Author: Kwasi Asiedu Abrokwah
Operational Supervisor, Prime Legacy Construction Pty; Communications Director, The Great People of South Africa
Gender-based violence (GBV) is defined as violence that is directed against a person on the basis of their gender or sex, including acts that inflict physical, mental, or sexual harm (intimate partner violence or non-intimate partner violence), suffering threats of such acts, coercion and deprivations of liberty. According to the United Nations Women’s Organisation (UNWomen), it is estimated that 35 percent of women worldwide have experienced either physical or sexual violence at some point in their lives. In the West African region, Liberia, Cote d´Ivoire and Sierra Leone are examples of countries where GBV were used as weapons of war. GBV has been a huge problem in Africa where women and children are violated by men. GBV occurs in various forms, including femicide, female genital mutilation (FGM), child marriage, intimate partner violence, sexual harassment, sexual violence and kidnapping. It may also occur in the form of socio-economic violence, including discrimination and denial of opportunities or services on the basis of sex, gender, sexual orientation.
Nigeria is a country steeped in inequality. Reports indicate that a minimum of 86 of the 140 or so million Nigerians live in extreme poverty. The country’s richest individuals are also said to earn 8,000 times each day what their poor counterparts spends on basic necessaries in a year. To further underscore the severe level of inequality, studies also indicate that the combined wealth of the top five richest Nigerians can end extreme poverty in the country. That is how bad the income and wealth gap in Nigeria is.
However, this kind of inequality underpinned by exploitative and oppressive capitalist mode of production tends to weaken what some scholars have referred to as the ‘social instinct’ and breeds discontent, opposition and conflicts between society’s classes. In this kind of clime, the less privileged and deprived members of the society may well feel entitled, either within or without the law, to demand what they considered their own fair share of the commonwealth from the more opulent part of the society. The main purpose of this short piece is to interrogate emerging evidence which suggests that recent dimensions of kidnappings in Nigeria is a class act where the deprived class may be demanding what they perceived as their fair share from the more opulent class and examine the omens that this bids for the criminal justice system.
The kidnapping by Boko Haram of over 200 school girls in Northern Nigeria is an act of gender based violence for which not only Boko Haram is responsible, but also the Nigerian government. Indeed the militant group has carried out atrocities against boys and men that are equally deplorable, however, in this instance it is not by chance that Boko Haram kidnapped girls. They were targeted because they are girls.
The leader of Boko Haram said in a video shortly after the kidnapping that he would sell the girls in the market. His statement is reflective of an exceptional disdain for girls, which did not exist in isolation, but within a patriarchal society where harmful stereotypes perpetuate girls’ inferiority and enable violence against women to be an accepted norm. Amnesty International has reported that up to two thirds of Nigerian women may have experienced violence in the home by an intimate partner. While domestic violence differs in nature from the kidnapping of over 200 school girls, the common thread is the context within which the acts occur; in a society which does not accord women equal value and provides the structural conditions whereby a girl or woman can be abused in the home or kidnapped and threatened to be sold in the market.