EARLIER this month, it was reported that a Nigerian court granted a 57-year-old man a divorce after hearing that his wife often brought his meals to him too late in the evening.
A court in Lagos heard that Olufade Adekoya was at the end of his tether after Olusola, his spouse of 25 years, refused to serve him when he demanded, the country’s Vanguard national daily said.
“My wife had failed in her matrimonial obligations. She does not prepare my food on time and I have warned her several times, but she would not listen to me,” he was quoted as saying.
“There is no point in harbouring a wife that makes me hungry. I am totally fed up,” Adekoya told the hearing, for which the paper gave no date.
But his wife denied the alleged dereliction, accusing her husband of plotting to take another wife.
However, court president Olu Adebiyi reportedly dissolved the unhappy union, concluding: “The court had tried several times to reconcile their differences, but all efforts proved abortive.”
It is thought to be the first time a husband has been granted a legal separation over his domestic meal time arrangements, but as survey data show, there is a significant number of women in Africa who would justify this line of thought.
Using comparable data available on 22 African countries, an average 18.7% of women aged 15-49 years sampled believe a husband or partner is justified in beating their wife or partner when she burns his food (yes, that’s right).
The numbers, from the Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) and Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS) are contained in World Bank data.
Ethiopian women are most likely to justify domestic violence on this account, with 47.3% replying in the affirmative in 2011—the most recent year on record.
A similarly high number of women from Guinea—46.2%—also thought it was okay for men to beat their partners for the same perceived fault, as did 34.6% of Nigerien women.
The case from Nigeria is not a flash in the pan, with 14.2% of women sampled making a case for domestic violence based on this element.
When women were asked if a male partner was justified in beating them for arguing, the results are not any less comforting:
The data shown is for the most recent on a country going back to 2010, but because of the irregular crunching of data in Africa, there are gaps, with numbers for example available only for 22 countries.
Even for those, it also does not show progression, which would be useful in knowing if a country has been making progress in tackling such views, or if there is still much work to be done.
But the existence of even a single case that justifies domestic violence on these grounds, or any other, shows the continent has an uphill climb ahead of it.