Marriage should be a beautiful thing where your love for each other is constantly bringing out the best in you and your partner. It should be consensual, and at a stage in your life where it is truly what you want devoid from the pressures of family and society. However, how many women in Nigeria can say this is the circumstances that led to their union?
Osinachi Nwachukwu, the popular gospel singer known for the song “Ekwueme” was recently murdered due to the long term domestic abuse she suffered in the hands of her husband. Besides the constant beating, she was isolated from her family including her twin sister and forced to give the profits from her career to her husband. Her family and the few that knew about it advised her to leave but she believed that God would change her husband and that God did not like divorce.
What happened to Osinachi is heartbreaking but not unique. Former minister of education, Oby Ezekwesili, mentioned how this is actually an epidemic and 48 percent of Nigerian women experienced abuse during the pandemic according to UN reports. Nigerians have an unhealthy relationship with religion and often find themselves defending the most ridiculous takes for it. In response to Osinachi’s death, some christians and pastors have mentioned her death as a form of suffering for her faith and for that she will be rewarded. This is just another example of twisting religion to satisfy your beliefs.
Religion in Nigeria has gotten to this toxic point where everyone has to appear perfect and holy, or die trying. Literally. Imagine the number of women that have died from enduring years and years of abuse, but never got this much coverage. What about Busola Dakolo who spoke about how she was raped by Coza’s pastor and received backlash for telling her story? If the church is supposed to be a place of healing, shouldn’t she have been embraced and the pastor dealt with? Stories like these just silence more women and get us nowhere.
On the other side of the conversation, Osinachi’s death has led to more women speaking up about their abuse, a popular one including Precious Chikwendu, Femi Fani-Kayode’s ex wife. Kayode is the former minister of aviation. She raised a valid point on how it isn’t easy to just up and leave especially if your status is involved.
“What will people say?” “Nobody wants damaged goods.” “Just forgive him and pray. God hates divorce.” All these are common things that we hear to keep women in toxic unions. Marriage has been taught to young girls as something to aspire to and often leave boys to just be boys. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve met women that have planned their wedding and marriage to the tea and men completely knowing nothing about that part of life until it’s time to get married. There’s an imbalance in how we raise children and it’s resulted in women seeing men and marriage as the prize and even using it as an insult to women that are content with their life and singleness.
As a society, we need to do better for both men and women. The conversations and upbringing of children needs to change. Marriage should not be slavery or competition for a woman. It is not a necessity but a desire that should happen at the right time. We need to be more intentional about these conversations, and about abuse as well. We all need to educate ourselves on the types of abuse and how to respond. There is no reason why these incidents should be isolated. As for the church, a reality check needs to be done on whether it is a place for perfect people or a place where there is no judgment or inhibitions so that more people like Osinachi don’t have to hide parts of themselves anymore.
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