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November 7, 2018

3.1 Domestic Violence and Women
In Nigeria women suffer inequality and various forms of violence from the cradle until death. At birth a male child is preferred and pampered, the girl child is not so welcomed. She undergoes female genital mutilation at tender age, she is subjected to overburdening household chores to prepare her for the societal role of home keeping, she is also given out in marriage at early ages to ensure that she does not become promiscuous and is married out as a virgin. During and after marriage she is inferior to the man. She is also not allowed to inherit, and subjected to physical, psychological and mental abuse and violence. 

Domestic/Conjugal Violence Women and children in Nigeria suffer violence within the home. The battery of both wives and children are sanctioned culturally. It is seen in most cases as a form of discipline with a restraint not to inflict grievous harm. There is no specific law to protect women against domestic violence or wife battery unless a woman brings an action under the general provisions against Assault where domestic violence against the woman is downplayed[1]. The provision of the Penal Code (PC) (criminal law applicable in the Northern part of Nigeria specifically on domestic violence encourages violence against women. It allows for the beating of a wife for the purpose of correction. Section 55 (1) (d) of the Penal Code stipulates, “Nothing is an offence, which does not amount to the infliction of grievous harm upon any person and which is done by a husband for the purpose of correcting his wife. Such husband and wife being subject to any natural law or custom in which such correction is recognized as lawful” In a report by a Non Governmental Organization in Nigeria[2] conducted on social welfare officers to find out the prevalence of domestic violence, it showed that 55% of the cases received in the last one year, was on women battering/maltreatment. In another nationwide research has also shown that the police are reluctant to take action where cases of domestic violence are reported to them. It is believed that it is a private affair and should be settled by the parties or their extended family. Additionally, cultural, financial consideration and the high cost of justice often prevent women from pressing charges against their husbands or partners in cases of domestic violence against the them. The failure of the law to provide adequate respite has further compounded the issue.

Nigerian women face various forms of sexual assault such as rape, indecent assault, incest, and defilement. Although there are provisions in section 357 Criminal Code (applicable in the southern part of Nigeria ) and the Penal Code against various forms of sexual assault against women some of which have stiff penalties, however these provisions are not effectively implemented due to the technical Court procedure and evidential rules, coupled with women’s apathy to report such cases for fear of social stigma.

Rape for instance, under the Nigerian Laws attract the punishment of life imprisonment and is defined in a gender specific manner as “Having carnal knowledge of or sexual intercourse with a woman or a girl without her consent or under duress.” [3]. The manner in which rape trials are conducted and the nature of evidence[4] required exposes the woman victim to indignity, making it a man’s trial, but a woman’s tribulation. In our criminal justice system, the burden of proof rests with the prosecution and guilt must be established beyond reasonable doubt. However in practice the victim is required to prove that she did not consent to rape. Quite often, medical evidence will show that the victim was raped but failure to provide ‘corroboration” will jeopardize the prosecution’s case. The requirement of penetration to prove rape cases which though is not part of the definition of rape but has been used over the years in decided cases has also denied women  that are victims of rape the deserved justice from the law courts. It has been suggested that the law needs to be redefined and the Evidence Act amended. In effect many rape cases go unreported. According to the Tell Magazine[5] published in Nigeria crime statistics issued by the Nigeria Police Force on the prevalence of rape in Nigeria showed that about 136,285 cases of rape were recorded between 1980 and 1992. Notwithstanding this startling figure, it is believed that only one in every 50 rape cases gets reported with a high rate of them happening in higher institutions of learning. Between June-December 1999, over 30 child rape cases were reported in newspapers and magazines in different parts of Nigeria. Moreover, the Penal code[6] condones marital rape. “Sexual intercourse by a man with his own wife, is not rape if she has attained puberty.” This provision does not only condone marital rape it also condones defilement of young girls under the age of 16. This is because the age of puberty is not fixed and any girl who for instance has commenced her menstrual period is deemed to have attained puberty. Consequently girl children given out in marriages are sexually assaulted without their consent and without redress from the society. Indecent Assault[7] Gender disparity exists in the punishment applicable for cases of indecent assault. Sections 353 and 360 of the Criminal Code cover the same offence (unlawful and indecent assault) but provides for a lesser punishment where the victim of assault is female (2 years imprisonment), when the victim is male it is 3 years imprisonment. Indecent assault on males is a felony, which attracts 3 years imprisonment, and on females is a misdemeanour, for which the punishment is a statutory maximum of two years. Sections 218-357 Criminal Code  protect girls under 13 years old, from sexual assault whether there is consent or not. However this has not helped the girl child because Section 6 of the same Criminal Code excludes wives of the same age from this protection. The age of consent for a girl under the Penal Code is 14 and 13 under the Criminal Code. It is recommended that this provision should be reviewed.


A serious problem in Nigeria is child marriage. In this instance, their consent is hardly sought. In most part of the country, there is no legally defined minimum age of marriage. Section 18 of the Marriage Act defines a person under the age of 21 years as a minor but allows minor, to marry with parental consent. In the Eastern part of Nigeria, the marriageable age is 16 [8]. Child marriages are justified by parents on the ground that it prevents promiscuity, which a girl child is prone to at puberty. At times, the reasons are religious, economic and often times the low appreciation of the need for the girl child to go to school. The 1991 Census shows that 2% of Nigeria married women entered into marriage by the age of 10, 8% at 12, 25% married at 13-15, and 40% at the age of 15, while 64% by the age of 18. The average age of marriage for females was found to be 16.5 years. The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has complicated the matter. The Constitution[9] deems a child, as an adult in so far that child is married. This limb of the provision further strengthens the violence against girl children contrary to Article 16 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which prohibits the betrothal, and marriage of a girl child. The effect of child marriage is gruesome and includes higher maternal mortality and greater prevalence of conditions such as Vesfico Virginal Fistula (VVF). There are recent positive developments in Nigeria on the issue, for instance, Bauchi State an area where child marriage is prevalent has enacted a law banning Child marriages. It is hoped that some other States would follow suit. Ebonyi state has done the same thing, a centre built by the 1st Lady of Ebonyi state at the federal Medical Centre in Abakaliki the state capital.

Widowhood Practices
Statutory and Islamic law provides for women’s capacity to inherit assets following the husband’s death. In practice this is often time overridden by local customary laws on succession. Widows are most times subjected to severe social, cultural and economic sanctions. These may involve both physical and psychological violence. Under customary law, a woman and her children are the chattels of a man who is the head of the family saddled with the responsibilities to provide for them. The concept of co-ownership is rare in Nigerian culture; the presumption is that all the properties belong to the man, even where the women contributed financial and in kind to the acquisition of the property. The plight of a widow is made worse by humiliating widowhood rites, which include requesting that a woman drink from the water used in bathing the corpse of her husband and many cases widows are also expected to go into confinement for weeks to prove their innocence from any possibility of complicity in their husband’s death. Some widows are beaten for not wailing enough for the death of their husband. The above examples are common in the eastern part of Nigeria. A study on widow confinement shows that 45% widows were confined for varying lengths of time, 62% in South-South, 60% in North West, 51% in South West, 48% in North East and 27% in South East[10] In the recent case of Augustine NwoforMojekwu V Caroline Mojekwu[10], the Court of Appeal decided that the “OLI-EKPE” customs of Nnewi in Anambra State where males and not females inherit the property of their father is unconstitutional. This custom was held as repugnant to natural justice, equity and good conscience. The judgment is welcomed and hopefully represents a shift in judicial attitudes to women’s rights issues.

The Nigerian constitution[11]guarantees the rights of all against torture and other forms of inhuman or degrading treatment..
Despite the constitutional provision, female genital mutilation (FGM) is widespread among various ethnic groups in Nigeria. The common type practiced in Nigeria is called clitoridectomy; this entails the removal of the clitoris and sometimes along with labia majora. It takes place mostly at infancy. Over 57% women were circumcised before the age of one and over 68% by the age of five. (NDHS-1998) In some cases, the operation is performed on the adolescent at the onset of menstruation. The reasons for FGM have been alleged to be the need to curb promiscuity, and secondly that it helps to reduce complications at childbirth. FGM has been outlawed in four states (Cross Rivers, Delta, Edo and Ogun) and moves are been made in AkwaIbom and Bayelsa for the passage of laws banning FGM. Trafficking in women and girls In the last decade trafficking in women and children is assuming an alarming rate in Nigeria. Nigeria has become a source, transit and destination country for both internal and external trafficking. Until recently in 2003 when a new comprehensive law was passed by the Nigerian National assembly and assented to by the President, the provisions of the Criminal and Penal codes did not provide adequately for the crime of trafficking in women and children. Section 34 of the constitution of Nigeria prohibits slavery and torture while Sections 223-225 of the Criminal Code provides for sanctions against whosoever trades in prostitution, facilitate the transport of human being within or outside Nigeria for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation and make profits for it. The Penal Code also sanctioned this act in Section 278-280, it provides for imprisonment for anyone who buys and sells minors for immoral purposes. Research has shown that trafficking in women and girls are mainly for the purposes of domestic service and/ or prostitution. In places like Abakaliki, in Ebonyi State, young girls are forced into the sex industry partly because most people believe that they are unlikely to carry the HIV Virus.[12] Information provided by immigration authorities[13] in Nigeria has also shown that children between the ages of 7-16 are transported to Gabon and Cameroon from various points in the East of Nigeria, There are also reports of trafficking of women and girls to Europe and particularly Italy. The report also shows that over 20,000 Nigeria girls engage in prostitution in Italy and mostly trafficked victims[13]. An unusual dimension introduced to the crime of trafficking which makes the campaign against trafficking difficult is the introduction of the oaths of secrecy which victims and their parents/guardians have to undergo in traditional shrines. These oaths are administered by traditional priests who use the body parts of the victim such as hairs, nails, pubic hair and blood with a sanction not to divulge the secret of the identity of the traffickers, to hold allegiance to the traffickers and promptly pay the traffickers the debt bondage.[14] Failure to abide by the oath is deemed to have serious repercussion sometimes death or insanity on the victims and their relatives. Most of the women and girls trafficked to Italy and other parts of Europe are from Edo State of Nigeria. This fact prompted the Edo State Government to pass a law with stiffer penalties against traffickers and their accessories including the traditional priests who administer the Secret Oaths. The Edo State law however criminalizes prostitution. The federal government also passed a national legislation outlawing trafficking in Nigeria which law is more elaborate than the previous provisions of the Criminal and Penal Codes. The new legislation did not however take sufficient consideration for the protection of the victims and witnesses to trafficking. Nigeria has also signed the Protocol to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons especially women and girls but is yet to ratify it.

Another emerging issue affecting the legal status of women is the introduction of Sharia Penal Code in 2000 by Zamfara State, which was later followed by over ten Northern States in Nigeria. All the states in their different codes extended the application to criminal offences as opposed to personal and civil matters. The implementation of the Sharia Penal Code has been flawed as inadequate to protect the rights of women. Access to justice is seen as been abridged particularly in the Area and Sharia Courts. Often times, judges attitude and biases affect the type of judgment they render with women testimony devalued and treated as that of a minor, without necessary legal capacity. The extension of the law from personal to the criminal sphere as revealed in notorious cases decided by the Sharia trial courts in respect of adultery or fornication (Zina), especially, in the cases of Bariya, Safiya, Amina and others raises a lot of question on the commitment of the Nigerian state to the protection of women’s rights. In all these cases mentioned, the procedural guarantees were not observed in favor of accused person, thereby resulting in violation of basic human rights and often time expose women to violence.

Adultery attracts the death sentence by stoning while fornication attracts a minimum of 100 lashes. The law gives room for gender disparity women who are raped and or are pregnant are being condemned to death by stoning. It places restrictions on the rights of the woman and the child. There is the need for a review so that the law will be in accordance with the international norms and standards of human rights and with the constitutional provision. Strategies and way forward Nigeria is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESR). The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the African Charter for Human and People’s Rights. These international treaties are yet to be incorporated into the domestic laws. An overview of the current socio-political and legal situation in Nigeria shows that the Government has not performed its obligation by the domestication of these treaties. Hence, one of the major steps that should be taken is the incorporation of the CRC and CEDAW in Nigerian domestic law. The reluctance of the government in this regard has to a large extent hampered the full enjoyment of women and girls of their internationally recognized rights. As noted earlier, Nigeria practices a multiple system of law, however in the event of any conflicts, the constitution should be supreme[14] and upheld in favour of the protection of women where the customary and Sharia laws are discriminatory and unjust. Chapter II of the constitution on fundamental objectives and directive principles of state policy contains principles that should assist and guide Nigeria in the formulation and execution of policies, which would have in part, assisted to further strengthen the promotion of women and girl rights. However, this chapter of the constitution that is most beneficial to women is not ensure women’s advancement. Need for NGOs to strengthen their efforts to increase awareness in local communities, working with traditional authorities and community leaders to educate and reach the mass of the people.

In realization of the low status of women despite the availability of local laws and international instruments created the need to strategies on effect ways of ensuring the implementation and protection of women’s rights. [I think this sentence needs to be clarified. I don’t understand it] Over the past year, Women in Law and Development in Africa (WiLDAF/FeDDAF)-Nigeria chapter with the support of the European Union Fund for WiLDAF/FeDDAF-West Africa has embarked on a project to sensitise the judicial and extra judicial stakeholders in some parts of Nigeria. These stakeholders targeted are the judges, magistrates, lawyers, police officers, traditional rulers and religious leaders. This project has succeeded to a large extent in changing the attitude of these stakeholders who in the operation of their duties knowingly or ignorantly perpetrate injustice against women.

It is imperative to educate and sensitise more stakeholders in the society for the protection of women’s rights and overall development of women and the society. For according to the former UN Secretary General, Kofi Anan in his Statement on International Women’s Day Celebration : “We are resolved to work for gender equality and the empowerment of women as vital tools to combat poverty and disease, and to achieve development that is truly sustainable ; equally, we are determined to build on the contribution of women in managing conflict and building pea enforceable in courts. This restriction is stated in Section 6 (6) of the constitution. The tripartite system of laws is also making it difficult to establish adequate and uniform legal framework applicable throughout the country. The fundamental human rights provisions, which are enforceable in court, (though with some draw backs) are provided for in Chapter IV, Sections 33 - 44 of the 1999 constitutions, these provisions guarantee a wide range of civil rights as contained in the International Bills of Rights. It contains the most basic safeguards for civil and political rights of individual citizens. Unfortunately the constitutional framework in Nigeria is defective. While one set of constitutional provisions promotes rights and allows for the enforcements of these rights, the other restricts its application, hence making the laws not justice-able. In effect when the state fails to protect its citizens by either preventing or punishing various kinds of human rights abuses, it can be said to be perpetrating or condoning those forms of violence. It is important to note that while making this dichotomy, the international perspective of states obligation to protect its citizens make the State culpable even in situations mentioned above. Gender imbalance permeates every facet of  Nigerian society and comes in several forms. Onyeukwu[15] outlined some of the gender discriminatory practices and violence against women and female children. Violence against women is the most acute form of gender inequality in Nigeria. A great majority of the violence against women can be described as Harmful Traditional Practices against Women (HTPs). Some of the common Harmful Traditional Practices against Women in our communities include female genital mutilation, child marriage, ritualistic widowhood practices, nutritional taboos, cult prostitution, domestic violence, and sexual freedom for husbands. Other discriminatory practices include traditional land tenure systems and patterns of inheritance, lack of access to credit, family preference for sons, lack of participation in public decision-making, discrimination in housing and employment, discriminatory legislation, and discriminatory religious practices, as well as rape, battery, trafficking in women, murder, kidnapping, and induced prostitution.
Reversing Gender Discrimination

According to Badawi[16], the status which women reached during the present era was not achieved due to the kindness of men or due to natural progress. It was rather through a long struggle and sacrifice on women’s part and only when society needed her contribution and work, more especially during the two world wars, and due to the escalation of technological change .

International and Regional Laws
The pursuit of equal rights for women through international law has been a slow process. The principle that everyone is entitled to rights "without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex..." was given voice in Article 2 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. However, the Declaration was non- binding and it took campaigners over 30 years to cajole the international community into concrete legal action against gender injustice. This commitment came in the shape of the Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) which was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1979. CEDAW has been described as a bill of rights for women; it spells out the areas in which women experience discrimination and commits countries to amend their laws, construct national gender policies and create institutions to deliver them. Although CEDAW has been ratified by almost all countries, ineffective enforcement of national legislation has further restrained the pace of reform, e.g., the failure of the US to ratify the treaty [17].

Resistance to new laws and their implementation in developing countries is motivated by strong traditional beliefs that women should occupy a domestic environment and that men should enjoy exclusive rights to property. Modern industrialised countries have of course experienced similar attitudes at earlier stages of their development. Many countries in sub-Saharan Africa are in the process of amending laws which prevent women from owning land and property. This transition to more equal rights is most problematic in Islamic countries where elements of Sharia law governing the behaviour of women remain in place. In extreme examples, these ancient laws claim that adultery is a crime when carried out by women, and make it virtually impossible for a man to be convicted of rape.

Position under Nigerian Laws
Nigerian law on testate inheritance/succession includes the Wills Act and its Amendments (1837, 1852); The Wills Law Western Nigeria (1987). Succession Law Edict, 1987 of old Anambra State as amended and applicable to Enugu and Ebonyi States. The Wills Act of 1837 does not place any disability on widows with regards to their right to inherit property under testamentary disposition[18]. These laws/statutes do not extend to widows who contracted customary law marriages. The need for special protection of women and children under the law rests on the rational belief that all human are entitled to equal consideration and respect. Law has a major role in effecting social change and should be seen as a catalyst in development of our citizenry especially women and children. Laws designed to protect women and girl-child are not far-reaching enough, for example women married under the statute and their children have better protection than women married under customary law and their children.

Until recently, there was no statute law against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). There is now in existence the Edo State Female Circumcision and Genital Mutilation (Prohibitation) Law No. 4 of 1999, Cross River State Girl-Child Marriage and Female Circumcision (Prohibition) Law 2000; Delta and River States have also passed laws to ban FGM and make it a crime.

Judicial Attitudes

Judicial attitudes until recently tend to perpetuate gender discrimination. For example in Nezianya v Okagbue[19] the court held that under the native law and custom of Onitsha, a widow’s possession of her deceased husband’s property is not that of a stranger, and however long it is, it is not adverse to her husband’s family and does not make her the owner, she cannot deal with his property without the consent of his family. Further, if a husband dies without a male issue, his real property descends to his family, and his female issue does not inherit it, according to custom. Also in the case of Nzekwu v Nzekwu[20], the Supreme Court of Nigeria restated the principle that the widow’s dealings over her deceased husband’s property must receive the consent of the family, and she cannot by the effluxion of time claim the property as her own. She has, however, a right to occupy the building or part of it during her lifetime, but this is subject to her good behaviour. Further, in the case of Onwuchekwa v Onwuchekwa[21] the Court of Appeal refused to reject as repugnant a custom in which a husband is said to own the wife along with her properties.

New Dimension Case Laws
Recent judicial pronouncements tend to have a second look at discriminatory customs against women. In Mojekwu v Mojekwu[22] the Court of Appeal Enugu held that the “Oli-ekpe” custom of Nnewi in Anambra State under which male children only inherit their father’s property is unconstitutional. Niki Tobi J.C.A delivering the lead judgment asked the following questions;

Is such a custom consistent with equity and fair play in an egalitarian society such as ours? Day after day; month after month and year after year, we hear of and read about customs, which discriminate against women in this country. They are regarded as inferior to the men. Why should it be so?

According to the learned Justice of the Court of Appeal:
All human beings-male and female-are born into a free world, and are expected to participate of freely, without any inhibition on grounds of sex; and that is constitutional. Any form of societal discrimination on ground of sex, apart from being unconstitutional is antithesis to a society built on the tenets of democracy, which we have freely chosen as a people. We need not travel all the way to Beijing to know that some of our customs, including the Nnewi “Oli-ekpe” custom are not consistent with our civilized world in which we all live today. In my humbly view, it is the monopoly of God to determine the sex of a baby and not the parents. Accordingly, for a custom or customary law to discriminate against a particularly sex is to say the least an affront, I have no difficulty in holding that the “Oli-ekpe” custom of Nnewi, is repugnant to natural justice, equity and good consciences.
Another recent case of Muojekwu v Ejikeme[23] the Court of Appeal held that a female child could inherit from the deceased father’s estate in Igboland without the performance of the Nrachi ceremony. Nrachi is a ceremony in which a man keeps one of his daughters at home unmarried for the rest of her life to raise issues, especially males, to succeed him. After a daughter performs this rite, she takes the position of a man in her father’s house. Technically, she becomes a “man”. In that case, the court took liberty to interpret the constitutional nature of freedom from discrimination vis-à-vis the “ili-ekpe or Oli-ekpe custom of Nnewi that does not recognize female inheritance unless Nrachi ceremony has been performed on the female. The Court held that: by section 42 (1) of the Constitutional of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 a citizen of Nigeria of a particular community, ethnic group, place of origin, sex, religion or political opinion shall not , by reason only that he is such a person, be subjected either expressly by, or in the practical application of, any law in force in Nigeria or any executive or administrative action of the government to disabilities or restrictions which citizens of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religious or political opinions are not made subject. Consequently, the court held that such a customs clearly discriminated against the daughter of the deceased who did not perform the ceremony and is therefore unconstitutional in the light of the provisions of section 42 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999. The court refused to apply the custom and declared it repugnant to natural justice, equity and good conscience in that it legalizes fornication and encouraged prostitution, as the women remains unmarried procreating outside the bounds of marriage

3.2     MARITAL RAPE  
The idea of the sacrosanct; institution of marriage dished out by the mainstream in folklores passed down to women by their mothers and movies by Nollywood and most especially Hollywood is a myth and is contrary to women perceptions of reality. Though marital rape is the most common and repugnant form of masochism in the Nigerian society, it is hidden behind the iron curtain of marriage. Social practices and legal codes in Nigeria mutually enforce the denial of women sexual agency and bodily integrity, which lie at the heart of women human rights. Rape is rape. Be it stranger rape, date rape or marital rape. The law does not treat marital rape as a crime. Even if it does, the issue of penalty remains lost in a cloud of legal uncertainty. The legal system must be forced to accept rape within marriage as a crime. Further, women themselves must break free of societal shackles and fight for justice. They must refuse to comply with the standards applied to them as the weaker sex. This part of this research work shall try and expose the discrimination, shortcomings and fallacies of the criminal justice system in Nigeria as regards marital rape. It goes on to provide arguments and reasons necessitating criminalization of marital rape.
Marital rape is any unwanted sexual acts by a spouse or ex-spouse, committed without consent and/or against a person's will, obtained by force, or threat of force, intimidation, or when a person is unable to consent. These sexual acts include intercourse, anal or oral sex, forced sexual behaviour with other individuals, and other sexual activities that are considered by the victim as degrading, humiliating, painful, and unwanted.

Rape is an offence, which hinges on the absence of consent of the woman. It is important to realize that the absence of consent does not have to be only in the form of the word ‘no'. It should be assumed from the context of the situation. Within a marriage, if a woman gives consent to sexual intercourse because of threat of injury to children or herself, depriving the woman of the right to stay in the house or receive maintenance, it is not valid consent. It is still rape.

The offence of marital rape has not been sufficiently accounted for in the law. The law does not punish rape within marriage if the woman is above fifteen years of age. Forced sexual intercourse is an offence only when the woman is living separately from her husband under judicial separation/custom. It must also be remembered that situations of marital rape occur within the confines of the home, and therefore there are often no witnesses to the crime.

Till now the concept of Marital rape has not been recognised. We have been lobbying for a law in order to make it an offence but for this we firstly need to collect statistics of rape within marriage.
Despite the historical myth that rape by one's partner is a relatively insignificant event causing little trauma, research indicates that marital rape often has severe and long-lasting consequences for women. The physical effects of marital rape may include injuries to private organs, lacerations, soreness, bruising, torn muscles, fatigue and vomiting. Women who have been battered and raped by their husbands may suffer other physical consequences including broken bones, black eyes, bloody noses, and knife wounds that occur during the sexual violence. Specific gynaecological consequences of marital rape include miscarriages, stillbirths, bladder infections, infertility and the potential contraction of sexually transmitted diseases including HIV.

Women who are raped by their partners are likely to suffer severe psychological consequences as well. Some of the short-term effects of marital rape include anxiety, shock, intense fear, depression, suicidal ideation, and post-traumatic stress. Long-term effects often include disordered eating, sleep problems, depression, and problems in establishing trusting relationships, and increased negative feelings about themselves. Psychological effects are likely to be long-lasting. Some marital rape survivors report flashbacks, sexual dysfunction, and emotional pain for years after the violence.

The following three kinds of marital rape are identified by legal scholars as generally prevalent in the society:
1. Battering rape:
In battering rape, women experience both physical and sexual violence in the relationship and they experience this violence in various ways. Some are battered during the sexual violence, or the rape may follow a physically violent episode where the husband wants to make up and coerces his wife to have sex against her will. The majority of marital rape victims fall under this category.
2. Force-only rape:
In what is called force-only rape, husbands use only the amount of force necessary to coerce their wives; battering may not be characteristic of these relationships. The assaults are typically after the woman has refused sexual intercourse.
3. Obsessive rape:

Other women experience what has been labelled as sadistic or obsessive rape; these assaults involve torture and/or perverse sexual acts and are often physically violent.

In United States researchers estimate that 10% to 14% of married women experience rape in marriage. When researchers examined the prevalence of different types of rape, they found that marital rape accounts for approximately 25% of all rapes. Despite the prevalence of marital rape, this problem has received relatively little attention from social scientists, practitioners, the criminal justice system, and larger society as a whole. In fact, it was not until the 1970s that the society began to acknowledge that rape in marriage could even occur. Till recently, the general rule was that a husband could not be convicted of the offence of raping his wife as he is entitled to have sexual intercourse with his wife, which is implied under the contract of marriage. In 1993, marital rape became a crime in all fifty States, under at least one section of the sexual offence codes. However, it is remarkable that only a minority of the States has abolished the marital rape exemption in its entirety, and that it remains in some proportion or other in all the rest. In most American States, resistance requirements still apply. In seventeen States and the District of Columbia, there are no exemptions from rape prosecution granted to husbands. However, in thirty-three States, there are still some exemptions given to husbands from rape prosecution. When his wife is most vulnerable (e.g. she is mentally or physically impaired, unconscious, asleep etc.) and is legally unable to consent, a husband is exempt from prosecution in many of these thirty-three States. The existence of some spousal exemptions in the majority of States indicates that rape in marriage is still treated as a lesser crime than other forms of rape. Importantly, the existence of any spousal exemption indicates an acceptance of the archaic understanding that wives are the property of their husbands and the marriage contract is entitlement to sex.[24] In England, earlier as a general rule, a man could not have been held to be guilty as a principal of rape upon his wife, for the wife is in general unable to retract the consent to sexual intercourse, which is a part of the contract of marriage. However, the marital rape exemption was abolished in its entirety in 1991. The House of Lords held in R. v. R.[25] that the rule that a husband could not be guilty of raping his wife if he forced her to have sexual intercourse against her will was an anachronistic and offensive common-law fiction, which no longer represented the position of a wife in present-day society, and that it should no longer be applied. Corresponding amendment to the statutory law was made through Section 147 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act, 1994. This judgment was also affirmed by the European Court of Human Rights in the decision of SW v. UK. In New Zealand, the marital rape exemption was abolished in 1985 when the present Section 128 to the Crimes Act, 1961 was enacted. Sub- section (4) now provides that a person can be convicted of sexual violence in respect of sexual connection with another person notwithstanding that they are married at the time the sexual connection occurred. Further, the fact that the parties are married or have been in a continuing relationship will not warrant a reduction in sentence. There is now, therefore, no distinction in principle to be drawn between sexual violation in marriage and outside of marriage. In Mexico, the country Congress ratified a bill that makes domestic violence punishable by law. If convicted, marital rapists could be imprisoned for 16 years. In Sri Lanka, recent amendments to the Penal Code recognize marital rape but only with regard to judicially separated partners, and there exists great reluctance to pass judgment on rape in the context of partners who are actually living together. However, some countries have begun to legislate against marital rape, refusing to accept the marital relationship as a cover for violence in the home. For example, the Government of Cyprus, in its contribution to the Special Rapporteur, reports that it's Law on the Prevention of Violence in the Family and Protection of Victims, passed in June 1993, clarifies that is rape irrespective of whether it is committed within or outside marriage.


If we examine the laws in different countries, we see that most countries punish rape within and outside marriage.

For instance, in Australia a person can apply to a judge or magistrate for an order allowing him/her to marry if he/she has reached the age of 16 years.[26] However, by 1991 every state in Australia had abolished the marital rape exception.
In New Zealand, a person under 20 years of age but over 16 years old can only marry with parental consent. The age of sexual consent for women is also 16 years. There is no exception for marital rape in the Crimes Act, 1961 of New Zealand. The marital rape exemption was abolished in 1985.[27]
In the UK, a marriage below the age of 16 years is void.[28] The Marital rape exemption was abolished in its entirety in 1991. In Egypt, the age of majority for all legal purposes except marriage is 21 years. The age for giving consent is 18 years[29] and the penal code says that intercourse with a girl below 18 years is rape.
In the U.S., different States have different laws. The marital rape exception has been abolished in 50 States of the US. In Indonesia the age of majority as well as marriageable age is 16 for girls and 19 for boys. The age for giving a valid consent to a sexual act is also set at 16 years for a girl. Any marriage below the legal age is void. The Domestic Violence law in Indonesia also punishes a person in the household who forces sex on another person in the same household with a maximum sentence of 15 years.
The following are some of the common arguments given against the idea and proposal of criminalizing marital rape as an offence: There is no need to give legislative attention to marital rape, as it is quite uncommon.
1. Due to the near impossibility of proving marital rape, its criminalization would only serve as an increased burden to the already overburdened legal system.
2. Dissatisfied, angry, vengeful wives might charge their innocent husbands with the offence of marital rape.
3. There is an implied consent to have sexual intercourse when a woman marries a man.
4. Marital rape laws would destroy many marriages by preventing any possible reconciliation.
A perusal of these arguments would make it quite evident that these are mere fanciful, lame excuses of a male-dominated society that lack any sort of legal substance or moral force.
A rebuttal of the abovementioned arguments is not very difficult.
Marital rape is a common but under-reported crime. A study conducted by the Joint Women Programme, an NGO[30], found that one out of seven married women had been raped by their husband at least once. They frequently do not report these rapes because the law does not support them. As to the second argument, that marital rapes are difficult to prove, it may be showed that criminalization of marital rape, serves to recognize rape in marriage as a criminal offence and would have a deterrent effect on prospective rapist husbands. The mere fact that marital rape would be very difficult to prove is no reason for not recognizing it as a crime.
As regards the third argument of women foisting malicious charges, it may be noted that if proving a claim of rape in marriage is hard, proving a fabricated claim will be even more difficult. Because of the associated stigma of rape trials, it is unlikely that women will elect to undergo such an experience out of sheer spite. Besides, the criminal justice system provides inherent safeguards such as the requirement of proof beyond any reasonable doubt. This is no justification to say that the victims should be denied protection simply because someone might be at risk of a fabricated case.
As far as the fourth argument is concerned, it is true that a wife impliedly consents to sexual intercourse with her husband after marriage, but the expression of love through sexual intimacy is not the same as forced sex. On the other hand, it strikes at the very foundation of matrimony irrespective of whether the marriage is a sacrament or a contract. By no stretch of imagination can it be said that a person consents to harm or violence by marriage, and neither does the law permit any person to give such consent.
Finally, a marriage in which a husband rapes his wife is already destroyed. Attempt to hold together marriages may be one of the objectives of matrimonial laws. But it cannot override the fundamental objective of law in general and that of criminal law in particular, which is to protect and preserve the bodily integrity of a human being. Thus, withholding justice and denying equal protection for preserving marriages, at best, can be an improper goal of law. The law should not encourage forced cohabitation and should not protect a raping husband.
In Nigeria, it is a topic many would rather not talk about but its effects are inherently ravaging not only the female folk and family ties but societal values.
Mrs Patricia Ofeme (not real name) was wedded in a high society nuptial about 2 years ago to her heartthrob of many years, an engineer with a multinational firm. Theirs was seen by many friends and well wishers as the proverbial ‘marriage made in heaven.’ Their families clung to the belief that their union was meant to last a lifetime going by the effusive display of affection the duo always exhibited whenever they were in public.
Patricia, a soft spoken, slight in physique banker was seen as the perfect match for the unusually burly and aggressive character template displayed by her hubby. Although many who knew him were witnesses to his sharp outbursts of ire once in a while, his quick manner of making amends whenever he had the inexplicable (at times) fits of rage endeared him to people with many hoping that his more amiable wife would smoothen the rough edges of his temper.
The changes in her disposition were first noticed by her colleagues at work. Her constant distraction in tackling hitherto basic schedules at office raised a few eye brows at first. Known to be deeply conscientious with office work, Patricia started making careless mistakes at work which earned her reprimands on several occasions from the management. When the stern warnings started increasing with threat of stiffer penalties emanating from exasperated superiors, her friend and confidante, Rose, a colleague at work knew she had to do something fast. What particularly alarmed her was her friend’s sudden inclination to use massive doses of make up powder especially on her eye region, a habit that had been alien to her before.
Having lived a rough life earlier on in life, Rose was not a novice when it came to the issue of violence and its attendant proof. After looking at her puffy eyes, made more eerie by another large dose of mascara one morning after she had made yet another wrong calculation of a crucial bank transaction, Rose asked her a simple question, ‘who have you been fighting with lately or who has been beating you because obviously you seem to always be at the receiving end?’ Her stunned gaze and sharp intake of breath revealed to the quick witted Rose that she had hit the mark.
Over a lunch table and amidst tears a few minutes later, Patricia confided in her friend a tale many women and indeed society prefer to keep sealed lips over. Patricia over the past one year had been undergoing a traumatic experience at the hands of her dangerously transformed hubby which had made her become a ghost of her former ebullient self.
Patricia and thousands of her female counterparts constantly suffer marital rape at the hands of unsympathetic husbands on a near daily basis. Perhaps due to cultural constraints and other militating religious factors, these women are forced to keep mum over such an inhumane act and are more likely to bear the suffering in quiet pain[31].
Technically, marital rape is any unwanted sexual act by one’s spouse or ex-spouse that is committed without the victim’s consent and/or against a person’s will, obtained by force, or threat of force, intimidation, or when a person is unable to consent. It is as widespread as other sexual offences but grossly under-reported. Lawyers opine that this sexual offence includes “sexual intercourse, anal or oral sex, forced sexual behaviour with the spouse and other sexual activities that are considered by the victim as degrading, humiliating, painful, and unwanted.” It is also referred to as spousal rape and in some societies it is simply called wife rape.
A high number of respondents especially the male ones believe that it is the wife’s obligation to be submissive to the man, adding that when such a woman is submissive such an act would not occur in the first place. This is the thinking of Emmanuel Nwogu who says that a man cannot be said to have raped his wife for whatever reason as long as he has paid the required bride price. “How can you say that I raped my wife? It is impossible. If it happens in other countries, it is not so in our own country. A wife must be willing to accept her husband whenever he is ‘in the mood.’ That will even minimize the cases of adultery and unfaithfulness. A man cannot rape his wife,” he asserts heatedly.
That no doubt typifies a normal male response in Nigeria. Another male respondent who does not want his name mentioned is more conciliatory in his response. “A man must be able to have intimacy with his wife whenever and wherever he so desires and our African women are expected to be submissive to their husbands unlike the foreign ones who rush to court on frivolous excuses every time they feel their rights have been tampered with. Although I agree that men should be reasonable when it comes to sexual demands I feel the women should also display the same level of maturity.”
In today’s fast paced world, the issue still remains a contentious one with many schools of thought. In this site[32] some of these issues are raised. “Marital rape is a controversial issue because people continue to believe in the following myths and misinformation about spousal rape: there are those who believe that marital rape is contractually impossible because wives gave up their right to give consent when they became married. Many believe in the concept of marital unity and that a husband and wife are one person under the law which means to them that the legal existence of a wife is suspended. There is concern that possible marriage reconciliation would be prevented by marital rape laws. Culture plays a role in this controversy because in many countries, a wife is still considered as property of the husband, so a husband can’t be convicted of hurting his own property. There is also the fear that out of revenge or for their own personal gain, women will destroy their husbands’ lives by making false allegations of marital rape. And finally some worry that the legal systems trying to deal with marital rape would be bogged down by cases that would be impossible to prove.”
It is of course a source of concern for many understandably the female gender. According to Diana Russell in her explosive book, Rape in Marriage, “More than 1 in every 7 women who have ever been married, have been raped in marriage.”
A lawyer, Barrister Carol Arinze-Umobi who specializes in Women and Minority Rights in her piece: “Rape in Matrimony: Entrenched Global Disaster and Underdevelopment of Women, Nigeria in Focus” explains the challenge explicitly: ‘the offence of rape is the most heinous sexual offence under the Nigerian Criminal Code1. The abhorrence and repulsion of this sexual offence by the civil society informed the prescription of a very stiff penalty for it by the draftsmen of the code.
Under section 358 of the Code, it is punishable with life imprisonment. Even an attempt to commit it is also an offence punishable by a term of 14 years imprisonment with or without whipping.” On spousal rape she says inter alia that, “apart from some statutory exceptions, arguments have been that a husband cannot be guilty of rape of his wife by the mere reason that she has given a single blanket consent on the day she accepted to enter into the contract of marriage with the husband, violent sexual intercourse also inclusive.
More so, the incident of rape of a wife by her husband is unknown in customary law as the wife is the property of the husband and so he is free to have her at will. The wife is not expected to complain. One major reason given to justify this form of violence is that it is based on payment of bride price and once that is paid, husbands now own their wives and therefore could discipline them; this gives the impression that consent perpetuates the idea that a woman is a piece of property owned by the husband. The only concept that is constant is change, and for there to be dynamism, growth and development, change must be constant.
It will therefore be wrong for the world, particularly the developing ones like Nigeria to cling tenaciously to the pronouncement of Sir Matthew Hale in the 17th century that because a woman has given up her consent, she cannot retract that even in the face of a very violent relationship.” She adds sadly that, ‘most rape cases, particularly spousal rapes are unreported and thus continues unabated. Most women have lost their lives as a result of violent sexual relationships (particularly rape from their husbands).
Be that as it may, a few bold ones have taken the gauntlet and are speaking out. But in a nation where the rights of women and children are grossly underrated, this is fast becoming uncommon and many more women are forced to suffer in uncomfortable silence. More discouraging is the warped judicial system which apparently does not seem to offer women foolproof alternatives to seek redress. But victims like Patricia on the advice of her friend are taking a first step in protecting themselves. A week later after another of such attacks, she made a formal complaint with a divisional police post and is already consulting a human rights outfit in her locale which deals with such abuses and legal redress of such. With the active support of select members of her family she is equally looking at the possibilities of a legal separation if these options fail. But unfortunately many more of her co travellers will have to continue their silent agony until perhaps they are able to speak out.  There are no existing national laws on domestic violence in Nigeria this can only be prosecuted under SECTION 355 of the criminal code. There is no law on marital rape, redress can only be sought only by reliance on the above section for grievous bodily harm or assault.
The issues as to equality of women would be a mere mirage if discrimination against women in the work place is not discussed, in Nigeria the cultural and societal obstacles to women who seek to attain positions as educated persons has been a white Elephant dream as even politically women have been relegated to the background due to traditional and marriage reasons. From time immemorial, the education of the girl child is seen as a waste of resources especially by the fathers who see them as becoming the property of another man in future therefore would not see it necessary to sponsor the girl child. Recently, women are seen in all works of life becoming career women and handling positions which would only be seen as a man’s position before. Regardless of this development women are still discriminated in their various places of work due to the fact that they are women or even deprived of promotion by basis of marriage or even pregnancy. Some positions are regarded as jobs just for men alone or even top managerial positions are not awarded to women due to the its a mans world, our very our judicial system is not exempted in this regard, as female judges are been denied of their positions due various issues which would be looked into in this part of the research work. It should be noted that a high percentage of Nigerian women are now breadwinners of their family and should not be deprived of their  source of livelihood as a result of frivolous reasons. Modification Article 2 of the convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women (CEDAW), enjoins state parties to take measures to modify repeal and abolish laws regulations and cultural practices discriminatory of women. It is our submission that Nigeria has a lot to do on this regard. For example, section 55(1) and 56(1) Labour Act, respectively bar women from doing underground work. Also Regulations 118 pg 124 and 127 of the Police Act are discriminatory of women Regulation 118(g) provides that for a woman to be enlisted as a recruit constable in the Nigerian police force she must be unmarried. Regulation 24 states that a woman police officer without the consent of the commissioner of police in charge of the state  she is serving would not be allowed to be a bonafide officer. Regulation 127   provides that a woman police officer who becomes pregnant shall be discharged and shall not be re enlisted without the permission of the Inspector General of police. Admirably, section 42(3) of the 1999 constitution, as amended sub section (3) protects from invalidation of any law which inter alia imposes a restriction on the appointment of anyone into the Nigerian Police Force. As provided by Article 11 of (CEDAW) equal rights to employment should be ensured as Nigeria been a signatory to this should look into the above laws and seek to enact legislations which protect women from discrimination on the basis of marriage or marital status.
To further buttress the issue, i would use this medium to talk a very significant example of discrimination against women in d workplace and as earlier stated our judicial system is nit exempted from such discriminatory practices.
On Monday ,5 November, chief justice AlomaMukhtar was scheduled to administer oaths of office to newly appointed justices of Nigeria’s court of Appeal at the premises of the supreme court in Abuja. All 12 had scaled through the rigorous process preceding appointment and had received their letters of appointment from President Goodluck Jonathan.         
To enable them fulfil the administrative processes preceding swearing in,including the obligatory assets declaration process,the office of the chief Justice required newly appointed justices to arrive in Abuja the previous week .they all did. On the afternoon of Friday,2 November, the secretary to the Chief Justice telephoned one of the newly appointed justices ,Honourable Justice IfeomaJombo-Offor,to request her to see the chief justice urgently. Justice Jombo-Ofor complied.    At the supreme court, Justice Jombo-Ofor proceeded to the chambers of the chief justice. Neither party has yet issued a public record of what they discussed. Sources at the supreme court authoritatively report that at the meeting, the chief justice briefly interrogated Justice Jombo-Ofor as to her`` state of origin’’ and accused her of not being an indigene of the state she claimed before dismissing her summarily. What is clear is that following her brief encounter with the chief Justice ,Justice Jumbo-Ofor was seen leaving the supreme court premises in severe distress.
On Saturday,3 November, the chief registrar  of the supreme court instructed her through a telephone call not to attend or present herself for the swearing on 5 November. All these developments took place orally.   On Monday,5 November, the chief  justice administered the oath on 11 Justices instead of 12. Chief Justice Mukhtar had administratively stepped down  JusticeJombo-Ofor from among the justices to be sworn in. It emerged that Justice Jombo-Ofor was not sworn in, because in the opinion of the chief justice she was not an ``indigene’’ of the state whose origins she claimed in her appointment papers, Abia state.
In one sentence, the decision of the Chief Justice in this matter pertaining to Justice Jombo-Ofor’s swearing in is flawed in process, wrong in law, and subversive of our constitutional values of equality among citizens. In saying this, it should  be borne in mind that in acting the way she did, the chief justice did not exercise judicial powers as a court but acted administratively . Her decision can, therefore, and must be second guessed.
Let us begin with the process. The administration of oath of office is the last, confirmatory stage in the prolonged process of judicial appointments. With respect to the appointments to the court of Appeal, the process begins with the nomination of candidates by te respective heads of court around the country. In Justice Jombo-Ofor’s case, the chief Judge of Abia state would have consented to her appointment. Thereafter, the security services usually investigate candidates and prepare dossiers on them. The nominations and dossiers would be considered substantively by the Federal Judicial Service Commission (FJSC) chaired by the chief justice of the federation, which weeds out the candidates. The FJSC then reports to the National Judicial Council (NJC) ,also chaired by the chief  justice , which decides on which candidates to recommend to the President as the appointing authority for nomination.     Based on the nominations received from the NJC, the President then exercises’ the power to appoint under section 238(2) of the 1999 constitution to formally execute the instruments of appointment and to issue and transmit letters of appointment to the successful candidates.   This process is long and arduous. It involves all the branches of our government in the most intricate advertisement of constitutional checks and balances possible.     This is why the decision to refuse to administer the oath of office to Justice Jombo- Ofor is also wrong in law. Having been involved institutionally in the process of appointment, the chief justice is devoid of the legal power to countermand the appointing authority that she is not. Once the instrument of appointment is executed, Justice Jombo-Ofor can only cease to be a Justice of the Court of Appeal if she is removed through an established judicial disciplinary process, impeached as provided in the constitution or her elevation is nullified by a court of competent jurisdiction. None of this happened here. Surely, a matter as serious as this cannot be handled orally or by a sequence of cellular telephone calls.               
     The flaws in process and want of legality reinforce the damage that this entire episode does to our constitutional values. It denies women, especially married, equality of opportunity contrary to our constitution. In addition  to being a judge , Ifeoma jumbo-ofor is a 58- year old married grandmother. The woman who later became Mrs Jombo-Ofor was born in the former Eastern Region of Nigeria in 1954. By the time she got married 33 years ago in 1979, her parental origins had become Anambra state but her husband was from Imo. In 1981, she was appointed a Magistrate in Anambra state. In 1991, when Abiastste was created, her husband’s state became Abia. In 1998, the Abia state Government appointed her a Judge of the High court of Abia state. She has served in this capacity since then.      In any serious clime, this story of her exclusion from judicial oath of office would be laughable. The process was ham-handed to say the least and it surely counts as tragic that we have got to appoint where the defining issue in judicial appointment is not whether the candidate is up to the difficult job of being a judge but where they come from or based on their sex. What the Chief Justice suggests by her action is that there can be no potability of origins for  the Nigerian woman.       
     Yet in 1985, the Supreme Court had decided in OLOWU V OLOWU[33] that there is in fact such potabiity. For married women, this is important. Every married woman belongs to the place where she is born and also to the place into which she is married. This dual identity is  not opportunistic . it is the reality of every married women. Instead of affirming this fact, the chief justice took an administrative decision whose immediate impact is to diminish public service opportunities open to married women in Nigeria by rendering them effectively stateless.  Ironically, 20 years ago, the same NJC’s predecessor, the Advisory Judicial Committee (AJC), rejected the appointment of a female judge from then Cross-River state because she was an unmarried mother. So as a woman, you lose professional preferment, whether married or unmarried. Men suffer no such jeopardise.     The treatment of Justice JomboOfor is disgraceful and beneath the  dignity of the judicial branch.
On 7th November , the senate took the unprecedented step of adopting a resolution  condemning the decision of Chief Justice and asking her to swear in Justice Jombo-Ofor. They are right .in order to rescue the integrity of our judicial system  and our constitutional values, the chief justice should comply. To do otherwise would compound illegality with a travesty[34]
In this section of the research work it would  seek to address the issues as regard women and owning property. Under the convention on all forms of discrimination against women (CEDAW) Article 15 seeks to enjoin all state parties to ensure full contractual capacity of women and to administer property. In Nigeria, although women are not legally barred from owning land, only men could own land under some customary land tenure systems. Women in the Eastern part of Nigeria could only own land by way of marriage or family customary practices such as the osu caste system ,oliekpe and the NrachiNwanyicustomary law of inheritance in Nnewi, Anambra state do not recognise  a woman’s right to inherit her husband’s property, and many widows are rendered destitute when in-laws take over the estate of the deceased husband. These widows in most cases are considered part of the husbands property an could become the wife of her late husband’s people who treat her as they so please. In the Northern part of Nigeria, the practice of purdah is prevalent. Where women are secluded from the men outside the family.In  Zamfara state for example, local governments instituted the separation of transportation of men and women. Subject to the provision of the constitution every Nigerian has the right to own movable and immovable properties anywhere in the country.[35]the overriding effect is the provision of section 44 which  embodies the common law principle of eminent domain. Therefore if I should humbly interpret the section all citizens of the country would include women and therefore  by virtue of that section women should not be deprived of owning properties anywhere. However some customary laws such as is applicable amongst the igbos disallow women from owning immovable property,. In the case of ERUWA V ERUWA[36]The high court held that a woman is entitled to the portion of property given to her by way of inheritance. But not entitled to lands or farmlands not given to her. In the case of OLOKO V GIWA[37]A widow has no right of succession under the customary law, although   she has a right of residence in the family house during her widowhood, conditional to her good behaviour.[38] Under the Yoruba custom both male and females are successors to family estate .this was decided in the case of SANUSI V MAKINDE[39] Under Islamic law both male and female are entitled to inherit whatever their parents left behind for them. It is important to note that in some part if Nigeria, women do have some inheritance rights.
In the few matrilineal societies of Afikpo and ohiafia, women have  full legal capacity to own land ( insofar as land can be owned by anyone  in these areas) and to transmit their rights and interest to others either inter vivos or at death[40] . The discussion which follows must, therefore be understood as relating exclusively to the patrilineal societies which in fact constitutes the bulk of igboland.
Women’s right and interest in land may be said to fall into two separate classes, viz (a) direct and (b) derivative. By           “direct rights’ and interest here we mean those which a woman acquires and enjoys as of right and independently of her social or legal relationship with anyone person such as her husband or parent. Derivative interests are those which a woman acquires or enjoys by virtue of her status as a wife or ward. A woman’s direct interest in land –it is a popular opinion among foreign writers that women have no proprietary rights or interest in land. Status of Nigerian women in political positions examining the status of Nigerian women in the political arena cannot be divorced from the consideration of the entire political situation in Nigeria. For the larger part of Nigeria since independence in 1960, Nigeria has been governed by military dictatorship. The military governments were largely male dominated with token appointments given to women. Successive military governments from 1966 to 1999 with a brief spell of civil rule in 1979-83 only further perpetrated the exclusion of women in governance and decision making process especially in the public sector. Nigerian women were not in the military hierarchy therefore could not be members of the highest legislative and executive body combined in the various military ruling
Councils. Women have long had access to land in sub Saharan Africa , but men and women have already ,if ever had identical kinds of claims to land largely because the genders have varying differentiating positions within the kinship systems that are the primary organizing order for land access . It is striking that there is no recognized formal category for the particular character of women and access. Marriage is used as a determining variable in women’s land right because it is the major means by which women and men access land in Nigeria. However, whereas women’s land rights are dependent with men ,mens rights are not dependent on their  relations with women. Moreover, women are threatened  with  dispossession if divorced or widowed. But a divorced muslim women is entitled to take all her personal property, including land and landed property.
Women often also retain some residual land claims in their own kin groups as well as frequently obtaining land by loan or gift from a wider circle of social ties. There are variations from one ethnic group to another. For example, among the Edos (the Benin people), the land tenure in practice is promigeniture, that is, land passes to the first son on the death of the land owner. Also, in some chiefdoms among the ekittis, ijeshas and ondos in the south western part of the country, a regent usually the first daughter of the immediate deceased king or chief is appointed during a period of interregnum.

The courts have stated that Nigeria is an egalitarian society where the civilised sociology does not discriminate  against women. However , there are customs  all over which  discriminate against women folk, which regard them as inferior to men folk. All human beings are born into the world and are expected to contribute their quota to its development without any inhibition on ground of sex.
Let us now survey a few instances where the courts have stamped their authority.
In THERESA ONWO V NWOFOR OKO[41], on the death of her husband who was a non believer, her hair was against her will, forcefully shaved, assault was committed on her person and she was locked in a room. Her action under the fundamental Human Right was upheld by the courts even though it was against a private person.
In MOJEKWU V EJIKEME[42], the court held that the nrachi custom of Nnewi, which enables a man to keep one of his daughters unmarried perpetually under his roof to raise issues for him, is a sort of window dressing designed to oppress and cheat the women folk, the cout held it to be against the dictates of equity and repugnant  and contrary to natural justice, equity and good conscience. Niki Tobi Justice Court of Appeal stated that the nrachi ceremony encourages promiscuity and prostitution the latter condemned in Article 6 of the convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women (CEDAW).
In MOJEKWU V MOJEKWU[43], the courts held that the oli-ekpe custom which permits the son of the brother of a deceased person to inherit his property to the exclusion of his female child, is discriminatory and therefore inconsistent with the doctrines of equity. They further said that;
            “....Any form of societal discrimination on ground of sex apart from being 
Unconstitutional is an antithesis to the society built on the tenets of democracy....”
In ANAJEMBA UKE V ALBERT IRO[44], the court stated that the right of all sexes are protected under the constitution which is the organic law of the land therefore any assertion or argument that a woman cannot give evidence in relation to title to land is oblivious of the constitutional provision which guarantees equal right and protection of all sexes under the law. These are but a few cases where the courts have dealt with the discriminatory practices, which are perpetrated against women.
“.....the contribution of the women folk as a procreative medium in the annals of the human race imposes a duty on mankind to accord to that special breed of homo-sapiens a dignity and respect for which advanced culture provides a model worth emulating.”[45]
Furthermore, any law or custom , that seeks to relegate women to the status of a second class citizen thus depriving them of their invaluable and constitutionally guaranteed rights are laws and customs fit for the garbage and should be consigned to history.[46]   

 Although this is quite similar to the above section of this research work, I want to use this medium to further stress the various traditional practices that women in most ethnic groups of Nigeria face as a result of their sex, marriage and other circumstances. It should be noted also that whereas as mentioned above the courts have in their way mitigated the harmful traditional practices there are still diverse practices which have not been successfully been protected. For there exist legal protection, but enforcement of this is not obtainable in the country, as would be discussed in this research work, the various obstacles which affect the implementation the convention which Nigeria is signatory to.  In RUNGUMAWA V RUNGUMAWA,[47] the court of appeal held that under Islamic law of marriage, it is incumbent upon the husband to provide for his wife by feeding her, clothing and providing accommodation for her within his means, even if his wife is rich.
Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a practice that transcends ethnic and religious confines in Nigeria. However, some states have taken legislative measures to tackle this scourge and other widow hood practices. Women experience considerable discrimination as well as physical abuse. Although there are no laws forbidding women from particular fields of employment, women are often discriminated against because if Government inaction and tolerance towards customary and religious practices that perpetuate such discrimination. The international human right movement recognizes the right of women to be free from violence, and the obligation of governments to take steps to eliminate violence against women.[48]the Special Rapporteur on Violence against women, established in1994 , has the responsibility to investigate and make reports on cases of violence against women globally. Also the  optional protocol to CEDAW adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1998 permits individual complaints to be made to CEDAW committee by people in those states that have ratified the  protocol. The vulnerability of Nigerian women is an incontestable fact despite the ratification by Nigeria of a number of international standards which sanction gender discrimination and inequality. Among such standards are the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the commitment of the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, China (Onyegu and Essiet, 2002). Women and the girl-child still have unequal access to education, healthcare, adequate housing and employment. Traditional cultural practices and beliefs prevalent in the Nigerian society are equally responsible for this. Among the practices and belief under reference are male-child preference, denial of women of the right to own and inherit property, child and early marriages and female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM). As harmful to women as these practices by those who practice them or subscribed to their practice; matters are not helped by the ignorance of women about their basic rights. This ignorance makes it impossible for them to question the rationality of these beliefs and consciously and unconsciously they endorse their perpetuation and ultimately the infringement of their economic and social and cultural rights.There remains remarkable growth in trafficking in women and children to Europe and neighbouring African states for illicit purposes. The police officers and immigration officers throughout Europe, particularly in the Netherlands, Italy and Czech Republic report continuous flow of Nigerian women entrapped and sold into prostitution. Trafficking in persons is forbidden in Nigeria by domestic laws including the prohibition of traffic in persons Act, 2003;the Protocol to Prevent and Suppress, and punish Trafficking in persons, Especially women and children supplementing the UN convention on Transitional Organized crime( Ratification and Enforcement) Act ,2001. We see from the foregoing that there are domestic laws made for the prevention of women and child trafficking but there seem not to be any of such domestic laws in the country for the prevention of harmful traditional practices against women. As aptly pointed out in the cases, cited above, traditional practices repugnant to natural justice equity and good conscience are frowned out by the court in Nigeria but it is sad to note that various practices still exist and is still practiced. Our constitution which accepts some cultures which is subject to the repugnancy test is  a step toward complete eradication of such practices but it is expected that the legislature should take further steps by domesticating the convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women (CEDAW). These various practices have affected women and produced a population of women with low self esteem, and inability to contribute meaningfully to economic growth and national development. The exclusive recourse to separate women-specific instruments in protecting women’s right is not enough. There is obvious need to integrate women into the mainstream of human rights system for fuller protection of women’s rights. The vulnerability of Nigerian women is an incontestable fact despite the ratification by Nigeria of a number of international standards which sanction gender discrimination and inequality. Among such standards are the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the commitment of the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, China . Women and the girl-child still have unequal access to education, healthcare, adequate housing and employment. Traditional cultural practices and beliefs prevalent in the Nigerian society are equally responsible for this. Among the practices and belief under reference are male-child preference, denial of women of the right to own and inherit property, child and early marriages and female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM). As harmful to women as these practices by those who practice them or subscribed to their practice; matters are not helped by the ignorance of women about their basic rights. This ignorance makes it impossible for them to question the rationality of these beliefs and practices and unconsciously they endorse their perpetuation and ultimately the infringement of their economic and social and cultural right of the Fourth Traditional cultural practices and beliefs prevalent in the Nigerian society are equally responsible for this. Among the practices a child and early marriages and female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM). As harmful to women as these practices by those who practice them or subscribed to their practice; matters are not helped by the ignorance of women about their basic rights. This ignorance makes it impossible for them to question the rationality of these beliefs and practices and consciously and unconsciously they endorse their perpetuation and ultimately the infringement of their economic and social and cultural rights. Furthermore, In the southern region, customary laws allow marriage of girls between 12 and 15 years, while in other regions marriage is authorised from 9 years. A 2004 United Nations report estimated that 28% of girls between 15 and 29 years were married, divorced, or widowed. Polygamy is authorized and widely practiced under both customary and Sharia laws. Nearly one third of Nigerian women are in polygamous unions.

Sharia law recognizes four main types of divorce. The talaq procedure can only be initiated by the husband. It allows him to repudiate the marriage by announcing out loud that he intends to divorce his wife. The khul’u procedure allows a woman to request a divorce by paying a “ransom” to her husband in order to terminate the marriage. The khul’u is settled in court. The tafriq and faskh procedures also require court intervention. Divorce is pronounced following an investigation into the truth of the wife’s accusations. Under the Penal Code of Northern Nigeria, husbands are permitted to beat their wives provided it does not rise to the level of “grievous hurt” (s. 55). Under Sharia law, the husband can withdraw maintenance if his wife refuses sexual inter- course. Under Sharia law (eg. Kano State Sharia Penal Code), a woman alleging rape must produce 4 witnesses to the rape. If the rape is not proved she can be punished for adultery with a prison sentence or flogging . Under customary law, only men have the right to own land. Sharia law does not allow women access to real property. Under customary law, a widow cannot inherit marital property. Despite intensive lobbying efforts of women’s rights organisations in Nigeria, the legislature has yet to pass into law 9 draft bills on violence against women, including bills prohibiting domestic violence, female genital mutilation, and sexual offences. Domestic violence is extremely prevalent in Nigeria. It is estimated that 20% of women are victims of domestic violence and such violence is generally condoned by society. There is no specific legislation sanctioning domestic violence and marital rape is not criminalised. It is almost impossible to obtain convictions for rape due to strict evidential requirements. In addition, women tend not to report rape for fear of shaming themselves and their family members, and aware that the authorities generally refuse to file their complaints. When complaints are filed, investigations are often abandoned.

Despite the passage of laws in several states prohibiting female genital mutilation (FGM), and the adoption of a National Plan of Action aimed at reducing the preva- lence and incidence of FGM, the practice remains widespread. A 2007 World Health Organization study reported that FGM is practised in the vast majority of Nigerian states. It is estimated that across the country 20% of women aged 15 – 49 have under- gone some form of FGM and the areas with the highest prevalence are south-western Nigeria (56.9%), south-eastern Nigeria (40.8%), and southern Nigeria (34.7%). Although laws protecting the rights of widows have been adopted in several states, across the country women continue to be subjected to widowhood rites. Such rites include forcing widows to drink the water used to bathe the husband’s corpse, or to crawl over his corpse. According to the practice of levirate, a widow can be forced to marry to her deceased husband’s male relative.
Despite the adoption of the Trafficking in Persons Prohibition Law Enforcement and Administration Act in 2003 (amended in 2005) and the establishment of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons, trafficking remains widespread. From the foregoing we see that there are certain legal aids in place to tackle the issues
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