Abolish bride price, it reduces woman to commodity ?Femi Falana?s wife
By Moshood Adebayo, Abeokuta
It was the consensus of hundred of participants at a one-day sensitization meeting of Women Advocates Research Documentation Centre (WARDC), held in Abeokuta, Ogun State, that around the world, women and girls continue to be victims of countless acts of violence.
To them, it is indeed a grim reality that the range of gender-based violence is devastating, occuring quite literarlly from womb to tomb.
The executive director of the WARDC, Mrs. Abiola Akiyode Afolabi, lamented what she described as repeated assault on women:
?We have repeatedly seen that sexual abuse and rape have become systematic means of intimidation in times of war and conflict.
?Statistic had shown that situations is not much better in times of peace and women are regularly beaten at home. A quarter of all women in the owrld are raped during their life time with two million girls between ages 5-15 being introduced into the commercial sex market eachyear.
?Violence against women continues to devaste millions of women worldwide destroying families and impeding development.?
Mrs. Funmi Falana, wife of human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana, who spoke as a guest lecurer also lamented that wife battery occurs generally within the family:
?Wife battery is more frequent and present in a situation in which marriage circumstances are implied or actual. It could be emotional or physical assault on the wife. In some developed countries, physical battery of a woman is a crime as well as a tort and even the domesticity of the circumstance of batter is not legally recognized as an excuse of justificiation. Nonetheless, battery of wives in Nigeria is a common feature.
?Men occupy positions of dominance and control over women. Men as husbands and fathers, rule with unchallenged authority the lives of women and children in their family.
?In Nigeria there is no law regulating family planning. Although, in recent years government has intensified efrorts in the campaings for family planning with the encouragement of the use of contraception devices for women for family planning and also for prevention against sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV/AIDS.
?Women are expected to seek the consent of their partners before using this prevention. The result is that some men refuse to allow their partners to use condom for reason of sexual enjoyment despite the transmission of sexual diseases especially in a pollygamus set-up which is common in Africa.
?The fact that women are encouraged to be sexually submissive to men has contributed to their inability to negotiate safe sex and thereby protect themselves from sexual violence and sexually transmitted infections including HIV/AIDS.
?Practices such as pollygamy though lawful under customary law and religious laws increase the insecurity and vulnerability of women in married life. It should be noted that freedom for women is freedom for humanity. The emancipation of women cannot take place without empowerment and economic independence.
Liberation for the girl child
?Women liberation is linked to investment in functional liberal education for the girl child. An educated mind is an empowered mind and certainly difficult to enslave. In view of the several highlighted practices of gender-based violence, the following strategies are recommended for the eventual eradication of gender based violence.
?A domestic violence act should be enacted. Domestic violence should be made a crime. The offence of rape should be made to be gender-neutral. Spousal rape should be criminalized and corroboration rule in rape cases should be abolished. Section 55 of the Penal Code which allows husbands to chastise their wives should be abolished. There should be an inclusion of human rights in the curriculum of secondary schools.?
Falana also canvassed a functional and free education at all levels, for all citizens and especially the girl child. In this regard, NGOs should ensure the enforcement of the Child?s Rights Act and the Universal Basic Education Act which have made education free and compulsory from primary to junion secondary school.
While excusing girls from excessive housework, Falana urged the Federal Government to outlaw the payment of bride price describing it as dehumanizing: ?Indeed, it reduces a woman to a commodity.?