It is hard to be a woman in today’s world. Women’s right to choose the size of their family that has been long taken for granted is being challenged in America. Elsewhere, war has led to increased erosion of the rights to physical health. In Africa, women must contend with a patriarchal culture that still has a strong hold on their quality of life. Maternal mortality is still inexplicably high. Little girls still have their genitals cut off in horrific cultural practices that are meant to deny their right to enjoy their sexuality. Up to 27% of Nigeria girls are circumcised with often brutal and unclean methods and equipment. In Bangladesh, women are forced to marry the men who attack them with acids. In some places in India, women are prohibited from using cell phones.In Saudi Arabia, women are treated like children as the authority informs their guardians of their traveling plans. In the United States, every week a lawmaker introduces laws that will dilute a woman’s authority over her uterus. Ours is a man’s world and while women have made great strides, it is clear that women will have a better quality of life if they were to become men.
The lives of women in Nigeria are still remarkably stuck in the dark ages. Tradition and its defendants have stalled the movement towards emancipation that the likes of Funmilayo Ransom Kuti and others have been working for since and before Nigeria existed. Female genital mutilation continues to defy all activities to stop it and the National lawmakers have chosen to ignore this horrific practice for cultural palliatives. Maternal mortality is still too high for comfort. Gender based physical, sexual and emotional abuses continue to gather steam. The recent reports on Gender in Nigeria by the British Council suggested that 53.4 million Nigerian women claim to have been physically, emotionally and psychologically abused in their homes; “including battering and verbal abuse, emotional and psychological abuse, marital rape, sexual exploitation, or harassment.” The home is not safe for Nigerian women and it is even less safe than the streets, and the villains their loved ones. In some parts of Nigeria, seventy percent of women are subjected to violence in their homes. A 2008 report by the DHSshowed incidents of pushing, shaking, slapping, kicking, trying to strangle or burn, threats with a weapon and attacks with a weapon are rampant all over the country.
Recently, attitude towards rape and other sexual assault are being changed in the country. The outrage over videos showing these crimes resulted in public outcry. This is welcome development and can hopefully convince more women to come out and tell their stories and get the help they so need.
However, it is the common pedestrian violence that continues to pose a hold on Nigeria culture. Simple chilling violence like slaps and beatings drive women to hospitals regularly. Consider that in North East of Nigeria, 21% of women think wife beating is completely justified and many Nigerian women in other regions seem to agree to this idea. Even away from home, many women face the same level of violence. The Nigerian police regularly terrorize women in Abujaandwomen are explicitly exploited many times at work.
For the last 15 days, activists all over the world have been taking various actions to fight violence against women. Articles have been written and protests and marches have been staged. All this shows commitment by the world to protecting the human rights of women but there is so much to be done in Nigeria. Access to effective reproductive health is needed, and health care delivery centers must be empowered to care for women whose bodies have been violated whether sexually or simply through pedestrian violence like beatings, slaps and others. Action to protect women should not end today; it is our responsibility to continue our work to protect women and girls so they too can enjoy the same quality of life that men take for granted.