage”. Laws such as the Penal Code applicable in the
Northern States of Nigeria should be reviewed as ‘marital rape’ is rape
nevertheless and it is inappropriate to provide otherwise.
 “Handbook for legislation on violence against women” United Nations, New York, 2010.
 Kolawole Azeez Oyediran and Uche C. Isiugo-Abanihe, Law Of Domestic Violence In Nigeria, Professor Epiphany ,January 2013.
“Survey of unreported cases of domestic violence in two
heterogeneous communities in Nigeria”, Olakunle Michael Folami, 1
 Law Of Domestic Violence In Nigeria Edited By Professor Epiphany Azinge San 2012.
 Fareo Dorcas “Domestic violence against Women in Nigeria”, 2015.
 Aihie Ose , “Prevalence of domestic violence in Nigeria: implications for counselling” May 2009.
 Bruno Obialo Igwe “Overcoming
cultural, traditional and religious beliefs and practices in
understanding and combating domestic violence in Nigeria”, December
 Gender Assembly Resolution 48/104 Of 20 December 1993.
 Black’s Law Dictionary, 8th Ed. Pg 1601.
 Medical Dictionary For The Dental Professions © Farlex 2012.
 Project Alert On Violence Against Women, Sexual Violence In Nigeria: A Silent Epidemic, 2017.