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Gender-based violence must stop

25 July 2021
Reading time: 5 minutes

Gender-based violence (GBV) – mostly against women – is a worldwide scourge, but it is particularly prevalent in places where there are unequal power relations between women and men.

In Nigeria’s northeast, GBV is often a way of life for many women – particularly women living in internally displaced persons’ camps.

The ongoing conflict in the northeast – cause mainly by attacks by extremists from the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) and the Jamā’at Ahl as-Sunnah lid-Da’wah wa’l-Jihād (JAS), more commonly referred to as Boko Haram – has resulted in millions having to flee their homes, most of them ending up living in internally displaced persons’ camps or host communities where they live cheek by jowl with others and often in utter poverty.

A woman from an internally displaced persons’ camp in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State, told RNI about her horror experiences as a victim of GBV.

For obvious reasons, the woman, whom we will call Adesewa, asked to remain anonymous because she feared reprisal.

Adesewa said she was displaced more than seven years ago. She met and married her husband three years ago never suspecting that he was a beast who would make her life hell.

At the time, she had no idea he was violent. But it was not long before he began insulting, abusing and beating her.

He would deprive her of food and would not clothe her or look after her health.

“He did not feed me and he told me it was a privilege for him to feed me, even though I had cooked the meal.”

He told her often that if he did not want her, that she could leave because, he said: “I don’t care.”

He described her as “worthless”.

“My life with him was miserable. He would leave home early in the morning and return at about 11 or 12 at night. He would insult me and then beat me. He never kept the vow he made on our wedding day when he promised to take care of me. In the beginning he was different, but it did not take long for his attitude towards me to change.”

Adesewa said at first her parents liked him and told her it was her duty as a wife to obey him.

“Eventually, when they saw how badly he treated me and realised how he abused me and used to beat me, they believed me. When they discovered the truth, they tried to talk to him telling him that he should treat me better. But his bad attitude continued.”

Adesewa said after terrible beatings inflicted by him she would run away to live with her parents for weeks, sometimes even months.

“Each time he would come to find me and beg me for a reconciliation. He pleaded with me to return. He would admit he had made a mistake and had done wrong and he always promised never to do it again. But as soon as we got back together he would go back to treating me badly again. His old attitude was back and he was as cruel as before.”

Adesewa said her husband’s parents and family always stood up for him even though they knew how badly he treated her. “I was sad that they did not believe me and always took his side.”

She said, because his family was known and respected in the area, that was why she and her family never reported his abuse. If they had done, she would have been forced to return to him.

“But eventually it became too hard. I had had enough. I could not take it anymore. I knew I had to leave him because I was terrified. The beatings were very harsh and I was afraid he might kill me,” Adesewa said.

“So,” she said, “after the last fight I went to my parents again for help. This time they agreed to pay his family 40,000 naira so that I could leave. Traditionally, that is the case. If a wife wants to separate from her husband, her family has to pay his family money.”

Adesewa said even though it was a lot of money, it was worth it to be free of her husband.

“If I can give advice to any young woman thinking of marrying, I would warn her to take heed of the man’s attitude. Please make sure he can and wants to take care of you. Make sure he is not a violent man. I do not want any woman to go through with what I did.”

  • Gender-based violenceis violence directed at an individual based on his or her biological sex or gender identity. It includes physical, sexual, verbal, emotional, and psychological abuse, threats, coercion, and economic or educational deprivation, whether occurring in public or private life. When men use powerto control women it is a negative use of power and the driving force behind violence against women.


About the author

Elvis Mugisha