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Father and Son Assaulted Affianced Lady

What is the place of a woman in marriage? Does it mean giving up one’s rights to one’s spouse, in-laws and the society in general? For the umpteenth time I have had to ask myself if this exact incidence has ever happened to any other woman, anywhere in the world, before now. The thoughts cum question bothered me so much that I had to set out to gather more facts about what actually happened.

My efforts only yielded very little information as the victim in question has been out of reach. The only other possible options were undoubtedly no go areas as they were her assaulters and a long enslaved woman whom they perhaps see as a wife and mother. I knew it would have amounted to a needless chasing of shadows, if I had made any attempt to extract any information from either of the threesome.

In my few but eventful years on earth, I have heard of all manner of tales and stories that bother on violence against women; but not in my wildest imagination did I think that it could get this horrendous. What in the world could warrant a father and his son to team up and descend on a defenseless pregnant young woman? To the father and son in question, the victim was a formally recognized but prospective daughter- in-law and betroth respectively.

Earlier in the year, precisely the first quarter of the year, news began making rounds that Kola (not real name) was getting married. To most of us (close family members and friends) it was welcome news, considering that he was an only child of his parents; though not by their choice. Friends, family and well wishers were very joyous as it meant that his parents could now look forward to having additional biological offspring in their lineage. Something they had desired but which eluded them during their procreative years.

Coming from the South Western part of Nigeria, where marriage ceremonies are characterized by various stages beginning with the ‘momi kin mo o’ or ‘idana’ (traditional introduction ceremony), the parents set out to make all necessary arrangements in that direction. The traditional introduction aspect of marriage is a must and is the first customary step taken towards marriage consummation in Yoruba land.

Once a son informs his parents about his marriage intent towards a young lady, and the lady is accepted by his parents, they, within the shortest time possible establish contacts with the lady’s parents to inform them about their son’s intention. The prospecting in-laws would then agree to a date on which immediate family members of the intending couple would come together to get better acquainted.

The event is usually held in the family house of the bride to be. Depending on the financial capabilities and level of exposure of both families, traditional gifts are exchanged together with much wining and dining. So began Kola’s family’s journey to a town in the South Western part of Nigeria to seek for his girlfriend’s hand in marriage.

The event which took place in the expansive family compound of the potential bride had in attendance many of her obviously affluent family members. She was someone who was fair to look upon and on the ‘momi kin mo o’ day, she looked even more angelic. Her heartthrob looked no less and the two caught across as people who would make a success out of their union.

With the aspects of the ‘momi mo o’ traditional rights completed, friends and well wishers who were not permitted by tradition to be at the earlier held merriment began itching and snooping for details of the other aspects of the marriage ceremonies, that is, the traditional engagement ceremony and Wedding proper. As expected of such situations, rumors began making the rounds regarding preparations, dates, venue and the likes. Fair enough, the grapeviners were advised to wait to hear from the horse’s mouth.

The advice was however short lived as the grapevine, once again, became agog with tales of the much awaited wedding details; when about a month after the introduction, the prospective bride moved in with her fiancé who still lived with his parents. Tale mongers and other genuinely concerned family acquaintances had to keep their distance while scouting for an update of this new development, yet not much could be found out because of the very austere and eccentric nature of the groom’s father.

He was known to call the shots in his home and neither his son nor wife dared defy his orders. He had the penchant for beating his wife; but no one ever thought that someday, his son who had always striven to protect his mother from his father‘s battering, will someday manifest the same traits. Worst still, to the point of teaming up with his father to beat his own prospective wife.

By now, I am certain that many people would have known that something was amiss since the bride suddenly disappeared from public glare. In short, she has moved out of her in-law’s house to another part of town where she is alleged to be squatting with an older family member of hers. Before things took this turn, many had observed that she was not allowed to mix freely with her peers. Not permitted to get too close to even close family close and friends. She was challenged each time she was observed to be discussing with anyone other than her immediate in-laws.

At the home front, she had become no better than a maid as all the house chores became her responsibility. Her mother in-law knew better than to rise up to her defense and pay dearly for it. It is sad to know that this poor young lady who already had a lucrative job in one of the major cities in Nigeria was lured by her fiancé and his father to resign her job and move in with them; on the premise that another job will be secured for her within three months, at the most. May be in their opinion, getting her pregnant was enough responsibility while she awaited the unforthcoming job and Wedding day.

With no job in sight, and the other marriage ceremonies still on hold, the lady settled into her new found role of a tenterhook house maid, partially married wife and would-be mother. Visitors to the house were not left in doubt that she was badly treated as it seemed normal for her new family to order her around and abuse her verbally without any provocation. Her supposed partner seemed okay with the whole display.

Her pregnant state and efforts to satisfy the burdensome demands of her in-laws did not bring any respite and she endured her pain all alone. A family acquaintance she sneakily confided in said that about three months into her trimester, she woke up into another tortuous day which she wished never happened. That day was more horrifying than previous ones as this time around, she was caught in the web of the joint fury of her supposed father in-law and hubby.

They both descended on her. Father and son sandwiched her, beat her silly and left her with bruises that would for a long time to come, remind her of events that were better forgotten. To think that not even the thought of the innocent fetus she was carrying could restrain them from their ignoble action.

In her phone conversation with the trusted confidant she said that she had not known one day of peace since she moved in with her in-laws and hubby; and could no longer endure their subjection characterized by isolation, verbal, physical and mental torture which had become her lot in their hands.

Much as I have been unable to meet face to face with the assaulters and the victim, I have taken it upon myself to make sure that the abuse does not continue. As first steps, I made reports to some family members who are already taking steps to wade into the matter. Secondly, I have decided to let the world know the extent to which women are violated. Her story needs to be documented and used in the realms of advocating for an end to violence against women. Thirdly I am working at reaching the victim to let her know the importance of speaking out to save herself and other women.

Case studies of domestic violence carried out by Gender and Development Action (GADA) show that the abuser often believes that there is a justifiable reason for his or her action. This belief in “righteous anger” is usually strong in cases of domestic violence, especially wife battering.

Mmmmmmmm………..and the frustrating news is that many law enforcement agents tend to share the view that women invite physical violations by what they do or fail to do as daughters, wives and mothers whose behavior must at all times mirror societal values and expectations. In other words, there is always the tendency to blame the victim of Violence Against Women, as it is the case in many other aspects of discrimination or suppression of women.

One strong issue in domestic violence is the subjection of women to unbearable conditions in the name of marriage and what is customary. In my recent discussion with a friend who is a feminist, he said while many people are longing to jump out of marriage, many are yearning to take a plunge into it. I am sure however, that if statistics are taken, there would be more women who are eager to bow out.

I hold nothing against marriage and I am an ardent believer in the institution because it is ordained by God. What is wrong here is how the society has manipulated marriage laws, customs, and beliefs such that it works against women. Across conventional and contemporary divides, women are not favored by most practices associated within conjugal relationships.

Everything and anything that goes wrong in a relationship is often blamed on a woman. Some of such blames are so frivolous that one would want to ask if it is a sin to belong to the female gender. It should be known that it takes the commitment and willingness of both partners in a relationship or marriage to make a success of the union.

The afore stated brought to my mind, an experience I had in a relationship sometime back even though I am better off for it today because I opted out. My then fiancé and I had everything going for us. Though we were aware of one another’s shortcomings, we were happy together and anticipated having a very blissful union. Things looked very good for me especially because I was much loved by his family members.

Unknown to me however, I had only crossed the hurdle of having his family on my side. I still had yet another but more difficult hurdle to cross which was the one set by his religious mentors, who had been feeding him with views of how he would not be able to lead me. Whatever that meant?

In one of my meetings with them, I was told that they had tested me three times and I failed the tests. Whatever that meant, I was forced to ask no one in particular, again. I was rather completely taken aback because I had not really had much interaction with them at the time. Having searched myself inside out, I came to realize that the three tests I probably failed were:
• Not assenting to becoming a member of his place of worship, ahead of getting married to him
• Telling them that I was not a third party kind of person when it comes to issues between me and my partner and that I preferred us to resolve our issues between us rather than having to invite a third party to do that for us.
• Answering a question they asked ahead of my partner.

Can you imagine that a young man was advised not to marry his girlfriend because when they were both asked when their wedding would be coming up, she answered the question ahead of him? The action was adjudged a tendency for insubordination.

Such teachings got so much into my ex, took a better part of him and he began acting it out on me. He was given a task of proving to them that he could lead me and I was told in turn told that if I must marry him, I must let go of my identity (possibly even lose my mind?) and follow him without questioning. I was even obligated to join the women’s wing of their mentorship program.

We both started acting out the scripts that were handed out to us. Of course, before long, the walls of the good, harmonious and enviable relationship we had built started cracking and finally crumbled. Guess what? My exit was celebrated, as their usual practice was matchmaking their mentees.

Staying on could probably have made me become defiant; and may have even resulted into my becoming subjected to further mistreatment in the name of getting married to a mentee. Of course I learnt about related cases 1st hand from other victims and people who knew women who had similar or more abominable experiences.

It is no longer news that the social orders we operate in see and treat women as lesser beings or second class personalities. Patriarchal ideologies assign subservient roles to females, and they are expected to be acquiescent, while men are assured of positions of control both in the private and public spheres. At the earliest opportunity boys and girls are socialized to regard the female as inferior and the male as superior.

This attitude is played out daily at different levels of social life, and where there seems to be any difficulty in asserting or accepting the rule, the dominating party or the party that feels “righteous anger” can, and quite often permissively resort to violent behavior(s).

There are various dimensions of Violence Against Women as the following definition in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action shows: “any act of gender based violence that results in or 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 private life”. Violence against women can happen anywhere, on the streets, in work places, social gatherings, at home, or at school.

Day in day out, females are abused by the very people who are supposed to protect them. They are raped, beaten, injured/disfigured, exploited, and traumatized through all manner of behaviors and practices. If truth must be told, people who engage in various acts of violence against women do not start it overnight. It is usually influenced by the very negative outlook that the society ascribes to womanhood. Acts of violence against women are accepted as part of common cultural or traditional practices.

Five International Legal Instruments deal extensively with the issue of violence against women. They include: the Declaration of the Elimination of Violence Against Women, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1993, the Platform for Action from the United Nations fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) 1979, the Universal Declaration on Human Rights 1945, the Vienna Declaration and World Conference on Human Rights 1993. All establish that any form of VAW is an abuse of the human rights of women.

We don’t have to lose our individuality and give up our rights in the name of satisfying discriminatory perceptions, tendencies and expectations. Many who have done so have only ended up living a life of misery. The time has come for every one irrespective of gender and experience to acknowledge that violence against women is a setback that needs to be tackled head-on.

The 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence campaign which runs from November 25th - International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women - to December 10th - International Human Rights Day - in order to symbolically link violence against women with human rights is a step in the right direction. The raising of awareness about gender based violence as a human rights issue also laudable.

There is so much we can do individually and collectively, to end violence against women (females in general). Perpetrators cannot continue to go squat free but they must be reported and reprimanded. We must have the will to speak up, speak out and take action towards ending it.

We must pull down the prevalent culture of silence, fear, stigma and isolation that characterize the lives of the victims. We must help, save, protect and support victims while also preventing others from falling prey. We must tackle and change the attitudes that trigger the violations because Violence against ONE is violence against ALL! Thank you World Pulse for giving credence to women’s long silenced Voices.

Gender-based Violence
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