Divorce is the ugly little word that people sometimes refuse to utter. Some would rather wither under the weight of an unhappy marriage than bask in the sunshine of being happily divorced because of the stigma attached to divorce. Many people often cloak this hatred and stigmatization of divorce under religion and culture. The Bible prohibits divorce and Divorce is un-African are statements often repeated. Therefore, this creates a society where women are sometimes trapped in abusive homes because the stigma associated with leaving is often overwhelming.
I recently watched the movie “Knocking on Heaven’s Door” featuring Blossom Chukwujekwu and Adesuwa Etomi. As far as Nollywood movies go, it is at least tolerable. Adesuwa Etomi stars as the heroine who is being abused by her husband, played by Blossom Chukwujekwu. He beats her repeatedly, abandons her by the roadside, and even rapes her at one point, but she stays through it all. The interesting thing about this situation is the reasons she gives for not leaving:
“I am a role model to people.”
“What will people say?”
“I don’t want people to judge him.”
“I am praying for a miracle.”
“I can only leave this marriage in the case of infidelity or death.”
In vividly capturing the shackles that are used to bind a lot of helpless Nigerian women in abusive marriages, the movie pretends like divorce is not a viable option.
This movie also reminded me of a video, “When Can an African Woman Divorce her Husband,” I watched on Battabox. Battabox is a YouTube channel that posts videos of interviews conducted in various places in Nigeria. The majority of the interviewees stated that there is no reason for a woman to divorce her husband. What if he beats her?
“She should manage.”
“She should endure.”
“She should pray about it.”
What if he cheats repeatedly? (See answers above)
In addition to the media, we often have people very close to us admonishing against divorce. A friend of mine was updating me on the welfare of a friend of hers who is in an abusive marriage. The husband and his family beat her regularly. They abused her even while she was pregnant. The husband flaunts his numerous girlfriends in her presence. When I asked my friend why she had not suggested divorce to her friend, she reminded me that the Bible does not support divorce and that she could not advice anyone to divorce her husband. I was lost for words.
When people invoke religion and culture to speak against divorce, they fail to consider the humanity of the helpless victims. I told my friend that the God I serve would not want a precious child of his to be tormented, broken down, and abused in a marriage. When a Nigerian woman asked me if I would throw away my marriage just because my husband beats me, I told her that I would not throw away my marriage, but that my husband would have already thrown away the marriage the moment he decided that I resembled a punching bag.
With a woman being told that divorce is not an option from the media and close friends, she is often condemned to a life of unhappiness. In the movie, Adesuwa Etomi escapes her abuse when her husband dies. He is pushed by an ex-girlfriend, hits his head on the stairs, and dies before help could arrive. It is a tiny bit commendable that the abuser dies, but the movie makes a false promise with its “too convenient” resolution. In the real world, it is not the abuser, but the abused that dies. The too frequently read stories of Mr. A beating Mrs. A to death or Mr. B strangling Mrs. B to death demand that we open up the conversation on divorce.
Divorce should not be the first solution in all situations, but sometimes it is the only solution. It is time for us to collectively join the fight to free women that have been condemned to hellish existence because they have been told that divorce is not an option. If we must shout it from the rooftops, then that is what we will do. If we have to sing about it, then break out the speakers. If we must write about it, then let us type away into the night. Whatever voice we have, we must lend to the fight to free every man and woman from condemnation because the life we save may be our own.
Kambili M. A. Chimalu is a humanist who is interested in how people (especially Nigerians) think, what motivates them, and how they interact with the world around them. Kambili is especially interested in the well-being of the Nigerian woman and child.
Views expressed above are solely that of the author and not of Omojuwa.com or its associates.