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Domestic Violence And Access To Justice In Nigeria

Domestic Violence And Access To Justice In Nigeria


Joy Bob-Echikwonye.


Domestic violence is gradually becoming a global pandemic especially in developing countries like Nigeria. One-Third; of women in Nigeria have experienced physical, sexual and, psychological violence in the family. (Amnesty international 2005 annual report on violence against women in Nigeria). The most common location for all types of abuse was in the home.

While spousal abuse strikes couples of all races, religions, social-economic statuses, and sexual orientations, risk factors for men or women becoming victims or abusers include poverty, illiteracy, parental neglect and abuse, sense of low self-worth, toxic masculinity and femininity, and most prevalently substance abuse. Warning signs for individuals to consider if they suspect they are the victim of intimate partner violence include feeling demeaned, assaulted, or excessively controlled by their partner.

NOIPolls conducted a public opinion poll to gauge the opinion of Nigerians regarding spousal violence in the Country. Initial findings show a 56 percent prevalence rate in the violence of husbands against wives with the North West (66 percent) having the highest proportion of respondents who attest to this. The poll further revealed that 47 percent of Nigerians believe that violence by wives against husbands is prevalent with the highest attestation coming from the North West at 57 percent.



Domestic violence (DV) — also called dating violence, intimate partner abuse, spousal abuse, intimate partner violence (IPV), and domestic abuse — takes many forms. Maltreatment that takes place in the context of any romantic relationship is abuse as described by the above specific terms. It, therefore, affects men, women, or teen girls and boys, whether in a married or unmarried heterosexual or homosexual relationship. Intimate partner violence may consist of one or more forms, including emotional, psychological, physical, sexual, or economic abuse, and is defined as one person in an intimate relationship using any means to put down or otherwise control the other. Types of domestic abuse include physical, verbal (also called emotional, mental, or psychological abuse), and sexual, economic/financial, and spiritual abuse. Stalking and cyber-stalking are also forms of intimate partner abuse.

Physically abusive behaviors include assault of any kind, ranging from pinching, pushing, hitting, or slapping to choking, shooting, stabbing, and murder.

Verbal, emotional, mental, or psychological violence is described as using words to criticize, demean, or otherwise decrease the confidence of the wife, husband, or other intimate partner victims. Sexual abuse refers to any behavior that uses sex to control or demean the victim, like intimidating the victim into engaging in unsafe sex or sexual practices in which he or she does not want to participate.

Economic or financial abuse is described as threatening or otherwise limiting the victim’s financial freedom or security or stealing from or defrauding a loved one, withholding money for essential things like food and medical treatment, manipulating or exploiting family member for financial gain, preventing a loved one from working or controlling his/her choice of occupation.

Spiritual Abuse includes preventing a person from engaging in his/her spiritual or religious practices or using one’s religious belief to manipulate, dominate or control him/her.

This includes failure to provide for dependents who may be adults or children, denying family members food, clothing, shelter, medical care, and protection from harm or a sense of being loved and valued.

Stalking refers to repeatedly harassing and threatening behavior, including showing up at the victim’s home or workplace, placing harassing phone calls, voicemail, email, or postal mail messages, leaving unwanted items, or vandalizing the victim’s property. It is usually committed by perpetrators of other forms of domestic violence.


Traditionally, in Nigeria, as in many other African countries, the beating of wives and children is widely sanctioned as a form of discipline (UNICEF, 2001). Therefore, in beating their children parents believe they are instilling discipline in them, much the same way as in husbands beating their wives, who are regarded like children to be prone to indiscipline which must be curbed.

Violence against women in the home is generally regarded as belonging to the private sphere in Nigeria and is therefore shielded from outside scrutiny. A culture of silence reinforces the stigma attached to the Edo Journal of Counselling Vol. 2, No. 1, May 2009 3 victims rather than condemning the perpetrator of such crimes (afro News, 2007).



The Dilemma is that because a man is married to a woman does it mean that he has the right to beat her? and on the other hand, the dilemma of “I don’t want to end my marriage I just want the violence to stop. Most women are faced with the resentment from the family of the abuser and the attitude of the police towards victims of domestic violence and the constant battery. Because

The VAPP Act is the first criminal legislation in Nigeria to prohibit and punish female genital mutilation, forced eviction by a person of his/her spouse and children, verbal, emotional, and psychological abuses, harmful widowhood practices, political violence, etc. The VAPP Act also provides a protection order to protect victims of domestic violence. However, the Act is restricted in its application to the federal capital territory, Abuja. It is hoped that the component states of the federation of Nigeria will locally enact the Act into law.

Protection Order and Offences Section 23 of the VAPP Act provides for a protection order. A protection order has been defined in the interpretation section43 as an order issued by a judge and which restrains a person, whether a private person or a State Actor from further abusive behavior towards the victim.

An application for a protection order can be made at any time since there is no time restriction within which the application shall be made. The format which an application for a protection order shall take is provided for in the schedule to the VAPP Act.  The persons who on behalf of the victim or complainant may apply for a protection order are provided for in s.28 (4) of the VAPP Act. However, the victim must give his consent in writing before the said persons can act on his behalf. The requirement of consent is discountenanced with where the victim is a minor, mentally retarded, or unconscious. Interestingly, under s. 28(5) of the VAPP a minor or a person acting on behalf of a minor can apply for a protection order without the consent or assistance of the minor’s parents or guardian.


The reoccurring question is why it is that despite the emergence of the VAPP ACT of 2015 discrimination against women is persisting in Law and fact? In Nigeria in virtually all spheres of activity, women are subjected to inequalities. This situation is both caused by the existence of discrimination in the family, in the community, and the workplace. Discrimination is widespread and perpetuated by the survival of the stereotypes and traditions in conflict with human rights standards. Although the Nigerian government has enacted laws that promote and protect Women’s rights it has not taken measures, particularly in regards to the area of enhancement of those Laws.

The Law enforcement agencies still limit their involvement in domestic violence cases because it is still looked upon as a private matter.  Some Traditions even to this day do not permit women to report their spouses to the Police because it is regarded as a TABOO. The victims are too afraid to speak out or report domestic abuse because there is no adequate support or protection for them. Thousands of Women everyday experience violence because of their gender and many of these cases are unreported and even if they are reported. Cultural factors, especially fear of possible stigmatization including lack of adequate protection under the law prevent abused women and girls from speaking out.

Furthermore, most women lack awareness of their constitutional and legal rights and therefore can do nothing to prevent continuing abuses. Despite these efforts, Nigerian women and children have continued to suffer the consequences of violence which have sometimes resulted in death and traumatic experiences. They do not enjoy the protection expected from the Law.


According to the House of Ruth, a domestic violence center, everyone can help find ways to stop domestic violence, either by donating money or time to a domestic-violence organization, learning more about the problem, teaching children about healthy versus abusive relationships, listening in a nonjudgmental way to a domestic violence victim when he or she shares what they are going through, and giving victims information about where to get help. Supporters of intimate partner abuse victims can also discourage sexist jokes and remarks, boycott movies that gratuitously depict intimate partner violence and violence against women, and write legislators to support laws that protect and otherwise support intimate violence sufferers. Advocacy can further involve encouraging one’s own health care providers to post and share information about the issue. In the workplace, those who want to help stop domestic abuse can organize a drive or fundraiser for goods or money to give to a domestic violence organization.

The future of finding solutions to domestic violence includes continuing to improve the effectiveness of treatment and to strengthen legal protection for victims, as well as accountability and treatment for abusers.


  1. Violence Against Persons Act 2015
  3. Journal of Law, Policy and Globalization ISSN 2224-3240 (Paper) ISSN 2224-3259 (Online) Vol.47, 2016
  4. SPOUSAL VIOLENCE POLL RESULT April 1, 2020/ Social
  5. The Preamble to the United Nations Charter 1946
  6. A review of the Lagos State Domestic Violence Law 2007.


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One Response

  1. Very encouraging article we like more of this post,so that victims of abuse and violence against people especially women can be channeled to the right organization and help can be rendered.kudos to the writer of this article,your voice will be heared.thank you indeed.

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