Violence against Women: Leveraging on the Involvement of Boys and Men

Violence against Women: Leveraging on the Involvement of Boys and Men


Precious E. Adebola.

This article was first published in the Ibadan Declaration on Women of  Nigeria, 2017

Today, violence against women is perhaps the most extensive and socially accepted of all human rights violations. The appalling toll has over the years proven to show no discrimination across social lines of the place of dwelling (whether rural or urban), economic status, educational status, or even religion. Although the better a woman fairs on these fronts, the less likely her chances of experiencing violence, fairing well on these factors does not guarantee total exclusion from violence. As a determinant of health, violence in its diverse forms has impeded progress towards actualising the World Health Organization’s definition of health for women. That is, the complete state of physical, mental, social, and emotional wellbeing and not merely the absence of diseases.

Violence against women comes in diverse forms. These include, but are not restricted to physical abuses, sexual abuse and rape in intimate relationships; psychological and emotional abuse; femicide, sexual abuse of children and adolescents; sex-selective abortions, female infanticides and differential access to food and medical care; traditional and cultural practices affecting the health and lives of women such as female genital mutilation; and forced prostitution.

Despite several global, regional, and national responses, countless women have continued to suffer some form of violence and another day in, day out. In its effort to protect women against violence at the United Nations General Assembly, in December 1993, the global community adopted the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women. The Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing (1995) included eliminating all forms of violence against women as one of its twelve strategic objectives and listed concrete actions to be taken by governments, the United Nations, international and non-governmental organizations.

At the national level, several international treaties against violence have been ratified by the Nigerian government, including the Elimination of Discrimination against Women in 1985. But full implementation of international treaties is hampered by the government’s failure to domesticate these treaties and in instances where the same is domesticated, enforcement is weak. Even more, the double standard of the Nigerian Constitution with regards to some form of violence such as domestic violence against women strengthens the occurrence of violence in Nigeria, aggravating the situation. This is as seen in the provision of Section 55 (1) (d) of the Penal Code.

Factors promoting violence against women can be broadly categorized into four: cultural factors such as belief in the inherent superiority of males, values that give men propriety rights over women and girls, cultural definitions of appropriate sex roles; economic factors such as limited access to cash and credit by women, women’s economic dependence on men, limited access to employment in formal and informal sectors, limited access to education and training for women; legal factors such as lesser legal status of women either by written law or by practice, cruel treatment of women and girls by police or judiciary; political factors such as under-representation of women in power, politics and in the legal and medical profession, notions of the family being private and beyond the control of the state.

Of all these factors, cultural factors are a significant bane for violence in Nigeria. The social context of violence in Nigeria is mainly based on its patriarchal society. Violence against a wife is seen as a tool that a husband uses to chastise his wife and to improve her1. The typical loss of women’s rights upon marriage in Sub-Saharan Africa and their implicit obedience and deference towards men are socially encouraged. The situation is further exacerbated by the depiction of violence and objectification of women in popular media.

Women suffer various consequences of violence. These range from non-fatal outcomes like injury, unwanted pregnancies, gynecological problems, permanent disabilities, depression, fear, low self-esteem, sexual dysfunction, post-traumatic stress disorder; to fatal consequences such as suicide, homicide, maternal mortality, and so on; not overlooking the numerous indirect impacts that violence against women usually has on children in the home and the family in general particularly in the case of domestic violence.

To mitigate the effects and consequences of violence against women in Nigeria, some non-profit organizations and non-governmental organizations have attempted to provide support for victims of domestic violence. The Women and Child Watch Initiative is a non-profit organisation providing support to women and children who are victims of domestic trials such as violence and forced marriages. They also organize training programs for female lawyers to defend women’s rights in domestic violence in court. The “Unite to End Violence against Women” campaign was initiated alongside the Declaration of “16 days of activism against violence against women.”2

However, there is increasing recognition by the global community of the significance and benefit of involving boys and men in the war against violence. This is one strategy that is yet to be explored in Nigeria. Thus, in addition to the already existing women-focused intervention against violence in Nigeria, I recommend that the male folk (men and boys) be engaged in the fight against violence through the following strategies:

  1. Awareness creation programmes providing health information on violence against women targeted at men and boys via mass media (radio jingles, television adverts, posters, and billboards).
  2. Partnerships with network providers to send periodic broadcast messages teaching against violence to the public.
  3. The formation of male support groups in rural and urban communities alike using the peer education strategy and leveraging on the various units of socialization present in these communities.
  4. The inclusion of the topical issue of violence in the comprehensive school health education curriculum across all educational levels to target the young population to consolidate on this knowledge for positive behavior as they transition into adults.
  5. The creation of clubs among primary and secondary school male and female students to create extracurricular opportunities to consolidate lessons learned through school health instructions.
  6. Also, integrating violence awareness and prevention programmes in workplaces to engage men in creating awareness and preventing violence against women.

In conclusion, leveraging on the involvement of boys and men in combating violence against women in Nigeria promises some exciting prospects. Focusing on them with the intent to impact them with healthful knowledge to influence their behavior towards women will go a long way in bringing about the desired change in the current status quo of violence against women in Nigeria.


  1. Oyediran, K. A. and Isiugo-Abaniher, U. “Perceptions of Nigerian women on domestic violence.” African Journal of Reproductive Health, 2005
  • Nnandi, Ine. “An Insight into Violence against Women as Human Rights Violation in  Nigeria: A Critique.” Journal of Politics and Law JPL 5.3 (2012).        
  • Akosile, Abimbola. “Nigeria: Enact Domestic Violence Act.” AllAfrica
  • Angela Hawke June 2000. “Domestic Violence against Women and Girls.” UNICEF. United Nations Children’s Fund Innocenti Research Centre, Florence Italy
  • The Haven Wolverhampton Annual Review 2012-2013. 2013

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