This is all your fault…And slaps her again.

You started drinking when you were pregnant with your first baby, a bottle of small stout spread over four or five days to help with the nausea. By the time you had your second, you were up to one bottle every two days. By the time your daughter – your third child – came, you were drinking close to three bottles every day; ogogoro on days you didn’t have money to spend.

Do you know how much blood comes out of a head wound? Plenty.  Especially when you’re hit on the head with a spanner by your husband. This is after you’ve insulted him for hours and torn his shirt because he wouldn’t bring enough money for your daughter’s naming ceremony. It’s been five days since you brought her home, two weeks since you had her, a tiny little thing who almost died, and you should be resting but it is important to have this party.  It doesn’t matter that your husband hasn’t been getting much work as a tanker driver. Other drivers are complaining about his drinking.

When he is asked why he drinks, he says he has a witch at home.
When you are asked why you drink, you say, you are married to the devil.
Neighbours help you when the blood starts to flow. They got tired of separating your fights a long time ago. Too many people had been hit by a stray fist from you or your husband so they stayed away. But today there is blood and so they hold you by the hand – still spewing invectives and kicking– and take you to a nearby chemist.
Your first has been standing by the door all along; it was his shout, mummy! that drew the neighbours’ attention. Your second is in the village with your mother, he was sick before your went to the hospital. The baby is inside your one-room apartment, asleep through the quarrel.

He goes into the room after everyone leaves, you with the neighbours, your husband to his favourite bar. He struggles to climb the bed, forbidden to him because he wets himself every night.

He lifts the baby net gently. He sits there and looks at her for a few minutes.
The slap is sudden, startling her awake; her cry is piercing.

This is all your fault, he says. And slaps her again.

– Enajite Efemuaye

VIOLENCE AND THE NIGERIAN: A MATCH MADE IN HEAVEN II

The Nigerian adult graduates from a tertiary educational institute, or takes up a trade. No matter how rich and successful that adult may be, he must be subservient to the military officer’s violent whims and caprices. If for no reason, a military officer parks his vehicle in the middle of the road to urinate by the roadside or chat up an attractive woman, he must wait for the officer to satiate his complaining bladder or coax contact details from the woman respectively. To do otherwise is to risk broken bone and limb, or worse, a trip to a galaxy far, far away.

The military officer has the monopoly of power invested in him by the state, and can do whatever he or she deems fit, rarely with repercussions. If a private thinks a professor with two PhDs has fallen short of his unique code of “respect”, he can ask him to do a few “frog jumps” and if the civilian fails to comply, the military officer may whip some sense into him with the help of his koboko or that most powerful belt, which has the largest brass buckle you will find on a belt, with which he holds his khaki trousers unto his waist.

Time comes for the adult Nigerian to seek a romantic mate; the “need” may arise before tertiary education, the learning of a trade, or after. I know teenagers who were whipped to within an inch of their lives for daring to have “girlfriends” or “boyfriends” while in secondary school. By some miracle, these individuals went on to find spouses. The Nigerian male acquires funds to take Nigerian female out on a date, or dates, secret or otherwise. He “spends on her”, as the lingo goes. Soon, they find themselves at a quiet spot where “things” can happen. Sometimes, it is his parents’ home, his friend’s absent parents’ home, his university hostel room or if he has been smiled upon by his chi, his own home. After spending, spending, and spending, he is told by his peers and society, if you spend money on someone, you have control over their lives.

It is a part of modern Nigerian mores that a woman who allows you to spend money on her, buying her food at fancy restaurants or sundry gifts, MUST provide sex to the spending benefactor; surely, she must know how difficult it is to come by money these days. The Nigerian male takes this peer teaching quite seriously that he corners the Nigerian female at a quiet spot and pointedly asks her for sex, if the delay becomes unbearable. Failure to consent is not really absence of consent, after all, if she did not want sex, she would not have “eaten” his money and come to his house. Her “no” means “try harder”, so they say.

Resistance from the female kicks up memories from adolescent past — “I pay for everything for you, so you must do as I say!” thunders parent from ages ago in the subconscious of the Nigerian male. The conditioning of transactional obedience kicks in. Forceful, screaming consummation occurs, and a girl, a woman, is scarred for life, because a parent has taught a boy, a man, that violence wins — all the time. 

Delinquent behavior has since been associated with parenting; it would be difficult to prove otherwise. If one can make bold to suggest that violent parenting renders Nigerian men actual and potential rapists, how is it that women do not become rapists? Psychological experts who have conducted researches into parenting point out commonsensically that male and female children respond differently to authoritarian parenting (in this type, I class violent parenting) and authoritative parenting. A 2009 report titled “The Relationship Between Delinquency and Parenting: A Meta-analysis” (available at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2708328/pdf/10802_2009_Article_9310.pdf) posits that “too strict authoritarian control and harsh punishment appear to be linked to high levels of delinquent and antisocial behavior… These negative child-parent transactions increase the risk of setting a child off on a delinquent path that starts in the early teens, entails many delinquent acts and persists far into adulthood.”

The effects of violent parenting are not restricted to those mentioned previously. It leads to a rupture in parent-child relationship. The Nigerian child is raised in an environment where the communication of feelings, and later, as the child grows, ideas, are severely stifled. A report in Psychology Today states that the “use of corrective violence by parents not only injures the child, but also harms the child’s ongoing relationship with the parent.” (Available at https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/surviving-your-childs-adolescence/201409/parenting-and-the-use-corrective-violence). Statements of ideas by a child of ideas contrary to those expressed by the parent are dealt with by the Nigerian parent’s engagement of the koboko.

Wole Soyinka, in his childhood memoirs, Ake: The Years of Childhood, recalls how Essay, his father, welcomed arguments from the Wole, the child, much to his mother’s chagrin; she preferred the rod. Soyinka’s experience is/was the exception, and few would suggest that the man has not made anything of himself. The Nigerian child learns early that the engagement of reason in disputations is an exercise in futility. Millions of Nigerians are walking the streets with short fuses, undiagnosed repressions and psychological illnesses, unable to communicate feelings and opinions adequately to parents or peers, resorting to silence, vile insults and fists for such expression. An inability to tolerate dissenting views from others becomes ingrained in the DNA.

The irony is that Nigerian laws protect the Nigerian child against physical and mental abuse but these laws are as helpful to the Nigerian child as an analgesic to a cadaver, at least, at this time. Section 212 of the Nigerian Child Rights Act 2003 clearly states that harm to a child is defined as “the use of harsh language, physical violence, exposure to the environment and any consequential physical, psychological or emotional injury or hurt.” The commencement of the Nigerian child’s early relationship with violence also heralds a lifelong relationship with lawlessness because few children are protected by the law enforcement agencies charged with the enforcement of those law. It is my estimate that every adult Nigerian, resident in Nigeria, consciously or unconsciously, breaks at least one Nigerian law per day.

It is imperative to observe that the closest this writer has come to being battered by a fellow adult Nigerian, in Abuja, was in a traffic incident in May 2014 with a middle-aged-looking lawyer, no less, witnessed by individuals who knew him and addressed him by the title “barrister”. The peeved lawyer was angered by my rather truthful remark that in the course of his insulting my person, and thundering at me, “Who are you?!” (a question that sounds most vacuous when mouthed during conflict situations by the Nigerian to supposedly belittle his compatriot), he was spraying his spittle all over my suit. The question was succeeded by two quick shoves to my head from the “learned” man, who was obviously stupefied by my mirthful and guffawed reaction to his brute force — definitely not the response he was either seeking or used to. Fortunately for both of us, he was pulled away from me by other road users, before he recovered his wits, or sought to inflict harm that went beyond my personal dignity.

Thus, I often “objectively” (or as objectively as one may be permitted in such circumstances) postulate that the most violent class of educated Nigerians are lawyers, those professionally charged with helping fellow citizens forego violence and have faith in the law. This theory is supported by countless reports of Nigerian lawyers, prominent and otherwise, publicly engaging in violent displays; even SANs are guilty of this failing, as a quick Google search often suggests. An instance that readily comes to mind is the July 2013 spectacle of the majority leader of the Rivers State House of Assembly, Honourable Chidi Lloyd, assaulting a legislative colleague of his with the mace of the house. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_zX388EnB5I. Mr. Lloyd has a master’s degree in law; the all-powerful LLM is part of the alphabets written at the end of his name, in fulfilment of the Nigerian custom.

Adult laws against assault and battery are not well enforced, so children, the most vulnerable component of our society, really stand little chance of being catered for by laws enacted to protect them. The violent disposition of many a Nigerian lawyer is perhaps a tacit admission on their part that their professional calling offers no hope even to them, so the rest of us who are not “learned” stand little chance. One is forced to recall a case recounted to me by a neighbour in my former neighbourhood in Abuja. An incensed, middle-class wife and mother who lived in the same area before I moved in, armed with a pestle, charged at her ward, child of some distant relative, for not performing a particular domestic chore to her satisfaction. The child was killed instantly. The Nigerian Police was duly informed and the lady was detained, albeit briefly. To this day, murderer wife and mother still roams the street, free as air, as free as Mr. Lloyd, one should add. I was told her biological children were observers to this fatal administration of Nigerian discipline. The ideas bred in the minds of her children as a result of this incident are left to the reader’s conjecture.

The true tragedy is that the victim of Nigerian parenting does not recognize their victimhood. It is not uncommon to hear adults brag about the beatings they received from parents and teachers while growing up. “I am a respectful, responsible person today because of those beatings! It prepared me for a tough world!” is a rebuttal to charges of an abused past. Like the Tulsi sisters in V.S. Naipaul’s magnum opus, A House for Mr Biswas, they will often recount epic beatings from their childhood. Raising the point that there are individuals who were not beaten by their parents but who also grew up to be “responsible” citizens will be met with scepticism. They will not admit to having prayed that their beater be sent to hell by God, like Adah, the protagonist in Buchi Emecheta’s Second-Class Citizen, often prayed for her adult cousin “who had the heart to cane her for two good hours with koboko” for stealing money for what she regarded as a good cause — the furtherance of her education.

The Nigerian elite actually views mindless violence as the best way to exact retribution from a member of the lower class who has been “disrespectful” in some way. Fela Kuti termed it “power show”. Thus, the Nigerian social class is stratified not only according to access to the usual characteristics of privilege — money, education, power — it is also a configuration of the unspoken privilege to use mindless violence without question. Stories abound of top government functionaries and politicians brazenly employing violence to various ends.

The Nigerian clergy is also well disposed to the use of holy violence, against both children and adults, as evidenced by the popular Pentecostal pastor, with followers in the tens of millions, who in 2012, slapped a young girl for declaring herself a “witch for Jesus” without Jesus’s say-so. There is a video of this most illuminating incident, freely available online, but no law enforcement agency or state government, though empowered by and charged by section 43.1(b) of the Child Rights Act 2003 to do so, has been brave enough to investigate the incident and almost inevitably charge the man of the cloth to court, a man who has been known to brag openly about the affair https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HMUWnmW5jPY. As has been said previously, violence, especially against children, is sanctioned by the church, and God. “If you say that again, I will slap you!” a middle-aged ex-colleague of mine, dressed in the sharpest of suits, tie and pristine white shirt, once shouted at another colleague who dared to question his outstanding educational and professional qualifications; office gossip had it he, the threatening man, was once a “house help” who worked hard to acquire formal education. The “house help” (synonymous with “house boy/girl) usually suffers more than the biological offspring of the parent as regards violent parenting. Formal education is no barrier to this kind of behaviour, as it probably is all over the world.

The media is awash with subtle endorsements of violence of the unnecessary kind. A case in point is Wazobia FM, Abuja, the Pidgin English radio station, which I sometimes listen to, eager to keep my connections to the grassroots intact, if not in body, then in spirit. An immensely popular radio presenter, Expensive, a man with a disgruntled on-air persona and an off-air philanthropic flair, often threatens to “break the heads” of his callers to his call-in evening show “Go Slow Parade”. He accomplishes the “breaking” with the sound effect of the combined sounds of glass breaking and an object connecting with the head of a screaming individual of indeterminate sex. There are different variations to this censure of callers making contributions that do not satisfy the expectations of the presenter — a gun shot, koboko whippings, setting a dog, Bingo, on the caller, all with sound effects. It was once my guilty pleasure, listening to these censures but a close confidant of mine reviles the show for this sole reason and has been known to get into an altercation or two with taxi drivers who refuse to turn off the show when he is their passenger. One can only hope children who listen to this radio show do not accept on a subliminal level that such form of rebuke is perfectly legitimate, acceptable behavior. There is a once-weekly, hour long segment dedicated to children who are encouraged to call in and report errant parents and siblings.

One has been tempted to report such “head breakings, gun shootings and koboko whippings” to the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC). Some callers are known to mischievously call in the presenter just to have themselves insulted this way. Would one be getting in the way of entertainment and “good fun” for some because of one’s moralistic qualms by lodging a complaint at the NBC? Violent television shows come on at primetime on Nigerian television stations. Psychologists are quick to point out the growth in crime rates in the South Asian nation of Bhutan when television was first introduced there in 1999; so, a presence of TV violence in children’s lives may have effects that are not altogether salutary on them.

When I was an adolescent, I recall vividly missing out on the historic telecast of the public execution (read state-sanctioned public lynching) of the notorious armed robber, Lawrence Anini, who was executed just a few minutes’ drive from where we lived in Benin. My incensed father, angry at the state broadcasters for televising such news, promptly turned off the TV until he was sure the broadcast was over. The broadcast of this landmark event was pursuant to the then military government’s policy of broadcasting such executions to serve as deterrence to aspiring and career armed robbers. I am not quite sure if the same behavior exhibited by my father was replicated in other households that evening in 1986. Many parents today in the same economic class as he was then would probably be out trying to put body and soul together at that hour, without time to censor what their children watch on television.   

One is constrained to hope for a better day when a truly national dialogue will be embarked on, in Nigeria, about the linkages between violent parenting and societal malfunction. It may be difficult to convince a parent whose expensive leather settee has been ripped open with a knife or blade by an inquisitive toddler that child beating is not the way to go, but a try may be worth it. As a university student, I had a neighbour who was an illiterate bus driver, a Yoruba man whose loud, gruff voice dominated any space his wide girth visited; he looked like he could more than hold his own in any physical tussle. His wife was often tempted to employ the rod every now and then on the man’s large brood of children, but never when he was around. “Don’t you dare beat any child of mine!” he would scream at her, the veins at his neck straining, his body vibrating angrily, whenever such event seemed imminent. His children were some of the most respectful, ambitious children I ever met.

They always bluntly expressed their minds, but in rather respectful fashion. I envied them; as a child, that independence of thought and action was a very distant possibility, as it was for most of my peers. The last I heard, those children were gearing up to go to the university I attended. How did this non-violent father implement discipline? He would scream “omo àle” (that is, “bastard”, for those not familiar with the magical language called Yoruba) at any child transgressor who was the product of his loins. The children’s regular reaction to that two word chastisement was comparable to those of Pavlov’s dogs. When they heard it from his mouth, they behaved, and it was always a quietly amusing spectacle to behold, at least for me. A fight against abusive language aimed at children is another battle, and may yet be a tougher one to wage.

If an illiterate bus driver with no formal education who had never read an academic research paper or studies about the negativities associated with violent parenting could instinctively recognize its ill effects, maybe — MAYBE — there is hope for the yet unborn Nigerian child, if we, Nigerian adults, haven’t destroyed the country irreparably, before they come tumbling into this most interesting and confounding world.    

Bolaji Olatunde is a writer and novelist. His Twitter handle is @BOLMOJOLA. His Facebook page is “Bolaji Olatunde (Author)

This is not about Sugabelly…

Women…

Don’t wear short dresses. Don’t wear miniskirts. Don’t wear low cut jeans. Don’t wear makeup. Don’t wear a cleavage revealing top. Don’t wear shorts. Don’t go clubbing. Don’t…

Why?

Because, if you do and you get raped. You’d be blamed because for some weird reason it is YOUR fault that an asshole doesn’t understand the simple concept of ‘consent’ and it is YOUR fault that that asshole has no ‘self control’.

The energy people use to tell the woman to do this, do that, wear this, wear that, don’t go to his house, don’t spurn him so he won’t feel angry and force you…

Why don’t you use that same energy to teach the man the basic concept of CONSENT? Why don’t you explain what SELF-CONTROL means to the man? It is not an alien word. It is an English word so please don’t be stupid by subtly justifying rape under any guise.

Women get raped even when they aren’t wearing revealing clothes. Most rapes are committed by people the victims know. It has nothing to do with what they are wearing. When you realise in your pea sized brain that rape has less to do with sex and more to do with the quest to overpower and dominate then you’d know how useless your arguments are.

I read some things and I just know some men have no business being fathers. It is a crying shame that a man would focus on what the woman did and wore that caused her to be raped. It is fucking annoying. What do you have for brains? Sawdust?

My daughter came to the gym with me one day and saw that they had Karate classes for children. She was excited and wanted me to sign her up but I was dodging because I didn’t have the money but just reading through shit on facebook today, I will find that money for sure. She will attend. As she grows older, I will also tell her to fight and if possible kill any man that tries to rape her. Kick him in the balls. Pluck out his eyes. Maim him. Wound him. End his miserable existence on earth.

It’s better she kills him than for some animals to now start blaming her for it happening. Afterall it’s self-defence.

My stand is Zero tolerance to rape. Zero. No ifs. No buts. Fuck out of here with your stupid arguments. I’m having none of it.

In 1999, I was almost raped. I escaped narrowly. Scratch that, I didn’t escape. He decided out of the ‘goodness of his heart’ to let me go because I told him I was a virgin. Not after he still made me do despicable things to him. So you see, I didn’t really escape. Then today, someone would blame me for even being there in the first place. You are mad. Stark raving mad. I wish a dude would try that shit. I really wish you would. You gon learn today.

This is not about Sugabelly so don’t come here talking about whatever it is the devil is whispering in your ear. You’d better resist him for your own good. It’s too early and I don’t speak stupidese…

Olufunke Phillips

The Major Massacre: Fadhilat Yejide Bhadmus’s story of domestic violence

From the Editor’s Desk: I came across Fadhilat’s story on the Facebook page of Naija Story. What drew me in were the pictures, the pictures of a woman who had been brutally beaten.

She had written her story, two years after the fact.

I immediately sent her a message asking if she won’t mind sharing her story on 9jafeminista and to my delight, she agreed. I was delighted not because she went through what she did, but because she was brave enough to share her story with so many women out there, going through the same physical and mental torture she had suffered.

A lot of times when people talk about domestic violence and women who are victims, the picture we get in our mind is usually that of a poverty stricken woman, dependent on a man for her livelihood, but as we’ve learnt over and again, abuse knows no class or education.

The men who abuse women have one thing in common, to show how powerful they are, to make the women less – less beautiful, less independent, less …

This story is particularly important because the Violence Against Persons bill, which has been languishing in the Lower and Upper houses has finally been passed by the House of Assembly. This is victory for feminists who have toiled long and hard, away from the glare of the media (both traditional and non-traditional) to grab this victory.

One final step towards achieving total victory is when the President of Nigeria, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan signs this bill into law.

Below is the story of a single parent, who decided to marry an older man because they are supposedly kind and gentle due to their experience but found out she was married to a monster.

We hope that one day soon, there will be justice for Fadhilat Yetunde Bhadmus.

The first abuse occurred shortly after our trip from the holy land, Mecca, which happened to be a week to his 65th birthday, the 8th of Dec 2012.

He came to my apartment from Eko Club in Surulere, around 11.30 – 12.00 pm unannounced, demanding for food while I was already sleeping. He woke me up and started shouting at me, asking me why I would be sleeping while he was not home. I asked him why won’t I sleep? Besides I wasn’t expecting him in my apartment that night. He asked me if he needed an invitation before coming to my place and I said no. I asked him what he wanted to eat and he said I shouldn’t ask him silly questions that I should either give him food or he should go elsewhere.aftertheviolence

I went into the kitchen and made him some rice and defrosted his frozen soup (he only eats fish and I usually made it in packs so I won’t be caught unawares whenever he makes his unannounced visits) served it and called him to come and eat. On getting up from where he was seated with a bottle of stout (which he brought with him from wherever he came from) and smoking his Consulate cigarette he went straight to the dining lifting my dishes up in the air and breaking them into pieces one after the other, telling me that I lack home training, was that how to serve him? Did he tell me he was hungry? And even if he was, did I ask him what he actually wanted to eat?

I stood there speechless for a few seconds before I could finish asking him why on earth he broke the valuable dishes I had acquired long before I met him, considering that I woke up to make him something to eat, the next thing that greeted my questions were rains of hard slaps on the left side of my face which continued for a while.

While trying to escape the beatings he ran after me into my bedroom to continue the assault, in spite of the fact that my girlfriend, who came from UK during that period was staying in my apartment. He left for his house that night leaving me with blood clotted, half-face. It was my girlfriend and kid sister that helped with packing cold E45 on the blood clotted face.

beforetheviolence

I was in indoors for a week plus because I couldn’t go out with the bruises. During his birthday party, I had to cover up with loads of makeup and concealer to hide traces of the abuse.

He neither apologized nor showed any sign of remorse.

The second one occurred a month after the first,in the same sequence the first.

He arrived at my apartment, that late too, while I was on the phone with my friend. He slapped the phone into my face, asking me who the hell I was talking to. Why didn’t I drop the call immediately he entered the room. That I lacked manners and respect, he left me with bruises and on my face and neck and left (each time he abuses me and leaves, he comes back very early in the morning still his arrogant self and not apologetic).

The major abuse occurred two months after this particular one, which happened some few days to my 37th birthday (5th of April was my day) and this occurred on the 21st of March 2013, I call it The Major Massacre because it went on for hours, from 12 midnight to 5 am the next morning.

There had been arguments over the issue of my not wanting to conceive for him, that I only wanted to use him and dump him. I told him it wasn’t like that, that God’ s time is the best, but when the problem persisted I told him to let us go and see an obstetrician to know if I have any problems, which we did and was asked to do several tests which I carried out and was told nothing was wrong with me. When he was asked to do the same tests he refused.

One particular day I was asked to do womb scanning, I was asked to come early without eating anything. I went to the laboratory with him, sat there for hours, waiting for the doctor to arrive, unfortunately he had to leave because he needed to go somewhere important, (according to him), which was okay by me. The doctor arrived later and carried out the test, meanwhile before he left, we planned to meet at Surulere because we had a birthday party to attend on the island. I told him I’ll be branching at my tailor’ s place to drop some clothes to be sewn which was okay by him but he insisted that I should call him once I got close to Surulere so that he can leave his house to meet me at Eko club, his club and second home, one of the rules he made was that I was not allowed to go to his home, no matter what happened because of his other wife, so as to give her some respect.

We met at the club and left for the party on the island, this was around 5:30 pm, unfortunately for us when we got there, the party had not started and he had to leave because he said he couldn’t wait and I was very hungry because I had not eaten that whole day. I returned to Surulere and on getting to the club, there was no food available, I had to go to an eatery to get something to eat. I was feeling dizzy already then, I bought the food and returned to the club to eat it.

It was while I was looking for tissue in my handbag that I came across a complimentary card that was given to me by a lady I bought sneakers from for my little girl, I was tearing it up when it occurred to me that I shouldn’t have, because he is an extremely jealous and temperamental man, I put the pieces together and placed it on the table, right in-between us in case any argument ensued.

But I was wrong because he had made up his mind about whose card it was, I knew there was going to be trouble because shortly after I placed the torn pieces of paper between us, he stood up abruptly, went straight to his car and drove off. I had no choice than to follow him in my own car (we went in separate cars) it was while I was in the car that he called my phone and started abusing me and calling me all sorts of names.

He claimed that a man gave me a complimentary card and that I had the gut to bring it to where he was and tore it in his presence. That I ridiculed him and I’ve been messing him up and down, he did not even give me the chance to explain whose card it was before he ended the call.

He got to my apartment before I did, so I went upstairs to meet him and tried to explain how the card came about but wouldn’t listen. He left the room suddenly and thinking that he had left for his house I started undressing, not knowing that he did not leave, but went and locked all the doors to the apartment and threw away the keys. He came back into the room and that was how the beatings started, I could not (or rather did not) want to come out of my bedroom when the assault started because of my little girl, I didn’t want her witnessing the battering. I eventually ran out of the room when I realized I was approaching either heaven or hell’s gate

Nigeria’s Woman Problem By Chinelo Onwualu

Chinelo Onwualu
Chinelo Onwualu

In my city, Abuja, an NGO called the Society against Prostitution and Child Labour has been collaborating with the city’s Environmental Protection Board to round up any woman found on a sidewalk after dark and charge them with prostitution. There is rarely any evidence of sexual solicitation in these cases. The only evidence used being the women’s locations (out of the house) and dressing (a vastly subjective “indecent”). These women, usually between the ages of 18 and 30, are often extorted for money with authorities threatening to take them to court if they don’t pay a “fine” of N5,000. There are no opportunities for appeal and no protection from arrest. And this has been happening without comment for nearly two years.

In 2011, a young woman at Abia State University was assaulted by five men who broke into her dorm room and raped her for hours. The assailants recorded themselves perpetrating the act and uploaded the video to the internet. To date, none of those young men have served jail time.

In July, on a 12-hour road trip to my hometown in Eastern Nigeria, I watched four popular Nollywood movies. Each one depicted a scene of domestic violence – from a boyfriend slapping his girlfriend for “disrespecting” him, to a husband shouting abuses at a wife who dared to contradict him and a father hitting his daughter. And in every film the abuse was treated as normal – unremarked upon by any of the characters.

The British Council’s 2012 Gender in Nigeria report shows that these are more than isolated incidents. According to the report “Nigeria’s 80.2 million women and girls have significantly worse life chances than men, and their sisters in comparable societies. Violence compounds and reinforces this disadvantage and exclusion.”

My country has some of the highest rates of gender disparity in the world. Women earn less than men, are less educated, 9jafeministamore likely to die in childbirth and are barely represented in positions of power and authority. Many of you might not think this is a problem, but research has shown that excluding women from economic, health, educational and political opportunities costs societies. Our security, growth and long-term welfare are seriously compromised and we doom ourselves to being a less productive, less healthy and ultimately less progressive society than we could be.

Economic Access

Women earn less than men – regardless of their educational qualifications. In Nigeria a woman with a Bachelor’s Degree can expect to earn the same as a man with a secondary school certificate and a woman with a secondary school certificate will earn the same as a man with no education at all. A woman can expect to be paid 20 to 50 percent less for doing the same work as her male counterpart. She can also expect a slower rate of promotion.

chinelo Part of this is because gender roles which place the bulk of housework, childrearing duties on women often lead women to choose lower-paying jobs that allow for more flexibility or are part-time. Women spend a much larger share of their time doing unpaid work in the form of informal household chores than men do. But a bigger part of this is gender bias. We have a widespread view that the proper place of a woman is at home under the dominance and care of a man (a husband, father or male relative). So women are not expected to work outside of the home unless there is a familial “need” for it. This is reflected in the Nigerian tax code which taxes men at a lower rate because they can be classified as “breadwinners.” Women with dependents cannot – even if they are the sole earners in their household.

When it comes to owning property and assets which can be used as collateral, such as land, women often face discriminatory inheritance practices which bar them from inheriting land or property from their parents. In many traditions inheritance is patrilineal – from father to son. So you have a situation where, “although women represent between 60% and 79% of Nigeria’s rural labour force, men are five times more likely to own land than women.” This affects women’s ability to access credit. Few banks will grant a business a loan without some form of collateral from the owner. However, even with collateral women have a harder time getting finance as men are twice more likely to get a bank loan than women.

Health

One of the areas with the widest disparity for women in Nigeria is the access to health. Nigeria has one of the highest rates of maternal mortality in the world. Let me repeat that: One of the highest rates of maternal mortality. In the world. Our maternal mortality rate means that 144 women die each day and one woman dies every 10 minutes from conditions associated with childbirth. As a woman I am more likely to die giving birth than being shot by a gun or killed in car accident. Childbirth in Nigeria is more dangerous to a woman than smoking or drinking alcohol.

9jafeministaAccess to contraceptives and gynaecological care is appallingly poor and often actively discouraged. Our country currently spends 6.5% of its total budget on healthcare, which means that health facilities are often difficult to get to, poorly staffed and barely equipped. And because the major burden of payment for healthcare in Nigeria falls on the individual, the poorest women are the least likely to get proper care. In fact, the poorest women are six times more likely to die when they get sick than the richest women in Nigerian society.

There are also social barriers to women’s health. Many unmarried women worry that going to a gynaecologist or purchasing contraceptives – even when they have access to them – will signal that they are sexually active and expose them to derision and harassment. It is not uncommon for a woman buying a condom to be treated as if she were a moral pariah. Thus, many women leave the decision to use contraception to their partners and even more women’s first visit to a gynaecologist is when they are pregnant. The attitude of healthcare professionals is also a problem. Many doctors still treat their female patients with condescension – often minimising and ignoring their complaints. Nurses in Nigeria are notorious for their insensitivity and outright cruelty – particularly to female patients – making a visit to a hospital a generally unpleasant experience.

This has terrible implications for a woman’s health throughout her lifetime. Infrequent and poor-quality gynaecological exams mean that a woman could be struggling with health issues that she may not know about until they become acute enough to require emergency medical treatment. And since for many women, the decision to visit a doctor is not their own to make, it is not surprising that many women die from easily preventable conditions.

Education

While rates of enrolment for girls has risen worldwide – in some countries there are more women in colleges and universities4 than men – the gender gap in sub-Saharan Africa, and Nigeria in particular, has stubbornly persisted.

Nigeria has more children of primary school age who are not going to school than any other country in the world and more than half that population are girls. Fewer girls than boys make the transition from primary to secondary education and even fewer from secondary to university level. Overall, more girls drop out of school than boys. Lack of access to education is costly, but for women, it can be deadly. Women with less education are more likely to have more children, increasing their risk of dying in childbirth. And their children are more likely to be malnourished and undereducated themselves.

The poor educational statistics are a direct result of the poor status of women in our society. Despite our claims to free universal basic education, going to school is not free. Most parents still have to pay school fees, as well as the costs of uniforms and books. For most households, school fees are the largest expense in a family’s budget – next to rent and feeding. And for a lot of families that money is better spent on male child who will bring better returns in terms of higher income and carrying a greater burden of parental care. Many families still believe that it is more important for a woman to marry than to have an education and so will withdraw their daughters from school at various levels once they feel they have had “enough”.

There is also a perception that schools are dangerous places for women – and that is not entirely wrong. Nigeria’s educational system still uses corporal punishment which often leads to excess and abuse for both boys and girls. But research has shows that girls from the poorest backgrounds suffer a disproportionate amount of the beatings and public humiliations that come with this system. Girls are often required to do more school chores like sweeping classrooms, fetching water and cleaning school grounds which can cut into their study time. Finally, there are the dangers of bullying and sexual harassment from teachers and older students that can cause many girls to drop out.

Violence against Women

9jafeministaThe low status of women in Nigerian society is reinforced through violence and threats of violence. And the violence isn’t just physical. There is the verbal violence of harassment, bullying and intimidation. There is the sexual violence of rape and molestation and there is the “soft violence” of rumour-mongering, innuendo and insults.

The fear of all these things keeps women in their “place”. Many women curtail their social lives for fear of being labelled prostitutes and subject to physical and verbal harassment. Others limit their education and employment opportunities for fear of “overshadowing” their partners and being victims of physical violence. And many more circumscribe their personalities and desires in order to stay within narrow definitions of what makes a “good” woman.

Violence against women is a problem all over the world – regardless of education, status and location. According the UN’s 2010 report on Women in the World, most but not all of the physical, sexual and psychological violence experienced by women comes at the hands of family members, especially husbands, partners and fathers – and much of it is normalised. In Nigeria, statistics show that unmarried women between 15 and 35 are the most vulnerable to violence but this masks the fact that married women who experience violence within their homes are less likely to report it.

A high number of women in Nigeria believe it is acceptable for a man to beat a woman if she “disrespects” him. Acts such as speaking out of turn, taking decisions without permission, failing to submit to sexual advances and failing to perform household chores are all grounds for physical violence. And the question of rape is still a hotly contested issue where many regard it as a punishment for the bad behaviour of the victim.

There is also institutionalised violence against women where certain bodies are structured in such a way as to actively discriminate against women. Institutions such as the police, the judiciary, political offices and higher education where there are “entrenched cultures of impunity” for the perpetrators of rape and other violence, all work to harm women. For example, women are not allowed to post bail in Nigerian jails, law courts tend to favour men over women in domestic disputes and sexual harassment and rape is endemic in many schools and universities. Many men in positions of authority – especially in these institutions – regard opportunities to receive sexual favours from female subordinates as one of the privileges of their positions.

Soft violence against women is used to keep women out of patronage networks which disproportionally favour men. Women who try to break into these networks can find themselves the victims of whisper campaigns designed to destroy their reputations – and because the social consequences of a “bad” reputation are higher for women than men, many women simply opt out of the process.

The future of Nigeria

There are many reasons why despite our vast natural resources we continue to lag behind comparable countries but I think it ultimately comes down to one thing. Our society is deeply unequal. In fact, Nigeria is among the 30 most unequal countries in the world, particularly when it comes to income distribution. Yet, studies show that societies with greater gender equity have lower crime rates, fairer distribution of resources, and are healthier and more stable, in general. This is not an accident. Right now, Nigeria is like a runner trying to compete in a race while tying one leg to his back. We simply cannot progress as a country without the full and equal participation of women.

Our political system must be more accountable to women – they must take women’s issues of health, education, economics and violence more seriously. We have to begin by electing and appointing more women into positions of power. The lack of representation by women in political office (just 9%) is one of the reasons why our country has not allocated as much resources to sectors such as health and education that are key to our development.

And our social dynamics need to change. We cannot continue to accept violence against women in any form. We cannot continue to limit the opportunities of women and girls for our own comfort. For when we exclude women from participating fully in society, when we insist on narrowly defined roles for both genders, we are limiting ourselves to using only half of our resources, half of our creative spirit. Ultimately, when we work to hold women back, we are only holding back ourselves.

Michaela Moye: On Career, Love, Sex and Orgasms

mich
Michaela at work

9jafeminista: Let’s talk about your job(s) then, what you’re doing presently what you’ve done in the past… That big dream you chase after…

Michaela Moye: Ooookaaay!!! My jobs…They’ve been many! I remember someone told me to cut out some of my jobs so my CV doesn’t make me look like a flake. (Laughs) I love every job I’ve had. Right now, I’m a producer and a show host (I hate that OAP acronym), anyway, I’m a producer and host on We 106.3 FM, I recently moved from producing Love Talk to working on Morning Mojo – I like that. Even though I loved working on romance and sex stories, I like the fact that on Morning Mojo we handle more gritty topics (not that love cannot be gritty) but my feminist agenda can really soar here, I think.

I am living my career dream, as far as the type of work I would like to do is concerned. Ever since I was a teen, I wanted to be involved in radio. A few years ago, I joined an awesome team to script a radio drama and now, I’m producing and hosting. It’s great!

Before this, I had a temporary communications position at ActionAid Nigeria, another great experience.

My first job was at Leadership newspaper. I was at university – there was a long break and I needed a job. While discussing my love for writing with Kareem Baba Aminu (he’s now the editor of Sunday Trust), he said, “Why don’t you write for Leadership?” And that was it…my sister helped me get the ball rolling and I was hired. My first day of work, the newsroom door was opened, I was shoved in and told, “find something to do.” So I did. I read copy until I convinced my boss to let me have a column. My first article was on Prince Charles and Camilla’s wedding!

After that I ran a column there for a few years, until I graduated university. By then I had a few pages to my credit. I skipped law school to continue working there and it was a great year – I went on a short tour with some Naija music acts and reported the whole thing. It was amazing

9jafeminista: In the course of doing your job have you met with any kind of sexism? Maybe not as extreme as the one that happened between you and Marang Motlaleng, but sexism all the same

Michaela Moye: Yes. I had a co-worker at leadership who would refer to me as ‘baby’. When I told him I didn’t like it, he apologized. But guess what, my nickname became baby! I laugh about it now because I know he didn’t have bad intentions. To be honest, I find newsrooms to be rather sexually charged. So sometimes, a comment might be sexist, but sometimes it’s flirting or banter with sexual undertones.

One colleague kept harassing me to date him. My then boss thought it was funny that I kept refusing the guy – we were both single, why not give it whirl? I kept saying NO! That’s not the point! Just because we’re single doesn’t mean I want to date the guy. The last straw was when the colleague went to our boss to have a heart-to-heart about his feelings for me and could our boss talk to me? I was so mad. After I had my say, he stopped asking me out.

But that’s about it…my competence has never been questioned or anything like that

9jafeminista: What’s your take on love?

Michaela Moye: I believe that true love is not romantic, romance is deceptive. A person can be romantic with several people at the same time. As for as my thoughts on marriage… I don’t think it’s for everybody… at least, not in the conventional way… a couple living together all the time etc. I’m not big on long distance but God knows that when I get married, I will maintain a place for myself where I can just chill sometimes and be by myself

9jafeminista9jafeminista: So how do you measure the love which is not romantic?

Michaela Moye: let’s take my relationship with one of my nephews – it’s definitely not romantic, but that is true love right there! Here’s the thing, a couple can be together for three months and the romance is beginning to fade. What is left is their commitment, not even the friendship sef. Committing to making the relationship work, and accepting that if it doesn’t work, they will both walk away without trying to damage the other… that is love to me.

9jafeminista: That sounds like hard work

Michaela Moye: (laughs) But Relationships are hard!!!! I’m probably single right now because I’ve been too lazy to work at one I’ve never been romantic about marriage so i never felt bad when anyone implied that my single status was a problem or made me less than… maybe it’s just my inherent strong headedness. However, it’s important to add that I am interested in getting married – in so far as we can agree on the terms and conditions of our marriage contract!

9jafeminista: Since we are talking about love, what’s your take on sex? A man once said he believed pre-marital sex was a sin, and this view appears to be the prevailing opinion right now in Nigeria… I use the word ‘opinion’ because it’s actually not what is happening.

Michaela Moye: I pay no mind to hypocrites. I knew ever since I was a teen that I would not be married as a virgin. However, I9jafeminista made up my mind that I would wait until I was ready. I was 20 when I “lost my virginity” and even though I would have preferred a different partner, I was ready and chose to have sex then.

Sex should be enjoyable. And in my opinion, is not the right place to seek emotional attachment – that’s just a distraction from the physical pleasure one could be enjoying. Women should take their orgasms into their own hands and that includes giving themselves permission to enjoy sex. When it’s a physical ailment, then, of course, that’s a different matter and requires medical attention

9jafeminista: Why do you think women have this idea that they are not supposed to enjoy sex or have orgasms?

Michaela Moye: It’s the repression that has been sown in generations of women. Sex is bad. Sex is for men to enjoy. Sex before marriage is a sin. Masturbation will lead you to hell, etc

mich2
Michaela Moye

And you know, many women have one issue or the other with our bodies. Maybe focusing on the wrong things, distract from the pleasure. Or we’re not as cognizant with our bodies and don’t even know what would do the trick.

Ayodele Olofintuade: In a survey carried out recently by a condom manufacturer they found out that a lot more women cheat on their husbands than previously imagined, do you have any theories as per the repression of women?

Michaela Moye: I think men and women are more alike than we care to admit. Men cheat. Women cheat. It has always been that way. What is different is that women have been considered graceful, beyond-sexual reproach etc and so even they would not be so open to admitting to an affair besides one could be repressed with a husband, or expected to be a good girl… and with a lover one can be as free as one wants.

Marang Motlaleng: From Botswana with … assault

From the Editor: If we had followed the age old fashion of giving sensational titles to stories the title of this piece would have been ‘Botswana Diplomat assaults female journalist’, because that was exactly what happened on the 28th of September to Michaela Moye, a writer and journalist who works with a radio station in Abuja.

9jafeminista
Michaela Moye at the birthday party .

From the Sudan to Timbuktu, Zimbabwe to Zanzibar, our reality as women is the patriarchy, which has eaten so deep into our society that we have all been crippled. Women are the ‘softer sex’, the ones expected to smile at catcalls, assaults, violence. We are the ones expected to forgive and forget because men are the ‘hard sex’, the ones that do not cry, men are children, mere babies who ‘cannot’ control their impulses.

When a woman is assaulted or insulted, you were asked ‘what did you do to warrant this?’ When you were raped you were asked ‘why did you go to his house in the first place? Why were you dressed like that?’ Nobody asks these men ‘what the fuck is wrong with you?’ In most cases, these psychopaths literally get away with murder.

From childhood, you are socialized to be ashamed of your body. Your body is inherently sinful, so you need to cover it up in order not to ‘tempt’ boys, but there are times that your covering up might be ineffective, in this case a man may be ‘pushed’ by your ‘ethereal beauty’ to invade your personal space and touch you (inappropriately), in this case you’re supposed to smile indulgently, pat them on the head and coo ‘boys will be boys’ (giggling also helps).

A recent article examined the Nigerian Constitution and concluded that the Nigerian Justice is no Lady’ It is apparent from the tone of the constitution (which uses he for ‘everybody’) that the Nigerian woman is considered (or not considered at all) as a second-class citizen. This is predominantly the stance of the constitution on women all over Africa.

So when Mr Motlaleng, decided to touch Ms Moye’s body without her permission he was affronted that she would protest, the question he and other men present during the assault asked was ‘what is wrong with you?’

Read Michaela’s account of the incidence.

marang
Marang Motlaleng

On Saturday 28 September this year, I went for a birthday party. In the wee hours of Sunday, while the party was still grooving, I decided to take a break and workaholic that I can be, I was checking my emails. Suddenly, this chap, called Marang Motlaleng materialized in front of me. He’s someone I have mutual friends with so I thought he wanted to talk to me. I lowered my phone and in that moment, he reached forward, grabbed and squeezed my breasts and started running away. I gave chase and caught him. We both fell and I tried to get in some punches and kicks but I was lifted off him. I must tell you that I have NEVER been more disappointed in Nigerian men as on that day. They were actually telling ME to calm down, that such behavior is expected. I was so mad. I couldn’t believe what they were saying to me.

One guy, who I had never seen before, kept on saying, “I saw what happened, just let it go. Man!” Even thinking about it now annoys me no end.

Anyway, there was a lot of ruckus. In the midst of it, Marang even threatened to beat me up – he and a bunch of guys he was hiding behind. I dared him to bring it on but he didn’t. 9jafeminista

I made up my mind to write to his consulate – Botswana High Commission – and inform them of their staff’s assault on my person. Fortunately, a lawyer offered his services pro bono. We wrote the letter to the consulate, copying Marang. The only thing I asked for was a formal apology from Marang and a statement printed in a national daily about Botswana’s commitment to gender quality.

Neither the apology nor the statement have been forthcoming. In fact, Marang hired a lawyer, who wrote to my own lawyer citing Diplomatic Immunity.

My lawyer says that we cannot sue. I was hoping that there would be some provision that states that diplomats/consular staff, that commits an offense outside the course of official duties, will be liable. I am considering embarking on a campaign for some policy amendment.

My plan is to continue engaging the Botswana Consulate and of course, harnessing the power of the internet until some proper action is taken against Marang. I am told that he has acted inappropriately to several people and I am hoping that they will stand with me.