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The Menace of Domestic Violence in Nigeria

Dr. Suleiman T. Folorunsho

Head, Clinical Psychology
Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Idi-Araba, Lagos

Domestic violence, also known as domestic abuse, spousal abuse, intimate partner violence (IPV), battering, and family violence, is a pattern of abusive behaviours by one partner against another in an intimate relationship such as marriage, family, dating, or cohabitation.

Actions that are manifestations of domestic violence (DV) include physical aggression or assault (i.e., shoving, hitting, slapping, kicking, biting, restraining, throwing objects), threats, criminal coercion, emotional/psychological abuse; intimidation, stalking, controlling, or domineering; endangerment, unlawful imprisonment, kidnapping, trespassing, denial of access of the victim to family or friends, harassment, humiliation, as well as passive abuse otherwise known as neglect or economic deprivation.


All over the world, irrespective of culture and religion, women are suffering physically and emotionally from different forms of violence. Around the world, at least one out of three women is beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused during her lifetime. Most often, the abuser is a member of her own family (WHO 2004, 2020). According to UNFPA (2002) report, more than 60% of women worldwide have been abused. In 48 population based surveys around the world, 10 to 69% of the women reported assault by an intimate partner (Krug et al., 2002; Yusuf et al., 2011). Tjaden (2000) report that in the United States of America, each year, women experience about 4.8 million intimate partner-related physical assaults and rapes.

A 2018 analysis of prevalence data from 2000–2018 across 161 countries and areas conducted by WHO on behalf of the UN interagency working group on violence against women, found that nearly 1 in 3 or 30% of women in the world have been subjected to physical and/ or sexual violence by an intimate partner, non-partner sexual violence or both (WHO 2024).



Traditionally, in Nigeria, as in many other African countries, the beating of wives and children is widely sanctioned as a form of discipline (UNICEF, 2001; Aihie, 2009, WHO, 2022, 2024). Therefore, in beating their children, parents believe they are instilling discipline in them, much the same way as in husbands beating their wives, who are regarded like children and are prone to indiscipline, which must be curbed. This is especially true when the woman is economically dependent on the man. Amnesty International’s (2005) report on Nigeria indicates that on a daily basis, women are beaten and ill-treated for supposed transgressions, raped and even murdered by members of their family.

UNICEF (2001), in its study, asserted that traditionally in Nigeria, as in many other African countries, the beating of wives and children is widely sanctioned as a form of discipline.

Therefore, in beating their- children, parents believe they are instilling discipline in them, much the same way as in husbands beating their wives, who are regarded like children and are prone to indiscipline, which must be curbed. Cases of domestic violence against women have been on the increase in Nigeria. There have been reports of cases of husbands killing and maiming their wives in the media. The statistics presented by This Day (2011) newspaper are daunting. About 50% of women have been battered by their husbands. Shockingly, more educated women (65%) are in this terrible situation as compared with their low income counterparts (55%). Most endure, believing they have nowhere to go and in any case, believing, for good reason, that the law will not protect them. Staggeringly, 97.2% of them are not prepared to report to the Nigeria Police and other judiciary systems.



The manifestations of the social malady of domestic violence, according to Aihie (2009, 2016), include:

  • Physical Abuse: This is the use of physical force in a way that injures the victim or puts him or her at risk
  • Sexual Abuse: This includes all forms of sexual assaults, harassment or exploitation by one’s husband.
  • Neglect: This includes failure to provide for dependents who may be adults or children, denying family members food, clothing, shelter, medical care, protection from harm or a sense of being loved, and
  • Economic Abuse: This includes stealing from or defrauding a loved one, withholding money for essential things like food and medical treatment, manipulating or exploiting family member for financial gain, preventing a loved one from working or controlling his/her choice
  • Spiritual Abuse: This includes preventing a person from engaging in his/her spiritual or religious practices or using one’s religious belief to manipulate, dominate or control him/her
  • Emotional/Psychological Abuse: This includes threatening a person or his or her possession or harming a person’s sense of self-worth by putting him/her at risk of serious behavioural, cognitive, emotional or mental


  • Lower levels of education.
  • Past history of exposure to maltreatment/violence.
  • Witnessing family violence by children.
  • Antisocial personality disorder.
  • Harmful use of alcohol and other substances.
  • Community norms that ascribe higher status.
  • Low level of women’s access to employment.
  • Low level of gender equality.
  • Weak legal sanctions for domestic violence
  • Difficulties in communicating between partners.
  • Marital discord and dissatisfaction.
  • Ideologies of male sexual entitlement (i.e. male is believed to be superior to female).


There are many different theories as to the causes of domestic violence. These include psychological theories that consider personality traits and mental characteristics of the perpetrators, as well as social theories which  consider external factors in the perpetrator’s environment, such as family structure stress and social learning. As with many phenomena regarding human experience, no single approach appears to cover all cases.

  • Psychological
  • Jealousy
  • Social/Economic Stress
  • Social Learning:
  • Power and Control
  • Anger Problem
  • Low Self-esteem
  • Learned Behaviour from Parents
  • Issue of Aggressive Behaviour
  • Involvement with Alcohol and other Substances
  • Cultural belief that men have the right to control wife
  • Suspicion of Infidelity



  • Effect on Children
  • Physical Effects
  • Psychological Effects
  • Injury/disability
  • Sleeping disorder
  • Pregnance complications
  • Sexually transmitted diseases
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Alcohol abuse and other substances
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Suicide behaviour in females
  • Low self-esteem
  • Fear of intimacy
  • Social isolation
  • Economic implications



The response to domestic violence is typically a combined effort between law enforcement, counselling services and health care.

  • RESPECT WOMEN: A framework for preventing violence against women aimed at policy makers by WHO & UN in 2019 should be well implemented by responsible government globally.
  • Medical Response (i.e. health care providers should provide comprehensive services needed by the survivors of domestic violence).
  • Law Enforcement (i.e. perpetrators of domestic violence should be sanctioned accordingly by the law of the land.
  • Counselling for Person Affected
  • Counselling for Offenders
  • It is important to enact and enforce legislation and implement policies that will promote gender equality.
  • Government should allocate resources to prevention and response, and also invest in women’s right organisations.

In Conclusion, the effects of domestic violence against women and children cannot be over-emphasized in Nigeria. Hence, the need for all hand to be on deck by couples, families, NGOs and other responsible authorities to work towards the reduction or elimination of domestic violence in Nigeria as suggested by this article.




AfrolNews (2007) Half of Nigeria’s Women experience domestic violence. Retrieved April 22,  2024, from http://www.afro.com/awrticles/16471

Agbo, C. & Choji, R. (2014). Domestic violence against women: Any end in sight? From leadership/news/382501Colorado Domestic Violence Offender Management Board (2010). Standards for treatment with court ordered domestic            violence offenders. Retrieved: 25 April 2024 from http://dcj.state.co.us/odvsom/Domestic_Violece/DV_pdfs

Crowell, B. & Sugarman, D. B. (1996). An analysis of risk markers in husband to wife violence: The current state of knowledge. Violence and Victims. 1 (2), 101- 124

Barnett, (2001). Why battered women do not leave: External inhibiting factors, social support and internal inhibiting factors. Trauma, Violence and Abuse. 2 (1), 3-35.

Violence against women- World Health Organisation (WHO) 2024. www.WHO.int>details…. Retrieved 20th April 2024.

Aihie (2009) prevalence of domestic violence in Nigeria: Implications for counselling. Edo Journal of counselling 2(1). www.researchgate.net/publication. Retrieved 21st April 2024.

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