As the Federal Government has urged many to stay indoors in order to self-isolate and to adequately curb the spread of the COVID-1P pandemic, the urge for abusers to do what they do best has returned.
One major flaw of the stay-at-home rule worldwide, is the lack of provisions for the homeless and the lack of security for the abused. Many have been forced to remain locked up with the people they dread the most and they are more scared for their lives at home than they are scared of the COVID-19 pandemic. How has the pandemic affected the state of Domestic Violence globally and locally?
According to a Consultant Clinical Psychologist, Dr Akin Gabriel, the lock down imposed on selected states has led to an inevitable increase in Domestic violence, substance abuse and distorted perceptions in people. In an interview done with the News Agency of Nigeria in Lagos, Mr Gabriel highlighted that ”being restricted, whether from going out or receiving visitors, particularly when people are not prepared for it, could cause quite a number of mental health issues.”
The United Nations, on Sunday, called for an urgent action to fight against the recent surge in Domestic Violence, “I urge all governments to put Women’s safety first as they respond to the pandemic”, Secretary General António Guterres wrote on Twitter.
In a 2013 survey done by Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS) which surveyed 38,948 women and 17,359 men in all 36 states of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, it was discovered that violence against women is a “common practice.” According to the US Department of State’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2013, domestic violence “remained widespread and was often considered socially acceptable” in Nigeria in 2013. The CLEEN foundation, a non-profit organization based in Nigeria, based on their research also shows that about 1 in every 3 respondents are victims of Domestic Violence.
Activists are terrified of the recent spike in the rate of Domestic Violence amidst the recent mandatory lock down enforced by the Federal Government of Nigeria, as there has been a 300% increase in the rate of Domestic Violence in Lagos state alone. Activists made the plea in a joint statement co-signed by the Executive Director, Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre, Dr Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi; Secretary General, Women’s Rights Advancement and Protection Alternative, Saudatu Mahdi; and the Country Director, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Dr Joy Onyesoh, urging the Nigerian government to offer vast protection for potential victims of domestic violence.
The statement highlighted that experiences from “…other countries, like China, shows a corresponding rise in the number of women reporting increased incidences of domestic violence. Tensions arising from the economic impact of the lock down such as reduced income and financial difficulties are contributing to this surge.
“The President acknowledged that the restrictions will impose hardship on Nigerians but emphasised that the pandemic is a matter of life and death. In some instances, sexual and gender-based violence is a matter of life and death in Nigeria.”
Sources state that there are no national legislation on Domestic Violence in Nigeria as the Violence Against the Persons (Prohibition) (VAPP) bill was passed in the House of Representatives in 2013, but remains before the Senate awaiting approval (US 27 Feb. 2014, 35; Oxfam 9 May 2013). According to Oxfam, the VAPP bill, which covers domestic and gender-based violence, also includes “a more comprehensive definition of rape, harsher sentences for rape and other sexual offences, compensation for rape victims, institutional protection from further abuse through restraining orders and a new fund to support the rehabilitation of victims of violence”
However, Organisations like Domestic Sexual and Violence Response Team (DSVRT) offer counselling services for Domestic and sexual violence victims in Lagos.