I had a little conversation two days ago with my mother about domestic violence against women; I wanted to know what her advice would be to a woman in an abusive home: would you support her if said woman decided to leave her husband; my mother said she’d stand with her if the abuse had reached a life threatening peak and she’ll also advise the woman to pray because nothing physical happens without a foundation in the spiritual and also because God hates divorce.
A lot of Nigerian women will agree with my mother’s point of view on domestic violence against wives which begs the question: What kind of abuse is not life threatening?
It would be unfair to assume that as long as a man does not hit his wife, he cannot abuse her; women are emotionally and psychologically abused every day. The argument that God hates divorce and as such a woman should, regardless of any sort of domestic abuse, do everything in her power to bear all the pain she feels and remain in her marital home generally rules out the humanity of the woman. It insinuates that as a woman, one has been designed by God to be thick-skinned and hard hearted and therefore should be able to take any kind of abuse and insult thrown at her akin to a robot saying emotion cannot compute.
In conversation with my mother, I was going to bring up the argument that no religion supports the abuse of a wife, but something made me stop and think. I am a Christian, but I have never seen abuse in marriage expressly condemned in the Bible, so I decided to read it up. The Bible may not specifically condemn domestic abuse, but it does preach mutual submission of the husband and the wife in the marriage which, when you think about it, rules out the notion that the man is above the woman in the institution of marriage and if this is so, then wife nor husband is allowed to abuse the other physically, emotionally, or psychologically and yet a lot of Christian Religious Leaders in Nigeria (women included) will still romanticize abuse because God hates divorce. The Talmud and Qur’an on the other hand allow domestic abuse in marriage on the grounds that the ownership of the woman is transferred from her father to her husband in the event of marriage and as such she must be kept in line, akin to the mule he owns. I could argue that no Christian man should ever abuse his wife based on the Biblical marital principle of mutual submission, but what then happens to my Muslim and Jewish sisters; how do I defend them when sadly the notion that a woman should stay in her husband’s house regardless of the abuse she faces is rightly founded in her religion?
I kept googling to find out how Nigerian Traditional Religion would treat domestic abuse in marriage; imagine my shock to find out that in the very deeply patriarchal and chauvinistic cultural society we have, domestic abuse is not condoned.
Our culture would rather move the abused wife back to her father’s house than let her live in danger; even when the woman is the difficult one. Why then would we advise a Christian, Muslim or Jewish wife to remain in an abusive home when the our Traditional Religion never followed such rules; Westernization has overly demonized our ways, that’s my conclusion.
We need to realize and understand that religion and faith are two different things. Religion is really just a set of rules (most likely influenced by culture and the collective mindset of whoever pens those rules) as to how one channels faith. If all religions essentially teach peace and love, isn’t it contradicting to strip a woman of her humanity and keep her in an abusive home on the grounds of religion? It’s amusing how a lot of the values we hold dear as Nigerians are influenced by Western Culture and civilization, which isn’t entirely bad, but mustn’t one apply wisdom in everything? If our culture and traditions would not allow women remain in a life threatening marital situation, why then would we allow acquired tastes and values strip our women of the humanity that makes them such desirable creatures? Why would we in the name of advancement let the glorified place our tradition created for the humanity of the wife get lost in translation?
Religion in Nigeria needs to step back and recalibrate itself. Religion in Nigeria needs to concern itself with the seemingly smaller issue of the humanity of the woman in her marital home.
Religion in Nigeria and other african countries with similar cultures structured around religion need to stop romanticizing domestic abuse against women.