By Onyeisi Chiemeke
Lagos lawyer and activist, Barrister Chiemeke Onyeisi, retouches an old article to unpack a rising wave of heartless domestic violence, particularly of the variant in this headline. He comes on board with the rather analytically heady contention that marriage cannot escape the dialectics of conflicts, meaning that this is not just another piece but something for the critical reader! Enjoy:
In the recent past, the bedrooms seem to have become fearful places to harvest blissful seeds of the night such as dreams or be free from the extremities of world from which sleep brings us an escape. Sleep in comfort of our beds offers us so much return to innocence. The innocence of sleep only gets interrupted by dreams reminding us we are among the living. And as it is said somewhere, death is not a dream. Tragically as it is, many couples are beginning to find out that the house has become the easiest lair to journey into the world beyond either, for the wife or the husband. And we all seem not to be paying attention that there is a new death upon us, which ought to guide us to broaden our outlook on the concept of marriage and begin to query the concept of for better for worse associated with it.
It is not difficult to see that there is a new stress in town which calls to question the whole idea of for better for worse. In the first place, it is becoming clear that the right men arrogate to themselves to go out and enjoy the privilege of frolicking with the opposite sex while married is being challenged silently but aggressively. This is because, in all the circumstances, where the male spouses were killed, the constant accusation was that of infidelity. Even if there are statutes frowning at adulterous conducts by married couples, but in reality what is the rate of conviction particularly of men for bigamy? Even with more than two decades as a practicing lawyer, I have not come across that. The implication is that, that which the law has refused to take care of, self-help appears to have become the weapon of response. But the bigger problem is that women in resorting to self-help are adopting measures that are disproportionate to the ‘offence’ or liability of adultery. This is because I don’t see how severing of the man phallus or outright killing of the man is proportionate to such unfaithfulness.
And as a matter of fact, the remedy provided for by the law in case of adultery is dissolution of the marriage on grounds of adultery with its compensatory components or criminalization of such act for the offence of bigamy. But what is curious is that women, despite the legions of women’s right groups in Nigeria, are not advising women to exploit the provisions of the law and assert their rights. And the reasons are not farfetched, principal of which is the false doctrine about marriage preached by the religious groups, particularly Christianity and Islam, of God’s plan regarding marriage. These two principal religions keep asserting falsely that God is the architect of marriage and everything he makes is perfect. How they came about this historical falsehood is pitiable to understand. And because of this false premise of not seeing marriage as a socializing process of human existence but rather clothing it with some divine guide, many people are unable to get correct understanding of what marriage is. For the avoidance of doubt, there is nothing divine about marriage for which people are made to yoke themselves in a hostile social relationship.
Like everything, Christianity in particular tries to falsify, there are abundant historical evidence that man and woman in the beginning were not in any marriage relationship with each other. If anything, marriage as a social phenomenon had not been with man for up to 10,000 years. And when marriage started, it was not based on monogamous agreement. Polygamy existed for long in human history and the end of polygamy we know how it came about. Polygamy became dysfunctional for historical reasons. And that is why it may be proper to insist that, societies in their evolution, must pay notice to the facts that as monogamy defeated polygamy and polyandry, something else must be looming in the social process of conjugal relationship that may defeat monogamy. The religionists should not, therefore, be allowed to triumph with their ossified doctrines and allow couples who their houses are no longer homes to be trapped in a hellhole. I am not sure freedom means dying in the hand of another person for a situation for which there is a right of entry and exit.
We all seem to be standing by our windows holding onto values that do not enhance human existence but devalues us. There is no greater value to human life and any human relationship that blights that sacred order should be addressed properly. This is where African society has shorn society of hypocrisy and allowed societal evolution to determine what is best for society. For instance, African value system did not talk of any God being against polygamy but allowed the dynamics of economic variables to determine what manner of social relationship people should enter in the name of marriage. The current idea of monogamous marriage seems to create a situation of serial adulterers principally and particularly for men in a society that is caught in the cross-fire of patriarchy and a hypocritical modernity.
And this serial adulterous situation is not sitting down well with women because marriage is no longer a journey of basic human relationship regulated by love but there is the serious intervening factor of property relationship. Marriage in modern time is being regulated by private property. In fact, in modern history of marriage in the United States of America, one key factor in domestic violence resulting to spousal death is the issue of insurance taken out in the name of one spouse by the other spouse. And as it is with the spirit of globalization, we are also caught in it. But the only difference in our own case is that, in our usual way of subsuming everything under spiritual influence, we have chosen our perfect guy Lucifer as the fall guy. Marriage cannot escape the dialectics of conflicts that is associated with every basic human existence and those conflicts have terminal points of resolution which may, at its resolution, be positive or negative. To insist on immutability of God’s laws in basic human relationship is to say the least, delusional as nothing is immutable in human nature. This is because even in death, there is decay.