Chinwe Stella Umegbolu. Chinwe is a PhD Research student and part-time lecturer at the Department of Business and Law, University of Brighton, England, United Kingdom. She is an associate fellow of the Higher Education Academy, UK. She is also a volunteer mentor at the Beyond Barriers Student Mentoring Program at Kingston University London. Chinwe obtained her Master’s Degree in Dispute Resolution from Kingston University, London, in 2014. She is qualified to practice law in Nigeria since 2012. She was shortlisted under the category publication of the Year 2020 by the African Arbitration Association (AfAA).
This essay argues that there are some cultural biases or nuances that point towards violence against women in Nigeria. The author uses Johan Galtung’s typology of Violence and Peace, as well as primary and secondary data, to analyse violence against women in Nigeria. The conclusion touches on the implications of the reviewed literature for the community leaders, government parastatals, parents and the victims to take a proactive stand on addressing violence against women in Nigeria.
Johan Galtung’s Direct, Structural, and Cultural forms of Violence and Peace
Galtung’s typologies are the tools used to identify and support the religious influences that promote peace and creative thriving whilst also identifying and mitigating the influences that promote violence and death (Moore, 2015). In Traditional African societies like Nigeria, violence against women has its origins in the out-and-out patriarchy engrained in the Nigerian societies long before now and very much so in the present day (Edigbo, 2020). In African culture, Nigerian culture to be precise, culture has an influence on how women are treated. It is against this backdrop that Okin (1999) opines that “various cultures in the world support the control of women by men” (cited in Udoh, 2020). One can liken the above view to the situation in most communities in Nigeria, due to the influence of the traditional religion, women are not viewed as equal to the men and thus their male counterparts discriminate against them.
Therefore, this writer embraces the above statement and is of the view that this violence against women needs to be thoroughly examined with the foresight of proffering a solution (Orjinmo, 2020). Thus, I believe that first a key to this violence against women includes all the mentioned three categories of Johan Galtung’s typologies.
First, is the direct violence, which represents behaviours that serve to threaten life itself or diminishes one’s capacity to meet basic human needs (Moore, 2015). Secondly, is the structural violence, which embodies the methodical ways in which some group or people are hindered from equal access to opportunities. These can be formal, as in legal structures that enforce marginalization (such as Apartheid in South Africa), or in an informal way—culturally functional but without legal mandate (Moore, 2015). Finally, is the cultural violence which represents the existence of prevailing or prominent social norms that make direct and structural violence seem ‘natural’ or ‘right’ or at least acceptable (Moore, 2015). Hence, Moore (2015) is of the view that Galtung’s understanding of cultural violence helps explain how prominent beliefs can become so embedded in a given culture that they function as absolute and inevitable and are reproduced uncritically across generations.
It can thus be suggested that Johan Galtung’s typology of violence, particularly on how direct, structural and cultural violence are very much related with each other and how religion can be on both sides of the coin (Galtung’s, 1969)—on issues about violence, depending on how its texts are interpreted, sometimes the reverse is the case. However, this goes a long way to establish the fact or notion that in every human experience of violence, there are also people who counter these narratives with humanistic and peace-centred initiatives (Orjinmo, 2020), for example, the lawmakers and human rights activists.
Equally, I embrace this holistic approach from Galtung’s typology. However, I think that violence is the behaviour of someone or a group of persons that are unable to imagine other solutions to the problem at hand. They resort to violence; consequently, I consider that Peace and Violence are dichotomous (Confortini, 2006).
Nigeria as a Case study
Under direct violence, women are raped, killed, bullied, both emotionally and physically. It is worthy to note that direct violence is on the raise or has intensified since the covid-19 pandemic crisis. And the Nigerian society is such that when the aforementioned occurs, women are blamed.
Lending credence to the above is a recent case of Vera Uwaila Omozuwa, a 22-year-old microbiology student, who went to study in a church in Benin city, southern Nigeria, and she was brutally raped and murdered. Some social media critics, who were mostly men, stated that she caused it. They asked questions like why she had gone to the church to read all by herself. And others accused her of dating two roommates at the same time; thus, she deserves what she got. In another recent case, a young woman was raped and killed in church premises just like Vera Uwa and the same questions were asked, though some women activists have spoken up against the constant ordeal women (Orjinmo, 2020) pass through in Nigeria and they have pleaded for the government to do something about it.
I should note that rape in some communities in Nigeria, Kano state to be precise, is severely punished and in some cases rapists face banishment from the land (BBC News, 2020). However, a woman in Delta State Nigeria might face banishment after she exposed her husband for allegedly raping their daughter. She was given a list by the community leaders to present 10,000 Nigerian Naira (equivalent to 20.90 pound sterling or 26.32 USD) and a variety of items, including a ‘she-goat’ and ‘he-goat’, bottles of beer, bottles of stout, malt drink, kola nuts, and a palm front, for the “cleansing of the land” or risk being banished from the community (Ukpong, 2020).
Looking at these three cases, one could see that the direct violence on women in Nigeria has continued due to the constant bullying, like calling them out on social media and asking incessant questions like “why is she dressed that way?” Or trying to justify the act as depicted above. The stigmatisations the victim and their family pass through have made the perpetrators of this crime to be bolder during this pandemic period. This stems from the fact that some of these communities tend to use culture to protect a rapist, all in the bid to shield the abomination so family name can be preserved and thus the rapist will or might evade justice as depicted in the above stated case.
Structural and Cultural Violence
For clarity, I will merge structural and cultural violence. Women in Nigeria during the olden days did not get an education, but their male counterparts did. Why? It is believed that women would leave their father’s house for marriage. Thus, their parents or guardians saw it as a waste of resources. They instead used those resources to educate a male child, with the hope that the female child will be educated or sent to school by her husband.
This line of thinking is still prevalent in some communities or villages; women are being deprived and marginalised from essential opportunities that would enable the fulfilment of their basic human needs. For example, in the past women were not allowed to inherit their father’s property in Igbo lands. This was evident in the case of Nezianya v Okagbue (1963 All N.L.R. 358) where the Court held that under the native law and custom of Onitsha, a widow’s possession of her deceased husband’s property does not wholly belong to her husband’s family but this does not make her the owner. So, she cannot deal with his property without the consent of his family. Additionally, if the husband dies without a male child, all his property (land and houses) goes to his family. His female child does not inherit it. Then, in the case of Onwuchekwa v Onwuchekwa (19915 N.W.L.R.) the Court of Appeal refused to scrap this custom in which a husband is said to own the wife along with her properties as repugnant. However, in Mojekwu v Mojekwu (1997 7 N.W.L.R. 283), the Court of Appeal in Enugu held that the custom of a community in Nnewi, which is in Anambra State, under which male children only inherit their father’s property is unconstitutional. It is essential to note that the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria prohibits discrimination on the grounds of gender. Nevertheless, the customs of most villages or communities and religious laws continue to constrain or impede women’s rights. Though in recent years, some of these customs have been expunged because it is repugnant to natural justice, equity and good conscience. Nevertheless, this is still practised in some parts of Nigeria, implementing both the direct, structural and cultural violence on women. How, then, can the culture of peace be cultivated through violence?
Peace can be achieved by collective measures by the stakeholders—the government parastatals, parents and the victims to start speaking out, condemning such practices. However, some activists have begun speaking up against this injustice or violence which has impacted negatively to the voice of the Nigeria or Africa women, such as calling out their rapist or speaking out to any other form of injustice, because of stigmatisation, unlike in the western countries where their female counterparts are encouraged to speak out. Indeed, I believe the rights of women are of prominent interest at this stage. That Nigeria’s answer to this should be the need for the Nigeria government in collaboration with women organisations and activist to sit down and draft and implement some measures that will be effected into law to protect the rights of women against violence.
Nezianya v Okagbue  All N.L.R. 358
Nzekwu v Nzekwu  N.W.L.R. (Pt.104) 373
Onwuchekwa v Onwuchekwa  5 N.W.L.R.
Mojekwu v Mojekwu  7 N.W.L.R. 283
Akinwotu, Emmanuel, “Rape and murder of student in church sparks outrage across Nigeria” (The Guardian, June 2, 2020) https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2020/jun/02/and-of-student-in-church-sparks-outrage-across-nigeria, accessed 13th June 2020.
Atal, Yogesh and Meera Kosambi, eds., Violence against women: reports from India and the Republic of Korea (UNESCO.ORG 1993) https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000096629, accessed June 13, 2020.
Confortini, Catia, “Galtung, Violence, and Gender: The Case for a Peace Studies/Feminism Alliance,” Peace & Change: A Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 31, Issue 3, July 2006.
Ebigbo, Peter, Conflicts and Disputes in ‘Amaofuo village’ (Unpublished).
Ebigbo, Peter, Harmony Restoration Therapy: Theory and Practice (International Journal for Psychotherapy in Africa 2:1).
Galtung, Johan, “Violence, Peace, and Peace Research,” Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 6, No. 3, 1969.
Moore, Diane L., “Methodological Assumptions and Analytical Frameworks Regarding Religion, Part Three, 2015: Johan Galtung: Direct, Structural, and Cultural forms of Violence and Peace,” https://worldreligionlessons.weebly.com/galtung-typologies.html.
Obafemi, Damilola, “The Decision in Mojekwu V. Mojekwu,  7 N.W.L.R 283: Balancing the Right to Freedom from Discrimination and the Right to culture and/or Religion” (Unilag Law Review, Online Forum, June 6, 2017).
Orjinmo, Nduka, “#WeAreTired: Nigerian women speak out over wave of violence” (BBC News, June 4, 2020) https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-52889965, accessed June 15, 2020.
Udoh, Oluwakemi D., Sheriff F. Folarin and Victor A. Isumonah; Emmanuel O. Amoo (Reviewing editor), “The influence of religion and culture on women’s rights to property in Nigeria,” published online 16 Apr 2020 (Cogent Arts & Humanities, Vol. 7, 2020, Issue 1).
Ukpong, Cletus, “Nigeria: Woman Faces ‘Banishment’ After Exposing How Husband Raped Daughter,” (Premium Times, 2020), https://allafrica.com/stories/202002250679.html, accessed June 20, 2020.