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Tribune Online
How Nigerian society makes gender degradation a norm


EVERYONE gets nervous on a Monday morning as we look at the long week ahead and this fateful Monday was no different. It would have been a typical Monday morning but for the knock that comes on my door just as I made to leave my room for work. The knock is weak and listening to it, I could almost guess who was behind the door. True to my thoughts, in comes my neighbour, looking as haggard as always with her malnourished-looking baby in her arms. From the look on her face, Oga, as we call her husband, had struck again. She sat there looking thoroughly defeated as I offered her a cup of water. That was when I noticed the finger marks on her cheek, evidence that Oga had really struck. This is the routine she follows every time. This time though, he seems to have really crushed her spirits if her posture is anything to judge from. I allow her to relax and get comfortable, not minding that I am already running late for work before I finally throw the question;

“What happened, Martha?” She looked up at me and her eyes brimmed over with unshed tears. Her chin quivered as she struggled to reign in her tears. “The usual Tea, the usual.” I nodded slowly as the realization of what had happened dawned on me. Martha is a thirty-something-year-old woman, a mother of four and needless to say, unhappily married. Martha’s first husband had died five years ago, leaving her with two children and a bulging pregnancy. She had been a full-time housewife before his death and while she was undergoing the traditional widow rites which lasted over two months, she had been forced to rely completely on his family for provisions. After she came out of seclusion, which was the last of the rites, she had been made to marry her late husband’s brother, leaving her no choice in the matter. The husband lives in the city with his family while Martha, although now married to him, lives in their little town with her kids.

Although she had learned fashion designing, he refuses to buy her the necessary pieces of equipment while still not providing enough for the family. Oga, as he is called, comes home to them once in a month and while he is around, the children and their mother are miserable. He is irritable, snaps at everything and doesn’t hesitate to use the rod on any of them, including the mother. For the three weeks that he is away, while they may not have enough to eat, everyone is happy. They make do with their little provisions and Martha does odd jobs here and there to make ends meet. Martha complains that her husband, a furniture maker, has given indications that he has no intentions to educate her two girls who are now in secondary school past that. And although she wants all her children educated to make up for her own lack of it, she apparently lacks the capacity to do so.

Meet Martha, your average girl, who has had her journey mapped out by her father since birth. Her decisions have been made for her by her father, brother, husband, husband’s family and now, again, husband. Why? Because apparently, she is the weaker vessel who is incapable of making her own decisions. According to her society, Martha is a liability. She is not allowed to make her own decisions nor is she allowed to contribute to the family, let alone the society. She is expected to be silent and submissive and she is not allowed to have opinions. Her sole responsibility is childbearing and when one husband dies, she is passed to another, without her consent. This is Martha and she represents a good number of women in our society today. While their conditions may not be the same as Martha’s, they all are from the same root, the classification of women whom have accepted the society to dictate their ways of life. Thousands of women from all over the world especially in my country, Nigeria, like her, suffer from physical, mental and emotional abuse and torture.

The sad part, it is not reducing as Nigeria is currently ranked 118 on the Global Gender Gap Index which speaks a lot on how girls and women are being regarded in the Nigerian community with different forms of Violence against women not showing signs of reducing anytime soon as major indicators like Lifetime Physical and/or Sexual Intimate Partner Violence on 16 per cent ; physical and/or Sexual Intimate Partner Violence in the last 12 months on 11 per cent as reported by the United Nation latest report. Our women have been made to feel so low of themselves and think the worst about their position in society. Women have been made to believe that their achievements mean nothing unless there’s a man’s name attached to theirs. So, whether a woman becomes wealthy, a successful businesswoman or career woman, our society has its way of belittling it all. While there is no denying the fact that, indeed, men are, have been, should be and would be higher than women in the society, there should be no subjugation of the female gender. Men should not, as a result of their insecurities, undermine the position of the women.

It is high time our society accepted that although women are fragile vessels, they’re not stupid or weak. It is about time our society recognised the position of strength, honor, dignity, and prestige that belongs to women. As it is, no religion, tradition, culture or law supports the subjugation of women. Every religion and culture of the world preaches the respect and dignity of the female gender in its own way. The Nigeria government does not help the matters by rejecting the draft of a 2005 bill that seeks to domesticate the Beijing Declaration and the 1985 Nairobi Convention on Violence against Women. Without the domestication, seeking full justice at the Nigerian court will only be a joke because it is yet to be a part of the national legal framework, so it is not enforceable within the country. Even though they come with promises during the electoral year of ensuring gender equality. It has only been a facade.

  • Mikail is a Law student at Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto


How Nigerian society makes gender degradation a norm
Tribune Online

source https://tribuneonlineng.com/how-nigerian-society-makes-gender-degradation-a-norm/

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