1.1              INTRODUCTION

Across the world, in rich and poor countries alike, women are being beaten, trafficked, raped and killed. These human rights abuses not only inflict great harm and suffering on individuals, they tear at the fabric of the entire society.[1]


 The concept of domestic violence is one that has existed since time immemorial. In the early days, domestic violence was often referred to as ‘wife beating’, which was seen as a show of love by a husband to his wife. Women were socialized to accept and sometimes encourage it. Violence against women by male partners became widely condoned by many Nigerian societies where the belief that a husband may chastise his wife by beating her was deeply embedded in the culture[2].

           In Nigeria, there is this notion that a wife is the husband’s property[3]. This is related to the traditional African patriarchal society that defines the gender power structure.[4] For instance, upon marriage, a woman surrenders to her husband exclusive sexual rights and obedience. This invariably gives her husband the liberty to violate and batter her if he feels that she has not adequately fulfilled her obligations, or for any other reason. Take for example in Akure, Nigeria, a report taken by the International Review of Law shows that in their culture, domestic violence could not be reported because, it is embedded in their culture and tradition to do so. According to a respondent:

“We do not report cases of domestic violence in our culture because we believe that reporting destroys family. Our culture is against going to court on family related matters. Domestic violence is considered as a family issue that a family head can handle”

  “The institution of marriage confers ultimate authority on men once he has paid your bride price wealth (dowry). Once you have got married to a man, you are forbidden to go back to your parents or report your husbands. You cannot take your husband to court and return to him. We assume court destroys marriage. That is what we were brought up to believe as women”

“Men are seen as a ‘wife’s crown’ in our culture. If you lose your husband, you lose your crown. No more respect for you! It is better to keep it to yourself if you don’t want to lose your respect in the community. Our culture is against reporting domestic violence. The society tags a divorce or separated women and calls them names, such as ‘returnee’, ‘gigolo’, ‘cursed’, ’harlot’, ‘never contented’ etc”[5]

Where the socio-cultural context of domestic violence is largely dependent on the gender power relation, men are always right; they always win in any case against their wife; the female relatives of a man are usually the first to accuse the woman and find her guilty irrespective of obvious signs of physical abuse.[6]

              Violence against women is a global phenomenon present in every society, cutting across boundaries of culture, class, education, income, ethnicity, and age. Even though most societies proscribe violence against women, it is a global epidemic that affects women physically, physically, psychologically, sexually and economically. It is one of the most pervasive of human rights violations, both men and women are victims of violence.  However, women suffer both from the same sorts of violence as men, as well other forms of violence that happens only or mostly to women, because they are women.[7]


Various writers have done various works on domestic violence.

  According to The office of Violence against Women, 2007,

       Domestic violence is a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner. The definition adds that domestic violence can happen to anyone regardless of age, race, sexual orientation, religion or gender, and can take many forms, including physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional, economic and psychological abuse.[8]

Domestic violence is the intentional and persistent abuse of anyone in the home in a way that causes pain, distress or injury. It refers to any abusive treatment of one family member by another, thus violating the law of basic human rights. It includes battering of intimate partners and others, sexual abuse of children, marital rape and traditional practices that are harmful to women.[9]

According to the Deputy Prime Minister in Ireland,

Domestic violence is defined as

      …The uses of physical or emotional force or threat of physical force, including sexual violence in close adult relationships. This includes violence perpetrated by a spouse, partner, son or daughter or any other person who has a close or blood relationship with the victim. The term domestic violence goes beyond actual physical violence. It can also involve emotional abuse, the destruction of property , isolation from friends, family and other potential sources of support, threats to others including children, stalking and control over access to money, personal items, food, transportation and the telephone.[10]


World Health Organization has defined domestic violence as:

The range of sexually, psychologically and physically coercive acts used against women by current or former intimate male intimate partners. Whilst women, men, boys and girls can be victims of domestic violence, women and girls are disproportionally affected.

The United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women defines violence against women as:

  “Any act of gender based violence that results in, or is 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 in private life”  [11] 

According to the Black’s Law Dictionary, domestic violence is:

“The infliction of physical injury or the creation of a reasonable fear that physical injury or harm will  be inflicted, by a parent or a member or former member of a child’s household against a child or against another member of the household”[12]         

The Medical Dictionary[13] defines domestic violence as:

 “Intentionally inflicted injury perpetrated by and on family member(s). Varieties include spouse abuse, child abuse, and sexual abuse including incest .Various kinds of abuse such as sexual abuse also happen outside family unit. Domestic violence is a pattern of sexual, emotional, psychological or financial abuse of a former or current partner often punctuated by physical assault or credible threats of bodily harm, occurring in the home”

In the words of the Former UN Secretary General, Mr Ban Ki-Moon:

“Millions of women and girls around the world are assaulted, beaten, raped, mutilated or even murdered in what constitutes appalling violations of their human rights. From battlefield to home, on the streets, at school, in the workplace or in their community, up to 70 percent of women experience physical or sexual violence at some point in their lifetime. As many as a quarter of all pregnant women are affected. All too often, perpetrators go unpunished women and girls are afraid to speak out because of a culture of impunity. We must fight the sense of fear and shame that punishes victims who have already endured crime and now face stigma. It is the perpetrators who should feel disgraced, not their victims”[14]

In my own humble opinion, domestic violence has to do with the infliction of pain ranging from physical battery, assault, psychological abuse, sexual harassment and so on, on a partner. The concept of domestic violence is one that is limited by age or sex, in other words, domestic violence is not glued to a particular sex or gender but it must be noted that domestic violence is more paramount with female folks. This is due to the fact that the female folks are sometimes perceived as weak and can therefore easily be subjected to ill treatment. Domestic violence in my opinion includes sexual violations such as rape. This issue of rape is one that is very delicate. Rape is rape. It should not be heard that rape is condoned under any circumstance whatsoever. A man that rapes his wife, is nevertheless, guilty of rape and should not be allowed to hide under the protection of “marriage”. Laws such as the Penal Code applicable in the Northern States of Nigeria should be reviewed as ‘marital rape’ is rape nevertheless and it is inappropriate to provide otherwise.

[1]               “Handbook for legislation on violence against women” United Nations, New York, 2010.

[2]                Kolawole Azeez Oyediran  and Uche C. Isiugo-Abanihe, Law Of Domestic Violence In Nigeria, Professor Epiphany ,January 2013.

[3]                 Ibid.

[4]                 Ibid.

[5]              “Survey of unreported cases of domestic violence in two heterogeneous communities in Nigeria”, Olakunle     Michael Folami, 1 February 2014.

[6]              Ibid.

[7]              Law Of Domestic Violence In Nigeria Edited By Professor Epiphany Azinge San 2012.

[8]             Fareo Dorcas “Domestic violence against Women in Nigeria”, 2015.

[9]            Aihie Ose ,  “Prevalence of domestic violence in Nigeria: implications for counselling” May 2009.

[10]          Bruno Obialo Igwe “Overcoming cultural, traditional and religious beliefs and practices in understanding  and combating domestic violence in Nigeria”, December 2015.

[11]            Gender Assembly Resolution 48/104  Of 20 December 1993.

[12]           Black’s Law Dictionary, 8th Ed. Pg 1601.

[13]           Medical Dictionary For The Dental Professions © Farlex 2012.


[14]              Project Alert On Violence Against Women, Sexual Violence In Nigeria: A Silent Epidemic, 2017.