GENDER activists observe that violence and discrimination against women are widespread due to a misconception that women are subservient to men.
Corroborating this observation, the United Nations describes violence and discrimination against women as a manifestation of historically unequal power relations between men and women.
The activists note that the development has affected womenfolk to the extent that most women cannot fully exercise their fundamental human rights.
They support the view of the former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan that “violence against women knows no boundaries of geography, culture or wealth, which is, perhaps the most shameful human rights violation.’’
They opine that women often face assault and intimidation in the society which demand practical measures aimed at addressing the trend.
They also note that, in some cases, many women are forced to remain in abusive relationships due to threats of abandonment from their spouses and lack of economic power.
According to them, it is worrisome that some people emphasise on customs of bride price payments on women, by which most men in some parts of the world erroneously assume that they acquire women as wives that they can treat as they wish.
Mr Chibuzor Uzochukwu, a psychologist at the National Hospital, Abuja, raised similar sentiments, noting that some women were often intimidated in relationships because the man would always want to be in control of scheme of things.
According to her, violence and discrimination against women have short and long term consequences on the woman’s physical, mental, sexual and reproductive health.
She observed that in some cases, teenagers were forced into marriage without economic skills or viable education necessary for independent living.
Uzochukwu also said in some instances, women are not allowed to hold a job or have a viable source of income.
“Even if she works, her husband or partner is in total financial control of her money, a woman can be abused when a man controls everything she does.
“This includes the types of food she eats, the cloth she wears, who she speaks to and who visits her.
“Women’s right can also be violated psychologically when a man verbally plays her down; calling her names such as being too fat and comparing her with others,’’ she observed.
She listed gender based violence to include sex trafficking, force labour, sexual coercion and abuse, neglect, domestic violence, child sexual abuse, harmful traditional practices, early or forced marriage and female genital mutilation, among others.
In his view, Mr Clement Abah a clinical psychologist in Abuja, observed that violence against women was rampant and neighbours, friends and families, were not willing to report such cases, in some instances, to appropriate authorities.
“When a boss decides to sexually harass a lady before recommending her for promotion, he abuses the lady and it should be reported.
“Silence is crippling the issue of abuse in our society because most women don’t speak out,’’ Abah said.
According to him, the primary solution for stopping violence against women lies with the women; they should speak out when it happens.
“Due to the silent nature among the violated women in Nigeria, reliable statistics on number of abuse cases has not been put in place and, in most cases, violent activities against women are justified.
“Marriage is beautiful but it is not slavery or ownership, it is a relationship between the head and the neck and not the head and the ground which the husband steps on,’’ he said.
Expressing concern on the implication of violence against women on the Millennium Development Goals, Prof. Babatunde Osotimehin, the Executive Director of UN Population Fund (UNFPA), said Nigeria should act fast to end it.
He said in an interview that the Federal Government should set up a system that could respond to the needs of the women whose rights were violated because they were prone to a lot of challenges.
In her opinion, Ms Mary Wandia, the Africa Women’s Rights Coordinator for ActionAid, a non-governmental organisation, solicited accessible law enforcement and court processes for women as a method of ending violence against them.
“The police are often not interested in domestic violence unless a woman can show physical evidence of being violated.
“The police and law-enforcement authorities are unwilling to believe women’s report on issues such as these and they are not willing to assist,’’ she observed.
Reviewing some of the suggested solutions for ending violence against women, Mrs Tochie Odele, the Programme Analyst of UNFPA, gave an assurance that the organisation would promote public awareness on how to fight gender-based violence.
In an interview, she said that UNFPA had intensified efforts to ensure that laws prohibiting violence against women were enacted by the National Assembly.
Giving further assurance, President Goodluck Jonathan said the Federal Government was committed to reducing discrimination against women and girls.
Speaking after he received Miss Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani activist in Abuja in 2014, the president said that his administration was “taking steps to curb all forms of discrimination against girls and women.’’
He noted that the government had also undertaken many affirmative actions on behalf of women.
According to Jonathan, women and girls make up about 50 per cent of our population that must not be deprived of basic rights.
All in all, concerned citizens opine that, apart from efforts of various stakeholders at ending violence against women, it is the duty of every man to ensure that rights of girls and women are protected.
Retired Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a South African social rights activist, supports this view. He was once quoted as saying: “It is by standing up for the right of girls and women that we truly measure up as men.’’