• Background of the study
Violence against women has been a serious problem in most societies throughout history. Women in Africa like their counterparts the world over, suffer domestic violence irrespective of age, class, religion or social status1. Physical violence in particular is very common among intimate partners in both developed and developing countries. Physical violence is the intentional use of physical force with the potential for causing death, and it includes but is not limited to scratching, pushing, shoving, slapping, shaking, choking etc2. Domestic violence refers to any abusive treatment of one family member by another, thus violating the law of basic human right. It includes battering of intimate partner and others, sexual abuse of children, marital rape and traditional practices that are harmful to women. Female genital mutilation is also a form of domestic violence3. Incidents of domestic violence include honor battery, beating, torture, acid bath and even death through honor killing4 . It has been estimated that one in every three women suffers domestic violence from the hands of those who claim to love and protect them. Also, it is estimated that one in every five women faces some forms of violence during her life time, leading to serious injury or death in some cases5.

In Nigeria, reports reveal ‘shockingly high’ level of violence against women6. Amnesty International7, reports that a third (and in some cases two thirds) of women are believed to have been subjected to physical, sexual and psychological violence carried out primarily by husbands, partners and fathers while girls are often forced into early marriages and are at risk of punishment if they attempt to escape from their husbands. More pathetic is the revelation of gross under reporting and non-documentation of domestic violence due to cultural factors8.

Apart from CEDAW and other international instruments that forbid violence against women, the Nigerian constitution itself also forbids it. That document in section42 guarantees all Nigerians including women, the right from discrimination on basis of sex. Earlier in sec34, it guarantees every citizen the right to dignity of human person. While subsection (a) goes further to forbid torture and inhuman or degrading treatment, subsection (b) forbids the subjection of anybody to slavery or servitude. Yet violence against women continues unabated and this has been blamed on the loopholes in our laws, some of which undermine the provisions for equality in the constitution.

• Definition of Key Terms\Concepts.
• Violence
Violence is defined by the World Health Organization as the ‘intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person or against a group of community, which either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological mal- development or deprivation.’

Violence is an extreme form of aggression, such as assault, rape or murder. It is the application of brutal force to the person of another in a situation which it is absolutely uncalled for, where it occurs within the privacy of the home, it becomes domestic violence. Violence has many causes including frustration, exposure to violent media, violence in the home or neighborhood and a tendency to see other people’s action as hostile even when they are not. Certain situations also increase the risk of aggression e.g. drinking, insults and other provocations. Also, environmental factors like heat and overcrowding also increase the risk of aggression.

According to Black’s Law Dictionary,9 the term ‘violence’ is synonymous with ‘physical force’, and the two are used interchangeably in relation to assault, by elementary writers on criminal law. Furthermore, violence is perceived as the use of physical force, accompanied by fury, violence or outrage.10

• Domestic Violence
Domestic violence refers to the application of physical or mental assault by one member of the family on another, that is, where the victim and the perpetrator have some form of personal relationship or where they have shared or experienced similar relationship.11 The spectrum of network contemplated by domestic violence is quite vast and includes people who live together without formal approval (cohabitation), partners to any transaction, friendship and love relationship et cetera. In simple terms, any abusive, violent, coercive, forceful or threatening act or word inflicted by one member of a family or household can constitute domestic violence. It was once considered one of the most underreported crimes, until it became more widely recognized during the 1980s and 1990s.

Domestic violence, also known as domestic abuse, spousal abuse, intimate partner violence (IPV), battering or family violence, is a pattern of behaviour which involves violence or other abuse by one person in a domestic context against another e.g. in marriage or cohabitation; it could also mean violence/abuse by a spouse or partner in an intimate relationship against the other spouse or partner.

Various individuals and groups have defined domestic violence to include anything from saying unkind and demeaning words to grabbing a person’s arm, hitting, kicking, choking or even murdering. Although domestic violence most often refers to violence between married or cohabiting couples, it sometimes refers to violence or physical, emotional abuse directed at other members of a household e.g. children siblings or elderly relatives. Studies indicate that the incidence of domestic violence among homosexual couples is approximately equivalent to that found among heterosexual couples. ‘The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service’ in the United Kingdom in its ‘Domestic Violence Policy’ uses the term ‘domestic violence’ to refer to a range of violent and abusive behaviors, defining it as:

‘Patterns of behaviour characterized by the misuse of power and control by one person over another who are or have been in an intimate relationship. It can occur in mixed gender relationships and same gender relationships and has profound consequences for the lives of children, individuals, families and communities. It maybe physical, sexual, emotional and/or psychological. The latter may include intimidation, harassment, damage to property, threats and financial abuse’.

• Domestic Violence: The Nigerian Experience
Violence against women is a widespread phenomenon in the Nigerian society and it is just as well that the 4th World Conference on Women held in Beijing, China in 1995 identified it as one of the twelve critical areas of concern requiring urgent attention and action plan worldwide. All over the world irrespective of culture and religion, women are suffering physically and emotionally from 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. 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 as children to be prone to indiscipline which must be curbed.12 This is especially so when the woman is economically dependent on the man. Amnesty International report on Nigerian indicates that on a daily basis, women are beaten and ill-treated for supposed transgressions, raped and even murdered by members of their family.13 Such violence is too frequently excused and tolerated in communities and not denounced, and it is husbands, partners and fathers who are responsible for most of the violence against women. Rape, sexual insult and assault, brutalization and victimization, domestic violence on girls and women have in recent time been on the increase in Nigeria, with some victims embarrassed to report such incidences to the right agencies for justice because of social stigma attached to such reporting. A culture of silence reinforces the stigma attached to the victim rather than condemning the perpetrator of such crimes...

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