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Does religion condone Domestic Violence against Nigerian women? [Pulse Explainer]

Osinachi was a gospel singer whose most famous work was her feature in a song by Prospa Ochimama titled, “Ekwueme,’ released in 2019.

Initial reports of her death pointed to throat cancer as the cause but eventually, another story gained momentum which changed the entire course of the conversation surrounding her demise.

Osinachi’s family members and colleagues claimed that she was beaten to death by her husband. A subset of the conversation surronding her death has been about the role of the Nigerian church in all of this.

Osinachi’s family members and colleagues claimed that she was beaten to death by her husband, Peter Nwachukwu who has since been arrested. The question on everyone’s lips seems to be because if many people knew, why wasn’t anything done?

Again, one has to ask: why isn’t the church doing or much to help its female congregants faced with such life-threatening perils?

The answer is tricky, often an interplay between societal expectations, financial obligations and religion.

The Christian doctrine preaches the leadership of the man or husband and the submission of the wife, but does it in any way condone violence? No, it doesn’t. Ephesians 5: 28-29 says “Even so husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no man ever hates his own flesh but nourishes and cherishes it as Christ does the church.”

The Islamic doctrine preaches something similar. I asked an Islamic scholar, a renowned lecturer at Crescent University, what the Quran had to say about love and marriage. “Allah wants us to marry, he knows our lives will be unfulfilled without marriage. He created relationships for love and tenderness. He told husbands to feed and clothe their wives,” was his response.

“O you who have believed, it is not lawful for you to inherit women by compulsion. And do not make difficulties for them to take [back] part of what you gave them unless they commit a clear immorality. And live with them in kindness. For if you dislike them – perhaps you dislike a thing and Allah makes therein much good. But if you want to replace one wife with another and you have given one of them a great amount [in gifts], do not take [back] from it anything. Would you take it in injustice and manifest sin?” [ Quran 4:19-20]

Since we have established the idea that marriage is supposed to be about love and tenderness and that these religions do not condone violence, what happens when a man beats a woman? Can she divorce him?

I asked a pastor of a popular church in Port Harcourt and this was what he had to say about domestic violence and divorce in Christianity. “Domestic violence is not a ground for divorce under Christianity, but I believe the woman should pack out until it is guaranteed that the man has changed,” he said.

“There is no precedent in the bible for divorce, marriage is supposed to be forever even though extenuating circumstances can make it wise to dissolve or separate the marriage. It is a hard pill to swallow but it is what it is.”

Under Islamic law, a woman cannot get a divorce from her husband, only a man can and in some cases he is permitted to strike her. The Islamic lecturer quoting the Quran and Hadith said “If your wife is behaving wrongly or is being destructive, continue cautioning her and persuade her to stop. If she does not change, you should create space in your matrimonial bed, that is, abstain from intimate relations.”

“If all these do not work, the prophet Mohammed said you can use the two fingers to strike her lap or a place where no one can see it or she cannot show anyone.”

The reason why two fingers are emphasized is to show that there should not be severity in the ‘strike’ and it cannot be on her face or arms.

“If he has done all this then he can seek divorce by saying, ‘I divorce you’ three times. After that, she will still spend three months and 11 days under his roof, he will continue to feed her but they must not have intercourse, once they do, the marriage is back on.”

Both religions do not make divorce an option and with the stigma of divorce and the doctrine of submission prevailing in the minds of many Nigerian women, they may stay in such marriages.

Since the news, many popular pastors, artistes and priests have condemned the act done on Osinachi and advised women to stay away from a man who beats them but how does this play out in real life? In real life, these issues are swept under the carpet until it is too late or people try to reconcile the couple instead of taking the woman as far away as possible.

Hopefully, this is a lesson to the church, the Islamic community, family and friends to remove a woman from an abusive man.

Sourced From Nigerian Music

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