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1.1  Background of the Study

Domestic violence has been part of the fabric of many societies and cultures worldwide. It is so commonplace, that it has often gone unnoticed and failed to receive the level of concern it deserves in light of the devastating effects on children and families (Wolfe & Jaffe, 1999). According to Pillay (2011), one-third of women in the world have experienced or will experience some forms of violence in their lives while as much as 60 per cent of women have experienced physical violence at least once in their lifetime. Malloy, Christ and Hohlock (1992) stated that domestic violence occurs in as many as one in every four United States families and approximately two to four million women are physically abused each year. In Nigeria, high incidences of domestic violence have also been recorded (British Council, 2012). Obi and Ozumba (2007) stated that 70 per cent of couples experienced abuse in their families with 92 per cent of the victims being female partners and the remaining 8 per cent were male. Obviously, more women are exposed to domestic violence. Violence has been defined by Leo (1994) as the unlawful use of force or threat on fellow human beings. It is any action, behaviour, or attitude against other people based on anger and frustration, which could lead to injury or harm. Fighting, beating other people by any means, rioting, destruction of lives and properties, and even wars are such actions that amount to violence in the society. It is now recognized that threatening other people, denial of human rights, harassment, intimidation or forcing people against their will constitute violence. Domestic violence has been defined by the World Health Organisation – WHO (2011) as the range of sexually, psychologically and physically coercive acts used against women by current or former male intimate partners whilst women, men, boys and girls can be victims of domestic violence; women and girls are disproportionately affected. Furthermore, the UN General Assembly, in adopting the 1993 declaration on the elimination of violence against women defined gender-based violence as any art of violence that results in physical, sexual, or psychological harm or suffering of women; including threats of such acts, coercion, or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life (Population Reference Bureau, 2001). Hence, domestic violence involves a wide range of events by a current or past partner that could lead to the discomfort of women at home. Aihie (2009) identified various forms of domestic violence such as physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, economic abuse, emotional abuse and spiritual abuse.

Domestic violence can be caused by a variety of factors. The causes of gender-based violence are many and varied depending on the types of violence. Traditional attitudes towards women around the world help perpetuate the violence. Stereotypical roles in which women are seen as subordinate to men constrain a woman’s ability to exercise choices that would enable her end the abuse. Njenga (1999) opined that poverty and financial insecurity are another cause of gender-based violence. If a man cannot establish his authority intellectually or economically, he would tend to do so physically. Another cause is the image created by the society which portrays a man to be viewed as being strong, educated, creative, and clever while a woman is the opposite of all these traits and also a source of gender-based violence in later life. Bitangaro (1999) had summarized the causes of violence against women as being deeply rooted in the way society is set up: cultural beliefs, power relations, economic power imbalances, and the masculine idea of male dominance. Olasunkanmi (2012) opined that the attitude of women as regards their dressing and their dependability on men for living make men have the opportunity to humiliate them. Saran (1999) had earlier disagreed with the myth that a woman’s dress and behaviour can cause rape. This myth places the blame for rape on a woman and views men as unable to control themselves. She concluded that if a woman is known as a party animal or a tease and wears provocative clothing, she is asking for attention, flattery, or just trying to fit in. She is not asking to be raped. In view of these causes of domestic violence some of which cannot be controlled directly, there is a need for adequate prevention strategies.

The Inter-African Committee on traditional practices affecting the health of women and children (1995) stated that most women accept violence against themselves because of social prejudice and their low self-esteem. The perpetuation of Domestic Violence against Women has continued due to women’s economic dependence on men, patriarchy and the differential socialization process women pass through (Pallitio and Ocampo, 2004, Heise et al., 1999, Nhloyi, 1996; Kurta, 1989). As a matter of fact, domestic violence against women by their male partners is widely accepted by many African societies because of their beliefs that men are superior, the women under them are regarded as their possessions, and can be treated as the men considered appropriate (Kerige, 1995, VAWA, 2011). In Nigeria where this study is been carried out, it has been observed that domestic violence against women is not only widespread; it is also socially acceptable as in the case of the whole Africa (Stawarth, 1995). In addition, in Nigeria as in the Filipino culture, the main perceived domain of women is the home, where women are viewed mainly as mothers, wives, care-givers or daughters and this has eaten deep into some cultures in Nigeria (Carths, 1994). And the fact that there is usually no-intervention of, or coming up of most witnesses and victims present when such violence is committed against women, to testify against such incidence, demonstrates a clear social permissibility of domestic violence against women. Irrespective of the fact that, there has been explicit acknowledgement of the state’s responsibility for human rights’ violation by private actors in both public and private spheres in several international conventions, in particular the Vienna Accord of 1993 and the Beijing platform of 1995, domestic violence against women remains highly prevalent and is still a major cultural blind sport (Aderinto, 2003).

In view of the foregoing, this study sought to examine domestic violence against women and its effects in the family. This included public perception of the situation as well as its effect on women and the whole family.


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