Violence against Women in Ikwerre Ethnic Nationality of Nigeria: Challenges for Gender Equity and Development

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INTRODUCTION

Violence against women is a term collectively used to refer to violent acts that are primarily or exclusively committed against women basically because of their gender. United Nation General Assembly defines violence against women as "acts or gender based violence that result in physical suffering to women, including threat of such acts coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty whether accruing in public or private life" (Report of the fourth world conference on women /A/51/322). Cutterman (1991), in his view, states that it is economical, physical, social/mental suffering imposed on women by their gender counterpart, culturally based biases and stereotyping of women" All these are violation of the fundamental human rights of women. Gender-based violence affects millions of women all over the world irrespective of their location, educational, social and economic status and this in turn affect their productivity both in the homes, communities and places of work.

There are different types of gender-based violence, which occur at different levels such as the family, community, local government and state. Domestic violence is the most prevalent form of gender-based violence and this occurs mostly within the families and inside the homes. According to Eze, Olisa and Onunwa in Adekola and Falase (2006) women facing domestic violence often suffer physical and psychological consequences which usually affect their behavior and productivity. Adekola and Falase (2006) also revealed that domestic violence negatively correlates with women participation in community development. Violence against women within the general communities in Ikwerre ethnic nationality include battery, rape, sexual assault, forced treatment and the exploitation and commercialization of women's bodies. The social exclusion of women in some parts of the Ikwerre ethnic nationality is also a form of violence.

Violence against women is one of the twelve critical areas of concern identified in the Platform for Action (PFA) on Women at the Beijing Conference in September 1995. In a statement to the Fourth World Conference on Women in that year, the United Nations Secretary General, Boutros. Boutros Ghali, observed that violence against women is a universal problem that must be universally condemned as it would be difficult to find one woman, whom at one time or the other in her lifetime, had not been afraid merely because she is a woman. For instance, Adekola, Oyebamiji and Ugwu (2009) noted that girls are usually the first to be withdrawn from school whenever the family suffers financial depression. This is based on nothing else except their gender. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that at least one in every five of the world's female population has been physically or sexually abused at some time (Population Reference Bureau, 2001).

Women who are particularly vulnerable to violence are those who live in extremely precarious conditions or who are discriminated against on the basis of race, language, ethnic group, culture, age, opinion, religion, socioeconomic status or membership of a minority group. The World March of Women (2000), also include in the list of those that are affected by gender-based violence; women who are displaced, migrants, refugees or those living under foreign occupation.

Gender-based violence arises from the patriarchal system which since immemorial, has exerted control over women's lives (World March of Women, 2000). As in other African nations, the culture of the Ikwerre people of Rivers State, Nigeria demands that women must be controlled by men and those women must succumb to the authority of men especially those of their husbands and senior family members. Gender-based violence affects both the physical and psychological integrity of women. However subtle the violence may be, it has no less devastating effect. Gender-based violence in Ikwerre Ethnic Nationality is not different as it affects the women psychological, cognitive, and inter-personal disposition. …