Insecurity, Gender Inequality and Cultural Predominance: Practical Realities of Women and Girls in Nigeria
This past week saw the gruesome deaths of two ladies; Uwaila Omozuwa who was raped and murdered and Tina Ezekwe who was a victim of a gunshot wound from a trigger-happy policeman which cut her life short. Both happened in Nigeria. These killings have touched a nerve and the country has witnessed huge public outcry and heavy condemnation of these unfortunate incidents. Indeed, the sad events leading to the brutal loss of these promising young women have once again brought to the fore front many issues confronting women in Nigeria.
Now more than ever, women are faced with the endless question of whether they will ever be allowed to live up to their full potentials amidst many systemic shackles holding them back. In a country like Nigeria where women constitute over forty-nine percent of its population, it would appear that the female gender is constantly racing on the thin line between life and death.
With the daily reports of rape, sexual violence, sexual harassment, domestic violence and trafficking of women and girls in Nigeria, it seems as though the women folk are fast becoming threatened species in this part of the world. The rates of deaths resulting from kidnapping, rape, robbery, deaths from police brutality and unexplained murders have become quite worrisome.
For years, most women and girls have been targets of physical and psychological abuse. The question of whether there will ever be adequate protection of the women folk is one which keeps arising because it remains a troubling issue which only seems to get worse.
Apart from safety issues, cultural predominance is another major factor that hinders a large number of women from achieving greater accomplishments. It appears that the burden of societal expectations has become increasingly heavy for women to bear, especially in a male dominated society.
By subjugating women, some African traditions are conveniently ignoring basic human right values such as respect and equal treatment of all humans. This seems to be the case with Nigeria and it is doubtful if anything more can be expected of an unapologetically patriarchal society where most women are treated as second class citizens. Women are consistently facing the harsh realities of a culturally engrained society where matters concerning them are often treated trivially and with seeming insignificance. What more can be said when most women have to plead for respect, value and recognition of their basic human rights?
In fact, the mental health of some women has been affected to a point where they live in the shadows of their oppressors. There are others who spoke out but were taunted by the public and in full glare of their oppressors. For the last group of women, they fear that they would be victimized and backlashed, should they speak about their daily travails.
The perception that the needs of women are secondary could be linked to the stereotypical notion that they are the weaker sex and subordinates. Positions of power are also reflective of this mentality due to the inadequate representation of women, especially in areas where they can be instrumental in making policy decisions. The gross underrepresentation of women at national, state and local levels of governance in Nigeria is enough case study.
A report by Oxfam International revealed that women in Nigeria are five percent less likely to own lands or have a decent education, in comparison to men. Another study also highlights that there are twice as many women living below the poverty line, in contrast to majority of their male counterparts who are differently placed.
Asides positions of power, the issue of domestic violence remains existent and for some women, matters may have degenerated to a point where they are stuck with their abusers. Societal dictates and the fear of stigmatization could be contributory factors preventing them from revealing their gory experiences in the hands of abusers. A recent report shows that only a shockingly low number of women who suffered domestic abuse sought to get help.
To cap it all, barbaric customs such as female genital mutilation and child bride marriage are still in practice, especially in Northern Nigeria. In most cases of forced under-aged marriage, the young girls who have been married off may find it difficult to immediately adjust to their new adult responsibilities. For others, any hope of fulfilling their future ambition is dashed after marriage.
The vulnerable women are also not left out as they navigate their ways through the difficulties of subservience and servitude. Women who reside in refugee camps, prisons, displacements camps and migrant women may suffer more from the pangs of societal constraints and social conditions which daily limit them.
While the role of men remains vital and essential in today's society, the rights of women should not be undermined to the extent of irrelevance. Unlawful killings, torture, enforced disappearances and captivity are one reality too many. The kidnap of the Chibok girls and captivity of Leah Shuaibu are few examples of ladies who were kidnapped and kept by their abductors.
Consequently, in any nation where inequality and insecurity thrive, societal advancement may be difficult. In the case of a developing country like Nigeria, every form of subjugation and insecurity trailing women must be addressed, because whether man or woman, everyone is entitled to the full protection and promotion of their rights as human beings.
#justiceforuwa #justicefortina #justiceforallwomen