The Impact Of Religious Affiliation On Domestic Violence Against Women & Children

The Impact Of Religious Affiliation On Domestic Violence Against Women & Children

This chapter is aimed at reviewing various literatures on domestic violence. It is true that the incidence of domestic violence is a wide spread occurrence affecting majority of women and children in our society. Hence in this literature review, the researcher intends to bring out the causal factors and also drawing up the role of religious affiliation on domestic violence against women and children, measures of controlling domestic violence will also be addressed and theoretical framework.

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The issue of domestic violence is a global phenomenon that occurs in all strata of society, occupation, professions and income groups irrespective of colour, religion and knowledge. As offensive as it is, cases of domestic violence mostly go unheard, very much unreported and under-documented. Moreso, its prevalence is also under-estimated around the world due to this singular reason of under-reporting. Domestic violence has devastating physical, financial and social effects on women and children in the society According to Melliech (2001), Domestic violence refers to assaultive or abusive behaviour committed by a man against a woman with whom he has intimate sexual cohabiting or marital relationship. It is so after labelled with various names such as wife abuse, spousal abuse and conjugal or family. Meena (1997), also considered domestic violence as various forms of abuse meted on women like wife beating, acid bath, pushing arm twisting, stabbing, abuse, ear-twisting among others. In same vein Atinmo in Oyekanmi (1997) has defined domestic violence as any act of aggression directed by a husband against his wife. It covers incidence of punching, beating, slapping, stabbing, acid bath and throwing boiling water which causes injury or death. Domestic violence against women and children is a global problem, with rape, assault, wife battery and sexual harassment as obvious manifestation. The United Nations (UN) and other world bodies recognise these acts as a gross violation of human rights (Oyekanmi, 1997). Other writers as Payne and Hahn (1993) have identified psychological forms of domestic violence, which are usually in form of emotional abuse, verbal attacks, threats of violence and communication which leaves indelible scars on the mind of the victims. Psychology believe that aside from physical harm of rape , a great amount of emotional damage may occur, such damage stems from the concept of broken trust. They further believed that survival of such violence suffer from post traumatic stress syndrome. They can have anxiety and sleepless nights (Payne and Hahn, 1998: 593). From the foregoing, one could therefore consider domestic violence as any act that is deliberately or intentionally done by a man to injure, hurt, humiliate, deprive, sexually, emotionally, politically or religiously. Domestic violence been a social global phenomenon constitute a social problem that need to addressed or tackled to harness development in our communities.


Domestic violence is more common than we thought. It occurs in all occupation, profession and income groups. It occurs because a man doesn’t understand his emotions or his beliefs (Melliech, 2001) maintained therefore that domestic violence takes many forms including but not limited to the following: Physical Abuse Physical abuse includes pushing, slapping, punching, chocking, killing, breaking bones, throwing objet s, abandoning her in an unsafe place, deprivation of food, water, clothing, confining her in a closet room or building, locking her out of her home, using weapons against her, murder etc Emotional Abuse This may include withdrawal of affection, jealousy, denial of her rights to feelings or emotions put downs, constant criticisms, name calling, isolating her from friends and family, controlling her activities, denying her any personal pleasures or outside interest, destruction of properties, pets or treasured objects . Threats to harm friends or family, forcing her to watch her children being abused without being allowed to intervene, making her account for every minute, every action, controlling her with fear, threats of suicide, threats on her life. Economic Abuse The economic abuse or violence include; allowing a woman to have no money of her own, no money for emergencies, not even her own earnings, forcing her to account for and justify all money or improve her earning capacity. Religious or Spiritual Abuse This may include; breaking down ones beliefs system (cultural or religious), being punished or ridiculed for ones beliefs, preventing the practice of beliefs. Similarly, Griffiths (1985) maintained that domestic violence could occur in many forms. These include; physical, sexual, psychological, property destruction and misuse of power. The physical battery involves grabbing, shaking, shoving, kicking, punching or pinching genital areas or forcing the person into a sexual act which they dislike. The psychological battery involves swearing or putting the other person down, which poses threat to her well-being when this occurs, the person is constantly reminded that ‘what happened once before can easily happen to you again’. The threats may involve the use of violence or controlling the other person by taking away things (such as custody of children, use of car). Destruction of property is another form of domestic violence. Objects which are emotionally important to the person are destroyed in other to show the potential destruction power the battery has over the person. According to the United Nations (1992) domestic violence otherwise referred to as wife battery may take the form of physical and sexual violations, such as punching, chocking, stabbing, scolding, burning with water, rape and acid bath or setting ablaze, the result of which can range from bruising to death. Oyekanmi (1997) in a manner Copelon (1994) admitted that domestic violence is a form of torture that takes the form of punching, kicking, beating, acid bath etc. Domestic violence therefore, is a pattern which develops over time. A man doesn’t stop violence by saying we won’t do it again. It becomes controlled only after a man learns about his challenges and his false beliefs about marriage and learns how to negotiate conflicts.


There are so many causes of domestic violence in our society and so many reasons have been brought forward to explain the prevalence or the problem of this dirty act in our society. This according to Wanga (2004) include cultural perceptions, poverty, hunger, difficulties with sleep, menstrual cycle mood changes, feelings of frustration and inadequacy personality disorder, substance abuse (abuse of alcohol), brain tumour, head injury, personality changes and rarely mental retardation among others. Mojoyinola (2006) maintained that, domestic violence maybe a factor of individual intolerance, incompatibility, selfish approach to issues, immaturity, lack of moral standards or lack of fear of God. Other causes of domestic violence include failure to fulfill financial obligations to wife and children, poverty, denial of sexual intercourse, infidelity, disrespect and social vices. Cultural Perception Culture refers to the way of life of the people. According to Tylor, one of the fathers of modern Anthropology, culture is the complex whole of man’s acquisitions of knowledge, words, beliefs, acts, customs, technology etc. that are shared and transmitted from generation to generation (Tylor, 1967: 477). Culture varies within space and time, this implies that, it is not static but dynamic to suit the wishes of the dominant group in the society, it is essentially learned and shared. Most culture of the world has promoted wife battery or domestic violence and accepted it as a way of correcting or curtailing the excesses of woman. Courts (1992) reported that in some cultures domestic violence is regarded as good conduct, social gender conformity and culturally expected. The men batter their wives as a physical reprimand. The battery happens occasionally and causes the women no serious or permanent injury. Where such behaviour is customary, it is viewed as remarkable. For example in Papua New guinea, this has a pre-dominantly patrilineal culture, in which wives are socially, culturally and economically dependent on their husbands. Domestic violence most especially, the form of beating is common that it is seen as a formal part of married life (Davies, 1993). Also, in specific societies like Ranckand Toft certain level of family violence is considered to be normal (Ritchers, 1994). In Nigeria according to Okagbua (1996) domestic violence is both prevalent and persistent because, the society subscribes to twin philosophers, first that the wife is subordinate to her husband, and secondly, owing to the acceptance of a private/ public dichotomy which renders people homes and family life relatively immune to social controls, intervention and sanctions (Okagbue, 1996: 12). Domestic violence is thus regarded as a family problem to be settled in the privacy of the home. The question is how can the effects of this act be measured and remedied when it is kept out of public scrutiny. Among the Yoruba women of Nigeria, Iman (1989) stressed the demand of tradition on them to ensure the success of their marriage through submission to their husbands even if the husband beat them. This is not a different case in the Tiv society. The idea is not different. the men are considered to be the head and can at will violate or batter a woman as a form of correction and this sometimes leaves indelible marks on the victim. Then in cultures where such abuse is not considered acceptable, many individuals adopt it as a violent code of conduct. The irrational thinking of men in this regard is shocking. According to South African weekly mail and Guardian, a study in the cape peninsula found that the majority of men who claimed that they do not abuse their mates felt that hitting a woman was acceptable and that such does not constitute violence. Evidently, such a raped view often brings in childhood. In Britain for instance, a study shows that 75% of boys aged eleven and twelve feel that it is acceptable for a man to hit a woman if he is provoked (LEDAP, 2001) (Awake, 2001). Apart from cultural acceptability of domestic violence against women and children in most cultures of the world, there are other factors that lead to domestic violence in the society. Economic Factor (Poverty) The economic factor also plays a significant role in the cause of domestic violence in our society. The economic factor is a variable that encompasses poverty, lost of jobs, unemployment etc. In most societies, studies have revealed that, male violence against women is highly related to social stress such as poverty and economic loss (Steinetza, 1988, Abraham, 1995). LEDAP (2001) asserts that, the worsening economic situation in the country has led to lower standard of living, as most men are unable to provide for the family. The woman is left to take care of the home. In order to compensate for not contributing for the up keep of the family also to compensate for being tossed around in the office and prove that they are real men, most men resort to hitting the woman to stamp his mark of authority over the woman. According to Renvioze (1995) Stress and role frustration occasioned by economic and social disadvantage and underdevelopment through subsistence living induce violence. This explains why it is prevalent among rural dwellers who are mostly peasants. In Serbian village according to Richer (1994: 84) peasants and their wives alike consider domestic violence as the husband rights as head of the family. Also, writers have pointed out that, unemployment, poverty, inelastic income base, inflation and hunger affects the man’s sense of manhood thereby increase his propensity towards violence (Okpeh, 2002). It is also the observation of Okpeh (2002) that, the breakdown of economic network dismally affects the states of most men as bread winners of their families and the only way they demonstrate that they are still in charge of the family is to visit the wife with violence (Okpeh, 2002). Socialization Domestic violence is also influenced by what one experienced, learnt from the past, most of physically abused men were themselves raised in abusive manner/families. Domestic violence therefore is learned behaviour, in order words abusive husband who learned violence from his father or mother would probably pass it to his son (Strans et al, 1980) in light of the above, Abraham (1995) asserts that children learn violence behaviour when they see their parents or significant others resolving problems by violence. The children then model their role of violent interpersonal behaviour when they themselves become parents. According to Eyroetsch in Awake (2001) a male who is raised in such an environment can absorb his father’s contempt for women very early in life. This influence him as he grows up (LEADAP, 2001) (Awake, 2001) In African societies, men are particularly socialized to be aggressive, masculinity and girls to be caring and submissive as Antimo stressed, women are socialized to have feeble feelings, kindness, tenderness and there is institutional support in the family to underscore these roles. In a male dominated culture, such as Tiv, behaviour glorifying male superiority and manifest itself in the subjugation of women in all forms of domestic violence and in wife battery in particular. Therefore, there is social differentiation rooted in the predominate mode of socialization in society beginning from the elementary system as family to the school system, other agencies of social interaction for example, the church, social organization, government, all reinforcing the supremacy ideology that man is superior to woman. Children internalize the socialization and its impacts on them and this tends to influence their action during adulthood (Oyekanmi, 1997). Substance Abuse Other factors such as intake of alcohol and drugs also induce violence in the family. Renvoize agrees with this view, in his research, he found that external factors such as alcohol and drugs influence domestic violence situation in the family (Renvoize, 1975). It has been observed that when men consume alcohol and drugs they are tensed up and any slight provocation or mistake results to violating of their wives. Sexual Factor Another reason for domestic violence is sometimes stem from the fact that, when the woman refuses the man’s sexual demands which are sometimes unreasonable, it results to the violence to show the woman that traditionally he is the head and can decide even in her sexual favours. It could also be observed that in her house, the father decides for her in marriage, the husband decides and when he dies the son decides for her.


The fact that this act of domestic violence is anti-development, is very disputable. Francis (2005), Awoyemi (2005) and Ogunseye (2004). A monography from the National Clearing House on Domestic violence in the United States of America (1985) list some health problem suffered by some victims of domestic violence. This domestic violence has various negative effects ranging from physical to psychological well-being, these abused women therefore suffer from health and ramifications of her life-health, development and economic wise. Domestic violence limits a woman’s ability to participate effectively in the development of her country (Knapp, 2001). The implication of domestic violence on the victims is the fact that the victims are physically affected as it causes injuries like broken jaw, mouth, swollen faces or hands, broken hands, black eyes, broken spine which has left some women on wheel chairs. An example was given of a man and his wife staying at gyado villa in Makurdi metropolis who at the provocation of the wife hit her which resulted to spine broken and she ended up on a wheel chair. It is a major cause of disability and sometimes death. There is a recent case in the newspaper where the man beat the woman and left her disable with three children (27:05:2013) and a case of a bride been strangled to death after seven days of marriage in Kano State (12:06:2013). This can cause permanent injury and sometimes lead to death. Emotionally and psychologically it was noted that it raises the anxiety of women and also make them depressed and somatic. Economically, it saps women’s energy, makes them disabled such that they are not physically and emotionally fit to carry out socio-economic activities like trading, farming, academic programmes. Martins (1978) and Shwarts (1989) also suggested that one of the implications of wife battery or domestic violence is that, it undermines women’s confidence; the woman may lose herself confidence completely, comprises their health saps their energy therefore deprives society of woman’s full participation in both economic and social activities. It is believed that the society starts from a healthy family, a family that is destabilized by domestic violence will produce uncontrollable and immoral children who will become bad eggs and this will threaten the stability, safety and peace in the society. This will affect the society socially and economically, a society with high number of disabled women as a result to domestic violence will suffer economic setbacks, for women are the back bone in economic development in any given society. Domestic violence does not only entails suffering and ill-health for those directly involved, it also lead to major financial strains on society with regards to medical care, the judicial system, the social services, social insurances, unemployment, production loss, and so on. Therefore, domestic violence is an enormous. The most painful aspect of it is its tendency to affect not just the victims (women) but also extend its effects to all facets of the society. The implications of domestic violence are manifold and ranges from the victims themselves to the larger society. In the first place, it is an act of cowardice for a man to visit violence on a woman. It is morally indecent, quite uncivilized and of course in human and beyond acceptable standards of social relations. Many experts have cautioned against domestic violence against woman because it cause damages in diverse ways which includes miscarriages where the victim is pregnant and sometimes death where victims suffer tremendous physical damage to vital organs. Similarly, it is dangerous to abuse a woman in front of her children, because they have the propensity to internalise this behaviour which will manifest itself in later part of his life in the case of the female children, they may develop a negative feeling of the opposite sex which may make them even not to marry or be aggressive which predisposes them towards violence generally. For the society in general, violence against women and children has the potential to create disorder and chaos in the society, a society where general violence is the rule than the exception. This tendency could produce a generation of savages who cross gender relations is marked by bizarre violence. Also the children of such a society would be hyper-active in all ways not just in cross gender relations thereby making the society a violence prone with negative results. Unless the menace of domestic violence is controlled, societal growth and sustainable development would never be attained in our societies thereby paving ways from perpetual underdevelopment.


Religious affiliation no doubt plays significant roles on domestic violence against women and children in the society. Both Christianity and Islamic religions have over the decades preached women’s submission to their husbands in all ramifications. These however, gave men the impetus to ride or lord over women (Melliech, 2001). It is important to note here that, the religious bodies only states emphatically women’s submission to men and not to be violated by men. It is the misinterpretation of the doctrine that triggers domestic violence against women. Religious affiliation has also impacted on domestic violence against women and children, this is because its portrays some level of inequality between men and women by stating that women should be submissive to their husbands, this explains why the Islamic religion permits marrying of four wives (women) (Knapp, 2001). This is a clear indication that religious affiliations indirectly played a significant role in domestic violence against women and children as men are portrayed as heads and women and children as subordinates. The above scenario has unravelled the impact of religious affiliation on domestic violence in the society.


Despite the grievous implications of domestic violence on women and children in the society, a lot of efforts have been made by both the national and international bodies in combating the menace of domestic violence on women and children. According to Amaechi (2001), the legal strategies must be formulated and action taken as on of the most effective means of bringing domestic violence to an end. The criminal Justice System should therefore have a change of attitude towards the cases of domestic violence. Also according to “Walking Towards Gender Equality” (1993-1995) condoms there should be an elaborate awareness campaign to educate the general public on the evils of discriminatory practices, the aim of this campaign will be given men a new orientation so as to re-direct their attitude towards women on the basis of equality. Also will be sensitized and conscientized about their entitlement in life. This will remove ignorance on the part of women as to stop portraying themselves as being less than the men. Similarly, Benokaitis (1996) states that one of the measures of controlling domestic violence is the fact that, women should be sensitized to respect their husbands, show them love and respect and embrace their relations especially mother-in-laws. Also, there is a paper presented at National Workshop on “Domestic Violence against Women” in 2001 at Top Rank Hotel Abuja, which states clearly that cases of Domestic Violence should be made public so that it can be discussed and discouraged. It should be made public so that it could be treated as a social problem, women who felt ashamed of reporting such cases should come out boldly to defend their rights.


The nature of social reality is so complex that, every social phenomenon is subjected to various analysis and interpretastions depending on which of the theoretical realm one falls. There are as many theories as there are phenomena. However, two dominant theoretical perspectives in sociology are examined. This helps to establish which of the theories suitably explain the social phenomenon under study. These are structural functionalism and conflict theory.


The major proponents of this theory include August Comte, Emile Durkheim, Talcott Parsons (Good, 1986). The functionalist theory argues that, for society to be in order, equilibrium or at peace, the institutions of the society which are interrelated and interdependent must work hand in hand to perform their roles. The functionalist views the family as the foundation of any society. It is the family that makes it possible for any society to raise the collective life and social order that sustains it. some of these functions can be performed by other institutions, but the family appears to perform them most effectively. These functions may include socialization, social placement, care and protection, emotional support, social control etc. Limitations The main limitation of functionalist theory is that, it turns to stress the factors that had social cohesion at the expense of those producing division, conflict and change. The fact that functionalism is against change means that, it cannot explain domestic violence against women and children in the society. The functionalist have also been criticized on their ignorance as differing interest of the components and their members in the society that brings about conflict between them than the intended smooth running of society. Despite the above criticism, it can still be used to analyze the social phenomenon under study because it looks at the functions of the various organs of the social system to maintenance of a whole.

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The conflict theorist assumes that the social institution do not benefit all members of the society. They argue that in the family, men have more power than the women because of the social and cultural construct of the society. On the other hand, parents have more power than the children. The conflict theorist sees conflict as endemic in the society and contends that, domestic violence should be seen in terms of dominance and control. It is one means by which men reinforce their power over women. Furthermore, the conflict theorist view family as a whole as a basic unit of inequality and exploitation and that the larger society only draws its legacy from the working of the family. Nevertheless, despite the obvious inequalities in domestic violence cases, victims of such assaults are often accused of provoking the abusive behaviours. In the case of domestic violence, the conflict theorists emphasizes that blaming the victim is but another reflection of man’s power over women. They further admit that, it is the dominance and exploitative nature of men in the family that leads to such conflicts as class struggle and domestic violence in the family. Marx’s collaborator, Engels (1884) noted that the beginning of domination of men over women in the early agrarian societies, when men conceived the need for ownership of property and to also pass it unto his offspring. This then prompted formal marriage which to men was upright ownership of the women as property. In a nutshell, conflict theorists sees conflict in positive light, they contend that in all societies conflict is inevitable i.e in avoidable, but it further brings about developmental change. Criticisms Many scholars argued against the conflict theory, that it is not all societies that conflict may bring or produce desired change. Also, the conflict theorists have been criticized on their position that inequality can only be over come by change to the socialist system of government. In this research work therefore, the researcher has adopted the conflict theory in explaining domestic violence against women and children and its social effects on the society. It is undoubtedly true that all socializations in families are based on cultural, traditional and customary norms which are reinforced by the parents. These cultural norms therefore set the men on top as the owners of the means of production, power and master which subsequently encourage domination and exploitation of women. This situation brings about abuse of women without the society frowning at it rather it is seen in positive light as a means of discipline and control. The incidence of domestic violence is an endemic occurrence in all societies. It is also perpetual through gross inequality and domination of the men folk, which almost all cultures inculcate in their younger ones, who continue the trend as they grow. But the conflict scholars propose a radical change from the economic system of capitalism, which they see as the only means by which class domination and exploitation can be terminated and exploitation can be terminated. The conflict theorists in their final analysis proposed the socialist system to be classless and ideal. Most importantly, the conflict theory notifies us of an impending problem of inequality and domination in the society that is inevitably experienced. This fact alone prepares the mind of the members of the society to brace for solutions to the problems of society especially domestic violence.

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