Read of me, marriage is killing me in Nigeria, by Suleiman Hassan Gimba Esq


Read of me, marriage is killing me in Nigeria, by Suleiman Hassan Gimba Esq

Today, I come bearing stories – stories so horrible that I have run out of superlatives to describe. These are stories of love, of marriages, of balkanized hearts, of people like you and I and all the people that deem themselves worthy of a happy ending. As I write today, my pen is powered by their tears and my mind is guided by their voices, whispering “write of me, marriage is killing me in Nigeria. Write of me!” until my hands could no longer help but write.
A mother of four was trapped in a nightmare called marriage where she was locked up by her husband for over a year. Her soul was set free at the hospital, bringing to an end her suffering and a 12-year-old marriage that is best left imagined. Furthermore, the last song of the gospel singer Osinachi Nwachukwu is a song of sorrow after she died on alleged result of domestic violence. There is the heartbreaking story of a two-month-old baby whose arm was amputated after being assaulted by his father for disturbing his sleep. A woman’s hand was cut off by her husband for attending a ceremony he forbade her from attending. Then there is of course the tragic story of Maryam Sanda who made the news for killing her husband.
These stories if anything shows that domestic violence is a pervasive problem and its victims are not limited to one gender, tribe, region or backgrounds. Its consequences are not only far reaching and devastating but fatal as well. The issue is particularly prevalent in rural areas, where traditional customs and practices have contributed to the normalization of abuse.

Marriages have the capacity for unrivalled goodness and we have seen so many times in books, in movies and in society how happy and fulfilled one could be in a happy and successful home. The problem with marriage is that it is a double-edged sword with the same ceiling for both good and bad, or should I say “evil”? That is why it has to be guided; people need to be told what to do and how to do it; spouses need to be protected from those they love; children need to be protected from their parents, siblings, other relatives and domestic staff; neighbour needs to be protected against a fellow neighbour; the list is endless, the potential for both good and evil – limitless!

The marriage institution has been neglected for long, with the only legally regulated marriages being those conducted under a colonial law that we have failed to appropriately reform. Marriages conducted under Islamic and Customary laws lack the privileges, regulations and protection that marriages under the Act receive.
Making the most pressing reform to address domestic violence in Nigeria to be to ensure that all marriages can only contracted through appropriate legal channels. It is not easy, I know, with our many religious and tribal differences to have an all encompassing law to regulate all forms of marriages in the country. But by categorizing marriages into Conventional, Islamic and Customary, the bulk of the job is done. By mandating all Muslim couples to marry through Shariah courts, and non-Muslim couples to marry through conventional courts and saddling the customary courts with the responsibility of certifying the marriages of those who wish to be guided by their traditions, the institution officially becomes inclusive.

The concept of polygamy should also be fully incorporated to portray our religious and cultural peculiarities. By requiring all marriages to be legally recognized, they can only be contracted where all parties sign the requisite legal forms and contracts before a Commissioner for Oaths or Notary Public. Basic contracts should be available, expressly stating the rights of each party, what happens when one cheats, there is separation, etc At the same time they can be tailored to provide other information the parties may like in their marriage but those basic rights remain.

Another thing to look at is the implementation of the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act and the Child Rights Act. These laws offer victims legal protections and punish offenders, and their implementation can aid to deter abuse and hold perpetrators accountable.
However, regulations by themselves are insufficient to stop domestic violence especially where one of the parties is so financially weak that they depend on the other for survival.

Take the case of the two-month-old baby whose hand was amputated, for instance. The father beat him with a hanger to quiet him up, when the mom returned – he locked them up for two days so she couldn’t inform people what had happened. By the time they got to the hospital, nothing could be done to bring the hand alive. Only two months in the world and he has already been in a situation many of us may never see until we die – what is worse is he suffered this at the hands of a father, his supposed protector.

Many more families find themselves in this situation. What happens when the husband goes to jail, and deservedly so? The woman would go back to her parents house where she would be loved, cherished and cared for, right? Wrong! Most parents in the rural areas see the girl child as a liability and would rather see her living in inhuman conditions than have her return home to eat from their pot. That is why some will never return home. That is why some will never report to the authorities. That is why they stay until it is too late.

This should also bring to the fore more reasons from Saudi Arabia, who not long ago banned underage marriage until it is proved that it will not be harmful to the child. If all our marriages can only be conducted through legal channels, it means we can stop a girl from getting married until the husband shows she would continue with her education, a medical report from a recognized hospital shows she is physically okay to consummate the marriage and carry a child, and many other guarantees. If the husband fails at any of them, he could be punished because the marriage contract is lying somewhere in a court or an Agency’s archive. We could be sure his money would be in his bank account thanks to the new CBN policy and the government could secure an order to be sending monthly upkeep to wife until he comes out from jail.

This might be too much wishful think on my part, I know. But for every wife or child with an amputated hand, for every husband with a knife on his skull as he rests in his grave, there should be people out there saying “we have read of you, we have read of your marriage and although it is too late, we can ensure good people like you don’t suffer from a similar ordeal again.” The people who go through this horror had so much hope at the beginning and deserve all the support they can get and the reform to ensure they get it.

Additionally, it is crucial for the National Orientation Agency and related government institutions to educate the public about the problem and the harm that domestic violence may do through targeted outreach to marginalized and underserved communities.

In the end, combating domestic violence in Nigeria necessitates a multifaceted strategy that incorporates judicial reform, public education campaigns, and victim assistance programs. We can build a safer and more equitable society for everyone if we collaborate and take a comprehensive approach. We could increase the number of specialized courts to handle domestic violence cases, such as family court and women’s court. This would ensure that victims have access to appropriate legal remedies.

Furthermore, providing training to police officers, judges, and other legal professionals on how to handle domestic violence cases would improve the response of the criminal justice system to domestic violence.

Despite these reforms, marriages will still fail but that is okay; families may break but it is okay; children may turn out bad but that is okay as long as marriages don’t turn out to be death sentences. That is okay!