Why Violence among Lovers in Nigeria?

Keywords: Intimate partner violence, domestic violence, adverse childhood experiences, Christian religion, Muslim religion, African cultural norms, Nigeria.


Why violence among lovers in Nigeria? What does intimate relationship mean? How much of intimate partner violence occur in Nigeria? Why would lovers express violence to each other? What are the characteristics of those who perpetrate Intimate Partner Violence (IPV)? Are there characteristics that can make someone a victim to abuse?

Most people, who marry, all over the world, hope that they will live out their lives together. So they plan to have their own homes, raise children, and experience the joy of being grandparents together. Some couples even hope to die together in each other’s arms. And none expects to be victims of intimate partner violence.

But unfortunately, some people take their marriage vows out of context.  A former FBI agent in the United States of America highlighted a problem in the couple’s vows during marriage. He expressed that the words “until death do us part” were being misunderstood by some people. They are seeing those words as a lethal form of separation. This means that to them, those words are taken to literal extremes to cause murder.

To many Nigerians, those words mean finality. It means that once those nuptial ropes are tied, it can never be untied by any human, except death. Even in most cultures in Nigeria, being married is a final issue no matter the situation one finds oneself. This is one reason why violence among lovers in Nigeria exists.

What does intimate relationship mean?

An intimate relationship occurs when two people exhibit close, familiar and affectionate or loving relationship with each other. This couple should have a deep knowledge and understand each other well.  This intimate relationship usually involves romantic and sexual relationship. The couple could be married or not married. But they have a strong emotional attachment to each other and satisfy each other’s need.

Unfortunately, even those in intimate relationships perpetrate violence against themselves. This is called intimate partner violence. Actually, IPV is part of domestic violence. Domestic violence is violence against members of the family, including violence against children and members of the extended family.

How much of IPV occur in Nigeria?

Most IPV are perpetrated by men against women. This means that both men and women can perpetrate IPV, but men are in the majority of perpetrators. It is important also to know that IPV occurs more when the woman is pregnant, during weekends and during hot dry weather.

It is estimated that one in four women in Nigeria experience IPV, and between 31% to 61%, for psychological abuse.  The physical abuse rate is between 7% to 31%, while sexual abuse is between 20% and 30%. Intimate Partner Violence in Nigeria occur more in the southeast part of the country giving 78.8%.

The prevalence rate among Nigerian pregnant women is quite high. In the northern part of the country the rate is 28% in Zaria, 63.2% in Jos and 30.4% in Sokoto. The rate among pregnant women in Abakiliki, southeastern Nigeria is 44.6%.

Concerning men being victims in IPV, in a research from Port Harcourt Teaching hospital, 10.4% were males. Men are also abused in IPV, but the number is less than that of women and the effects are less.

Why would lovers express violence to each other?    

So why would those who have an affectionate, loving and sexual relationship with each other express violence of any sort? Why violence among lovers in Nigeria? There are general characteristics people who perpetrate violence on their spouses have and there are individual characteristics. Any reason to destabilize these already laid down cultural practices could result to violence.  And violence or abuse is an expression of social power perpetrators use to control or dominate their partners.

The general characteristics.

The culture of the people:

In the African culture, there are promotions of patriarchal gender norms and roles. Here, women are undervalued and men dominate both the domestic and public life. So the man is seen as the supreme head of the family and the bread winner. The woman is relegated to the background and seen as a tool to be used in producing children and domestic chores. So women are generally told that they are to be seen and not heard. Some people go as far as saying that women’s role ends in the kitchen and in the bedroom. When women begin to directly or indirectly agitate for their rights, IPV can occur. And unfortunately, due to the culture, 65% of Nigerian women believe that men are justified to beat their wives. This is a major factor to why there is violence among lovers in Nigeria.

The religion of the people:

In Nigeria, there are three main religions, the Christian religion, the Muslim religion and the Traditional religion. Generally, these religions stem from culture of the people who instituted them. And these religious factors contribute immensely to answer the question of why violence exists among lovers in Nigeria.

The Christian religion –

This stemmed from the Jewish culture which actually promotes gender norms and roles. These can be seen in the old testament of the Christian Bible. But with the coming of Jesus Christ in the New Testament, some modifications were made as it concerns women.

The New testament did much to portray women like the Blessed Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus.  Jesus accepted women, made mention of them and gave them some form of protection. In so many verses in the New Testament, men are told in different ways to love their wives. The New Testament mentioned that women should accept men as the head of the family and be submissive to them. But it went further to say that men should love their wives as Christ loves the church. The Bible said that Jesus Christ died for the church which is His bride. And never was there any verse in the New Testament where beating or any form of abuse was permitted on the wives.

Unfortunately, most Nigerian, would only read the verse where submission is mentioned, and take it out of context. And any wife who is seen as not being submissive will be disciplined in any form of abuse the husband chooses.

There is also in the Bible, Mathew 5:32 that write that adultery is committed when married people leave each other. This makes incompatible people stick together in marriages that are not working, to the point of even being killed. 

Then there is the marriage vow that is also taken out of context by some Christian denominations. The vow of ‘till death do us part’ is taken to mean that there should be no separation or divorce. And some violence perpetrators see it as an only means to get rid of an unruly spouse.

Muslim religion –

This, has undergone certain modernization over the years. There are some verses in the Holy Qur’an that talks about the preference of man over the woman. For example 4:34, the traditional interpretation stresses that females should be obedient and men should have authority. These traditionalists also see the chapter and verse as a reason to beat their wives as a discipline for disobedience. But many modern authorities have challenged these traditional understandings of this chapter and verse.  Although there are many verses that request that husbands should love their wives, some still stick to the old beliefs.

In the traditional religion –

The women are seen as powerless and are seen to service the men sexually. The traditional religion in Nigeria promotes gender inequality.

Economic reasons:

Deprivation of any kind can lead to frustration and violence. So unemployment as well as under employment can predispose to IPV. Unemployment and under employment is very prevalent in Nigeria. Unemployment rate as at 2021 is 35%.

As at 2020, the rate of poverty according to Nigerian National Bureau of Statistics is 40%. This translates to 83 million Nigerians living in poverty.

So poverty and tension due to the man’s inability to provide for his family can lead to abuse. But when the woman takes up the financial provision for the family, for some families, it is a risk for IPV. Also when the wife contributes more than the husband, it increases the risk for violence.  These are due to the fact that the men believe that their authorities are being challenged. And when the wife is economically poor, it can be a risk for being a victim of IPV.


This secrecy to any form of abuse perpetrates it. When the perpetrator or the victim keeps the abuse secret, it makes it more likely for more abuse to happen.

Individual characteristics.

The characteristics of the perpetrators:

The level of testosterone –

It is known that high level of the male hormone testosterone is increased in men who are aggressive. But the real fact about testosterone is that it will only lead to aggression if the environment is right.

Psychological issues –

Issues such as impulsivity, Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), personality disorders, low self esteem all contribute to predisposing to IPV. Also the adults who are suffering from mental illness, abuse their spouses. When a child experiences any ACEs, or a combination of them, there is likelihood of perpetrating IPV in adulthood.  

Men who had gone through ACEs as a children are more likely to abuse their partners. These ACEs include physical, psychological and sexual abuse. Lack of a positive male role in the home, or where the mother is abused, are also risk factors. Thus IPV can come from family modeling the behavior. The effect of ACEs on IPV is called intergenerational transmission of violence.

People who are impulsive or have poor self control can easily strike at people at the slightest provocation. And they can easily strike their spouses.  They do this without thinking about their actions. And most often such people have regrets.

Personality disorders such as narcissistic, antisocial, borderline personality disorders are factors to IPV. Psychopaths are also perpetrators. Those with low self esteem or those feeling insecure are also at risk of perpetrating IPV.

Those who are suffering from mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and anxiety disorders are prone to spouse abuse. Also people who suffer from depression can perpetrate violence against their partners. Men who have delusional disorders such as Othello, i.e. delusion of jealousy abuse their spouses. 

The abuse of substance –

This is also a risk factor to perpetrating IPV. Those who abuse substances such as alcohol, cannabis, cocaine, methamphetamine (ICE), etc. abuse their spouse.

History of criminality –

Having committed crime in the past is also a risk factor to IPV. Such a person could have any of the above mentioned causes or risk factors.

Infidelity –

This is a risk factor for IPV and one of the big reasons why violence exists among lovers in Nigeria. An unfaithful husband does not care who he hurts, even if it is his wife.

Victim characteristics:

Psychological issues –

Issues such as ACEs, submissiveness and low self esteem put people at risk of being victims of IPV. Also those who have anxious attachment become victims. Just like perpetrators, spouses who have experienced ACEs in childhood are at risk of becoming victims of IPV in adulthood.

Women who are too submissive are victims as well. This is more among women who take the cultural norms of the supremacy of men to extreme. These women believe that women should be forced to submit to men. And women with low self esteem or who feel inferior also become victims. These women are not too sure who they are and what they want in life.

People who have anxious attachment issues are more likely to be and remain in an abusive relationship. This is because such people fear being abandoned or rejected. They want the intimate relationship by all means, so it is difficult for them to leave an abusive relationship.

Social issues –

Also issues such as isolation or lack of social support increase the likelihood of being a victim to spouse abuse. Most abuse perpetrators in IPV usually cut off the members of their wives’ families and friends. With this, the perpetrators believe that their victims have no one to speak on their behalf. Spouses who are over dependent on their partner are also at risk of being abused.

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