Each time Chukwudi Andrew* tells people about his bitter experience since he got married in 2017, he hardly gets any sympathy. Though he wants to protect his marriage for the sake of his children, he hardly gets support from friends and relatives, who usually accuse him of being ‘less of a man’ every time he suffers domestic abuse from his partner.
His wife, Grace* had threatened to run away with their two children and never look back after she was caught cheating with her boss. She had also threatened to kill her husband and the children if he stopped her from working with the same man.
But their relationship has not always been like this.
After they had their traditional rites and white wedding in 2017, things were fine between them. Two years later, they had their first child, and their second in 2021. Their marriage seemed to be going well until early 2022.
“She secured a job as a sales assistant at a boutique in Oshodi and usually returns home late at night, making the children vulnerable anytime they are back from school,” he said.
Andrew later learned that his wife was having an affair with her boss, he says. He tried talking to Grace about the welfare of the children, but she never listened. Instead, she requested money from her husband to set up her own boutique.
“I noticed that each time her boss calls her, she runs out of the house to the backyard to receive his calls, even at late hours. She chatted with him even in the middle of the night until I caught them having a romantic conversation on the phone. I pleaded with her to consider our children, and we agreed that she would quit the job if I raised money for her to start her personal business,” he narrated.
But things did not go as planned because Andrew was robbed while returning from his place of work in Apapa, a development that hindered the move to set up his wife’s personal business. “Since then, my wife escalates every little issue, skips sleeping at home and sometimes passes the night at her boss’ place. I went to see her boss and begged him to dismiss my wife from work so that the crisis in our matrimonial home would end, but he refused. He simply warned me not to ever step into his office because I was not the one who signed the surety for my wife.”
Andrew explained that since his encounter with his wife’s boss, he has had emotional trauma because Grace is constantly reminding him of how poor he is and how his mates are opening shops worth millions of naira for their wives.
“But I am just a factory worker. Will I kill myself?”
In August, his wife hit him in the mouth with their television remote control, causing him severe injury. This time, he contacted his mother-in-law to inform her about Grace’s assault on him.
“My mother-in-law asked me to bring her to Abia State so that she can talk sense into her head. But immediately after my wife heard that I reported her to her mother, she started calling all her relatives to say that I was not capable of being a husband. When we got to the village, I told my mother-in-law the pains I have been through. We had an agreement that I would be giving her ₦15,000 from my salary for her monthly upkeep since her boss pays her ₦20,000 monthly.”
But when they returned to Lagos, Grace insisted that she could not quit working with her boss. “She said if I cannot cope with that, I should allow her to vacate the house so that she can go and meet numerous admirers who want to marry her. Though I was angry at that point, I was scared of losing contact with my children if she left,” Andrew said.
After a quarrel over the custody of the children in mid-August, Grace employed the service of some soldiers who beat Andrew up under her supervision.
“I was beaten mercilessly and injured. I have been having internal pains since that day till this very moment. I have been enduring several abuses from my wife, but this time, I can’t keep quiet. I am scared of being under the same roof with her.”
The Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act 2015 forbids emotional, verbal and psychological abuse. While the offence is punishable by imprisonment for not more than one year, or a fine of not more than ₦200,000 or both, an attempt to commit the offence is punishable by imprisonment for not more than six months or a fine of not more than ₦100,000 or both.
Andrew is aware of the provisions of the law, but he faces a lot of challenges getting specialist support. He told HumAngle that each time he narrated his ordeal to relationship counsellors and psychologists, they doubted his stories and made him feel embarrassed talking about his predicament.
According to the Lagos State Government, at least 340 husbands were beaten by their wives in the last year. Titilola Vivour-Adeniyi, Executive Secretary of Lagos Domestic and Sexual Violence Agency (DSVA), says the cases captured in its quarterly report show that most violence perpetrated against men by their wives occurred between September 2022 and July 2023.
“Many people view male victims of domestic violence as ‘weak’. This typical attitude makes men reluctant to admit that their partners physically abuse them for fear of being labelled as weak or not being a real man,” part of the report reads. It also validates Andrew’s experience that many men have difficulty being believed by authorities or their abuse being trivialised because they are male.
“I’ve been to Lagos Domestic and Sexual Violence Agency (DSVA) in Alausa, Ikeja, but the government representatives at the office pronounced me guilty before listening to my side of the story. They insulted me and treated me like a criminal. Even after I told them that I needed to speak with my legal adviser on the phone, they didn’t allow me,” Andrew recalled.
HumAngle contacted DSVA for comments on allegations of hasty disbelief of victims by its official, but the agency has yet to respond to our reporter’s enquiries at the time this report was published.
Andrew is concerned that if he leaves the relationship, his partner will prevent him from having access to the children.
“I would love to leave the marriage in peace, but my children are not safe because she usually leaves them on the streets with neighbours. I also do not want her to run away with the children without notice because she has once threatened to do that.
“I have become a drunkard because anytime I close from work, I go to the beer parlour to spend most of my nights and enter the house around 11:30 p.m. There are days that she brings street thugs to threaten me, and it usually takes the help of our neighbours to handle them. My life is under serious threat as I speak, and I want Nigerians to help me.”
When contacted for her side of the story, Grace told our reporter that she was not interested in speaking with the press.
Despite existing laws and efforts to stem the tide, GBV keeps increasing in Nigeria. Speaking on this menace, Racheal Ebi, a gender equality advocate, said there is a need to enlighten police, human rights defenders, and other stakeholders addressing gender-based violence that men can also be victims.
“We have to make the human rights desks in various police stations understand that men are also vulnerable and also have community counselling centres to attend to issues of domestic and gender-based violence. Aside from all these, the government must work on rehabilitation of survivors in a bid to start a new life after a failed marriage.”
*The names of the sources were changed to avoid stigmatisation.
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