Last Sunday was International Men’s Day. “International Men’s Day celebrates worldwide the positive values that men bring to the world, their families and communities. We highlight positive role models and raise awareness of men’s well-being.”
The theme of this year’s day was “ZERO MALE SUICIDE.” As I looked at the theme, a cliché came to my mind: “If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.” Wishes are not horses, so men will continue to commit suicide because the excuses (reasons, if you like) men give for committing suicide will continue to exist as long as humankind exists: lower socioeconomic status, unemployment, alcoholism or drug misuse, divorce, alienation from their children, depression, chronic pain, displacement of the traditional male gender role, bullying, history of physical and sexual abuse, imprisonment, loss of a loved one, mental illness, inability to form or sustain meaningful relationships, social isolation or living alone, the pressure of work, or other issues. The list is very long, but nothing is new. The life of a man is tough, sometimes thankless, but please suicide is not an option. Seek help. We live in communities. Talk to someone. Do not die from or in silence. I do not want to dwell further on the theme because that is not the purpose of today’s article.
About two days before the Men’s Day, there was a news item which ruffled many feathers. The Lagos State Government said it had recorded no fewer than 340 cases of wives beating their husbands to submission, between September 2022 and July 2023. The Executive Secretary of Lagos, Domestic and Sexual Violence Agency, DSVA, Mrs. Titilola Vivour-Adeniyi, made the disclosure in a quarterly report of the agency. So, men also experience physical abuse. This report is a real International Men’s Day ‘gift,’
I said to myself.
I have been an advocate against domestic violence. This advocacy is easy and comes naturally to me because I grew up in a home devoid of domestic violence. But I also saw the evil of domestic violence at a close range. My parents often mentored younger couples. These couples looked up to my parents because their marriage was peaceful and happy. I saw younger couples fighting, wives being battered, wives losing teeth and being facially disfigured. Domestic abuse of women was rampant. I also heard a story of a woman who went into the bathroom with a sharp and strong razor of the 70s to cut off the husband’s genitals. She timed her assault to coincide with when the husband had soap in his face (the bathroom was open-top). But he was conscious and managed to evade his genitals being chopped off. There was also the case of a very strong woman, or is it the man who was lazy, who beat up her husband regularly.
These are partly what made me to be gender neutral when discussing domestic violence. It knows no gender, though more women seem to be victims. However, emphasis on domestic violence seems to be more on physical violence because it is more obvious. We have other major forms of abuses like emotional abuse, sexual abuse and financial abuse.
Cheating on your spouse is emotional abuse because it can be traumatic and can lead to suicide if the other spouse finds out. Some married women openly cheat on their husbands. It is a big heartbreak for some of these husbands. Some husbands have been reported to have committed suicide because of the pain. One of my saddest moments was the Valentine’s Day of 1997. Then I used to go to NITEL exchange, Ikeja GRA, to make calls and book appointments with my clients before heading out (the GSM generation will not understand). The guy before me came to the exchange just to plead with his wife’s lover to please leave his wife alone. He was neatly dressed, but the shirt and trousers had obvious signs of wear and tear. He had apparently fallen on hard times.
Before feminists start running their mouths, listen. We have traditional marriages, court or civil marriages and Christian marriages. In civil and church marriages, couples take vows of mutual fidelity. Here, fidelity is binding on both parties, so a man who is a typical “African man” has no business contracting any of these marriages, because you will not have the moral standing to accuse your wife of adultery if you are also an adulterer. You should go to equity with clean hands. But our culture and Islam allow a man to be polygamous. Specifically in traditional marriages, at least in Urhobo land which I am very conversant with, only the woman is obliged to be faithful. This is because the men can always marry more wives. Feminists can go and argue with our ancestors, not me.
Not eating your wife’s meals is another form of emotional abuse. At a young age, my father warned me never to reject my wife’s food. He had no issues with spousal disagreements and quarrels but he warned that it must never get to the stage of rejecting her meal. He made it clear it was emotional abuse and even used a harsher Urhobo word, ehwe, which means beating or killing, depending on the context. Controlling and manipulating your spouse; being verbally abusive or denigrating your spouse, especially publicly, are forms of emotional abuse.
Another trend of emotional abuse manifests in wives who abandon their aging husbands to do omugwo abroad. Some have stayed back, allowing husbands in their 70s and 80s to be home alone. Some commentators justify the actions of the wives that they are only paying back the men for the maltreatment the husbands meted out to them early in the marriage. Since when has tit for tat replaced forgiveness in marriage? Can two wrongs make a right? And you sons teaming up with your mothers to pepper your fathers, unless you did not come from their loins, nemesis awaits you. Your own sons are watching how you are treating your fathers. Action speaks louder than voice. For men coming up, love and treat your wives well o! In addition, be in your children’s lives. Paying school fees and providing upkeep money are not enough.
We also have sexual abuse which comes in various forms. For Christians, Apostle Paul specifically stated that spouses should not deny each other sex except by mutual consent and for a specific reason. He also stated that spouses’ bodies belong to each other. But this is not what we see sometimes. Some wives deny their husbands sex because they did not give them money for aso ebi, wigs and other things they asked for. The husband’s financial state does not matter to them. One woman wore tight jeans to bed for months to teach the husband a lesson. The painful aspect is that she did it to him because she knew that the husband is a strong Christian and would will not seek sexual pleasure outside. Some husbands have also been reported to deny their wives sex. It is her entitlement. One woman used to pay the husband before he agrees to have sex with her because he knew the wife would not seek pleasure elsewhere. These are both sexual and emotional abuses. The stories are heart wrenching to me in a world where getting faithful spouses is getting more difficult.
Inability to sexually satisfy your spouse due to selfishness is an indirect form of sexual abuse. You are only interested in your sexual satisfaction. Sex is much an act as it is communication. Ask your spouse what he/she wants. Talk. If it is as a result of health issues, the other spouse should be patient and show understanding. One of the marital vows says “in sickness and in health.” Also, some spouses work while the others are at home fulltime. Please show understanding. You cannot be at home all day resting and expect someone who has been at work to have the same freshness that you have. Please show love and understanding. Only a living spouse can remain married. There will always be another day if he/she is tired. Show understanding.
The last abuse I want to talk about is financial abuse. There are many married men who have become glorified houseboys. Men are supposed to be breadwinners, but they have lost the financial power due to unemployment, underperforming businesses and ill health. God should assist every man to fulfil this role. A man who cannot meet his financial obligations is financially castrated. Wives should show more understanding. You are helpmates. Do not rub in your husband’s financial situation.