How Toxic Social-Norms Reinforce Intimate Partner Violence Against Women in Biu

By Rukayya Idris

“He strangled my neck and continued to punching me – he did not stop until I started bleeding,”  Aishatu Abdullahi said. 

“I had a stillbirth born in the second year of our marriage; that was when it started, he clearly showed a nonchalant attitude towards me,” the 31 years old  explained.

He usually forced himself on me for sex and beats me up whenever I try to stop him.”

“I struggled to endure such a toxic relationship and became pregnant again. I became ill in the fifth month of my pregnancy. It was hunger induced ailment I believe. My husband said he doesn’t have any money to spend on me. That was how I was left uncared for till one day when I slumped and went unconscious in front of my room. 

“My co-wife called our husband and came to take me to the hospital.” 

“I don’t know his evil plans for me, he paid someone to abort my baby without my consent. After losing the pregnancy, I had to go home to my parent because I was sick and he would not take the responsibility of my basic needs and that includes food”.She said 

“My grandmother has been the one taking care of me.  She’s so old and had no means of providing for the two of us”. 

Two months later, he came to take me back to his house. My father asked me to follow him. I agreed because I thought he would change after all that happened.  But his violent attitude worsened.  

“One night, I was so hungry having spent all day without food, and he came into my room for sex, and I declined his request. He strangled my neck, threatening to make my life miserable. I had to wriggle out is his grip and ran for my dear life, because I am afraid he’s going to kill me, ” Aishatu said as she paused to wipe tears off her  eyes.

“I asked him for a divorce after that incident and he said I had to pay him the sum of two hundred thousand naira”.

“I don’t have that kind of money to pay him.  My father instructed me to go back to his house again, but this time, I refused.  So I have to move in with my grandmother for over seven months now because my father too would not provide for my needs and he never showed up even once to check on me. 

“Things are hard for me, so, I have to sell out my clothes and sometimes even beg on the street to buy food and medication for my ill health.  I was not getting any better after losing the pregnancy and I have been experiencing pain in my throat”. 

That was the married life story of Aishatu Abdullahi, a young lady who was married into a polygamous home with a derelict husband.  

Aishatu is not the only woman that suffers such marital barbarity and lack of care from a spouse. It is commonplace in Biu.  

Fatima Aliyu, a 28 years old housewife said she would be subjected to serial battery each time she reminded her husband that he needed to provide food for the household. 

“I got married to him at the age of fifteen,” she recalled. 

“I was so naive then, and I thought he loved me.  We are now in the 13th year of our marriage with five children. When I had my third baby, Aliyu started measuring the number of grains I would use to make food in the house. What he gave has never been enough, but I have been managing because of his reaction whenever I complain to him about it.”

“As time went on, I gave birth to another two children, we became seven in number in the house, but Adamu did not consider the need to increase the measures of grains he dishes out for our daily meals.

Fatima said she had to manage  the three mudu (measuring cups)  of the grain for cooking three days’ meals.

“And that will be for breakfast, lunch and dinner. He has bags of maize in his store but he would not allow us to use them. I had to cook food once a day; I use the grain flour and potash to make breakfast, and he rarely eats what I cooked”.

Fatima recalled the day she complained to her husband about her  two-year-old baby not  eating the food, “and that was when he became angry.” 

“We were Inside the room, and he asked me to untie the baby I had strapped on my back as he kept on shouting ‘I am going to kill you and see what would happen, and I refused to untie my baby. So he went ahead to beat me up with the baby on my back”.

“I left the house and used my neighbour’s phone to call my father, who came by and took me home. Days later, I became sick. I went to the hospital and the doctors said I have high blood pressure. My father was sad; so he asked him to divorce me but he refused, claiming that what happened is not enough reason for him to divorce me. 

“I have been at home for a while now and he (my husband) said I will go back to him when I am tired of staying at my parents”.

Aisha Usman’s story is slightly different from Fatima and Aishatu’s.

Aisha, 25 years old, narrated how her uncle forced her to go back to the man, her husband that is maltreating her. 

“I had never loved the man,” she confessed.

“I was forced. Our marriage was arranged by my uncle after the death of my parents.My husband has not been kind to me; he insults me and my family.

“On a Saturday evening when he returned home from his farm, I asked him to give me some money to buy medicine for my baby, he said I was not raised well, and why won’t I look for the money myself? I didn’t talk to him. Later that night, my baby’s condition worsened, so I went back to ask him again. He stood up looking at me aggressively. He attempted to slap me and I told him that I cannot stand to watch him do that to me, after the suffering and hunger in his house. So,  I ran out of the room.”

Aisha’s plight worsened when her husband moved them to a village outside the town. 

“My husband is a farmer, he makes money out of his farming business, but he watched me and my baby starve,” she said.

“There is no job opportunity for me in the village, unlike when I was in the town, where I do house chores for people and also go out for daily pay farming. Things are hard for me in the village and I come to my uncle to see if he can convince my husband to allow me to stay in town because I want to enrol my child in school”. 

“I know my uncle doesn’t want to see me in his house. I was so unlucky that day, he beat me up and forced me out of his house,  that I cannot stay in his house if my husband divorces me”. 

“I left his house to my aunt’s place and I have been staying ft there with her for quite a long time until someone broke the news to me that my husband has married another wife”. 

“I wonder if he would ever come back for me or his child”.

The GBV Focal Person, Social Welfare Unit Biu Local Government, Yusuf Ibrahim in an interview with The Humanitarian Times disclosed that most of the recorded cases of intimate partner violence in Biu “is triggered by how men abandoned their responsibilities and also wants to show power as heads of the family”.  

“It has been normalized for decades that women go out to look for jobs, like daily pay farming jobs, to feed themselves. And also, most courtships before marriage are not built on love, understanding or commitment.

It was so bad that whenever the women asked for basic things in the house, men became fierce and reacted in a very aggressive manner.  That attitude is showing that they don’t consider the women to be their responsibilities”. 

The GBV expert added that “mediating intimate partner violence cases, especially between married individuals, is complicated considering how the women maintain the culture of silence. The women speak up when the condition is beyond control”. 

Ibrahim went further to say that  “the enactment of the Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) act, would go miles in reducing violence against women, as it covers all forms of harassment and assault against every human being and even though, it was recently introduced to our area, it is a form of legal power in punishing the offenders and protection to the victims”. 

On Jan. 10, 2022, the Borno State Governor, Professor Babagana Zulum signed the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Law in the state, where the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), Borno State branch presents the VAPP Law to Biu Local Government Area, on 1st Oct 2022, together with the distribution of the ABRIDGED copy of the law to the local government stakeholders. 

According to World Health Organization, one in three women, globally, has been subjected to physical or sexual violence by intimate partners. 

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