Wednesday 25 November 2015

Violence: From the home to the world

By Joy Ngwakwe 

Nigeria - Domestic violence against women is one of the most debilitating forms of violence as it happens at home - a space that ought to be safe for everyone. 
The word “home” often connotes a place of peace, comfort and safety.  Given that the world is made up of small units of families, the state of the world peace is often derived from what happens in majority of homes in a given society.    

Experts have stressed the importance of the home in shaping children into responsible adults.  In fact many cases of adult dysfunction are traceable to the home environment.  Testimonies of successful adults often point to the role their homes played in contributing to their success in the larger society.  In the same vein unsuccessful adults, including those that end up in prisons for crimes also trace their behavioral pattern and habit to the home in which they grew up.  

Of course this does not, by any means, justify bad behavior or crime as the court system ensures that criminals face the consequences for their actions.  Failure to tackle violence in the home, however, hinders breaking the violence cycle and dealing with the destructive impact of domestic violence against women as well as children.
Domestic violence against women has become one of the most pervasive forms of gender-based violence and violation of women’s human rights.  According to the United Nations, about 35% of women “have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or sexual violence by a non-partner at some point in their lives. However, some national studies show that up to 70 per cent of women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence from an intimate partner in their lifetime”[1] Domestic violence transcends cultures and social class, and cuts across continents, societies, formal and informal settings with its devastating consequences on women/girls in particular and the society in general. 

Whereas all forms of violence against women are very debilitating wherever they occur, violence in the homes, a supposed safe space, leaves very lasting impressions and consequences on both victims and those who observe the violent act such as children. Domestic violence against women is often perpetrated by significant others such as husbands/partners and therefore highlight issues of gender power relations and women’s dependency on the men occasioned by either societal expectations of women or poverty.  Societal expectation and economic status of majority of women are factors that often combine to make many women remain in violent relationships even in the face of certain death.   
In addition to the massive impact of domestic violence on women is its impact on children who grow up in homes where their mother is constantly battered by the father figure.  Research  by a Nigeria-based organization [2]conducted in Lagos in 2009 concluded that: “Children born in abusive and violent homes grow up with violent and abusive habits.  Frequently, men that batter their wives often confess that they grew-up watching their father beat their mother.  The family is the smallest and closest unit of every society and what happens at the family unit is a reflection of what to expect in the larger society.  When gender-based violence against women and girls is practiced in a large number of our families, the society becomes generally violent.”
This was confirmed by another research[3] which found that “Children who witness violence in the home and children who are abused may display many similar psychologic effects. … Child witnesses display inappropriate attitudes about violence as a means of resolving conflict and indicate a greater willingness to use violence themselves”.

The impact of domestic violence on women and children thus has very significant implications for the status of peace or violence in the larger society- the world in general.  The notion “From Violence in the Home to Violence in the World” has therefore become an issue that requires urgent attention from all stakeholders who seek to combat all forms of violence.  In an apparent understanding of these linkages the 2015 16 Days Campaign Against Violence Against Women is focused on the theme, “From Peace in the Home to Peace in World: Make education Safe for All”.  Conversely the 2015 theme may therefore be substituted to say: “From Violence in the Home to Violence in the World”. 

One of the most difficult factors in dealing with domestic violence is the culture of silence which makes it deadlier than other forms of violence against women.  Many suggestions have been proffered to counter the culture of silence but until the women are systematically supported and encouraged to report domestic violence they will continue to abide by this culture and thus embolden perpetrators of domestic violence to continue to act in impunity.  Breaking the culture of silence must also be juxtaposed with stricter penalties on perpetrators in order to encourage more women to report such violence 

Many countries, including countries in the global south have provided legal platforms for redressing domestic violence, however, these laws are often subject to personal biases of interpreters and enforcers, including security and judicial officers.  Greater efforts should be made to not only ensure that women receive the required legal aid but also that they are not shamed in the process of obtaining such services
Children born into violent homes should be given specialized counseling and help to re-orient them with correct information that violence is a criminal act and that perpetrators must face the consequences.  

Finally, as part of this year’s 16 Days Campaign Against Violence Against Women specific efforts must be made to secure the homes, and make it the safe space it should be.  The need to undertake specific interventions that seek to prevent, protect women and redress gender-based violence against women in homes cannot be overstretched. 
It is the very foundation on which a violence-free world may be built.
Joy Ngwakwe is Executive Director of the Nigeria-based Center for Advancement of Development Rights (CEADER) and an African Women Development Fund (AWDF) Fellow.

[2] Kudrat Initiative for Democracy (KIND), “Women in Peril: A Research Report on Women & Girls’ Experience of Gender-based Violence in Lagos State” ISBN: 978-978-901-453-8-2009- Research conducted and written by Joy Ngwakwe assisted by Peju Olaniyi
[3] Melissa M. Stiles, Witnessing Domestic Violence: The Effect on Children

Monday 28 September 2015


28 September 2015                      
Lagos, Nigeria

Friends of Badia East from across civil society have come together to strongly condemn the forced evictions that began in Badia East, Lagos State, Nigeria, on 18 September 2015. Once again, thousands have been rendered homeless at the peak of torrential rainfall, leaving scores of women and children to sleep under makeshift shelters at the demolition site. The heavy rains that fell throughout the Eid-el-Kabir (Sallah) holiday highlighted the misery of homelessness.

As evening fell on the Sallah holiday, two young women each holding young babies huddled under a tarpaulin shelter as the rain fell. One of them, Mrs. Olabisi Malomo bounced her crying baby on her knee as she recounted what happened, “I stay here, I make 25 years at this railway line. When they want demolish our house, they just come without information, say they want demolish. One night we just see caterpillar (bulldozer). Some people say they want do gutter. It no reach four hours when all them police and people who do demolition come. They say we should begin to pack our load. It no reach 30 minutes before they begin demolish everywhere.”

Since the demolition, Olabisi Malomo has been sleeping in a makeshift shelter with her six children, her elderly mother, her sister and neighbors and their children. Before the demolition, she worked as a petty trader, but all her goods were lost in the demolition. “I am sleeping outside with my six children. As rain is falling now, we are under the rain. The way they do us for this community, it’s not good. In this Nigeria, they treat we poor people like we’re goats. We aren’t goats; we are human beings. They should help us. We have suffered too much.”

Based on the lack of adequate notice, the failure to identify and consult with the persons to be affected, and the total disregard for persons who are left homeless without alternative as a result of the ongoing demolition, we consider the demolitions carried out to be a forced eviction and, as such, a grave violation of human rights law and statutory provisions in force in Nigeria. We note that, without the requisite protections in place, even an eviction carried out in accordance with a judicial decision can amount to a forced eviction, according to the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and UN Habitat, among others.

The forced eviction started on 18-19 September and continued again on 22 September, moving from Badia East toward Badia West, displacing more than 10,000 people to date. Although technically a private demolition exercise by the traditional landowners, the Ojora Chieftaincy Family, the Nigerian Police Force and Lagos State Government have been providing material support throughout the exercise. Scores of policemen have been on ground every day, with a police officer seen riding on the bulldozer itself. On Tuesday, a well-known official with the Lagos State Physical Planning and Development Authority (LSPPDA), Mr. Tunde Olugbewesa, was on ground throughout the day with other officials, overseeing and directing the demolition.    

In February 2013, over 9,000 people were forcibly evicted from the neighboring part of Badia East in a demolition carried out by the Lagos State Government to make way for a housing project built under the Home Ownership Mortgage Scheme (HOMS). That demolition violated the World Bank safeguard policies on involuntary resettlement, which the State Government committed to follow when it accepted $200 million to upgrade Badia and other slums in Lagos – financing intended to benefit the residents of Badia who have now been evicted.

There is serious concern that the Lagos State Government will use the land now being cleared to expand its HOMS housing scheme, in which the monthly mortgage payment for the least expensive housing unit is more than ten times the typical rent for comparable space in Badia.

On Monday, 21 September, Badia East evictees staged a peaceful protest outside the Lagos State Governor’s office, calling for Governor Ambode to intervene to stop the demolition. In response, the Lagos State Government issued a temporary stoppage order late on Tuesday.

While we applaud the stoppage of the demolition since Tuesday evening, we remain deeply concerned about the thousands of evictees who have suddenly been rendered homeless, as well as the 20,000 or more others in Badia East, Badia West, Apataaro, and other neighboring areas of Apapa LGA / Apapa-Iganmu LCDA who are still at risk should the demolitions resume.

The demolition has not only caused widespread homelessness, but also severe loss of livelihood for traders, landlords, and business owners alike. Mrs. Biola Idiefo Ogunyemi, a widow and mother of six, lost two residential buildings with a total of 38 rooms, three shops, and a bar that she had owned since 1991. The 14-room makeshift structure that she erected behind these buildings was also destroyed. “How will I care for myself and my children now?” she lamented.

A young mother of two, Abimbola Joshua, spoke as evening fell on the Sallah holiday from inside her makeshift tent, surrounded by children escaping the rain: “The way the King Ojora Fatai treats us is very bad, he treats us as slaves. I want Fatai Ojora to know that, anything he is doing on this earth, he should remember God.  Because when we finish everything on this earth, we go to God. And God will judge everyone according to his or her behavior on earth.”

An elderly woman with only one good leg, using a single zinc sheet to cover her and a mother nursing a 1.5-month-old baby next to her from the rain, pleaded: “Make the Government help us beg Aromire Fatai to leave us alone. Make him forgive us. We have suffered too much.”

We join the victims in calling for the Ojora Chieftaincy Family and the Lagos State Government put a final halt to these demolitions. We implore urgent protective action for the victims by the Lagos State Government and the Federal Government, both of which have the legal responsibility of preventing forced evictions, protecting victims, and ensuring effective remedy.

At a United Nations summit just days ago, President Buhari publicly committed Nigeria to the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, which sets goals for eradication of poverty and rights-based upgrading of slums. It is high time for such commitments to be felt in places like Badia.
To realize such legal obligations and political commitments, we urgently demand:

1.      That the Federal Government of Nigerian and the Lagos State Government take all necessary steps to ensure there are no further forced evictions;
2.      That people already forcibly evicted be returned to their rebuilt homes, or provided an adequate and satisfactory alternative, and compensated for all their losses; and
3.      That persons rendered homeless, especially women, children and other vulnerable populations, be given immediate humanitarian assistance, including adequate temporary shelter while long-term solutions are in process.


1.       Center for Advancement of Development Rights, CEADER),
2.      Justice & Empowerment Initiatives (JEI),
3.       Spaces for Change (S4C),
4.      Nigerian Slum/Informal Settlement Federation,              
5.      Centre for Defense of Human Rights & Democracy In Africa (CDHRDA),
6.      CEE-HOPE Nigeria,
7.       White Code Centre,    
8.      Media Concern Initiative for Women and Children
9.      Network on Police Reform in Nigeria (NOPRIN),
10.   Global Rights Nigeria,
11.   Development Innovation Matters     
12.   Rural & Urban Development Initiative (RUDI)            
13.   Ore Disu
14.   Olamide Udo-Udoma                               
15.   Nseabasi Effiong Umoh
16.   ‘Toyin Elegbede-Gbadegesin
17.   Ifesowapo Youth Initiative
18.   Steve Aborisade