Examining Childhood Sexual Violence: An African Womanist Analysis of Childhood Sexual Violence in Nigeria Open Access

Fasanmi, Abidemi Omolara (Spring 2019)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/xg94hq53b?locale=en


Examining Childhood Sexual Violence:

An African Womanist Analysis of Childhood Sexual Violence in Nigeria

By Abidemi Omolara Fasanmi

Africa, particularly West Africa, reveals a scarcity of theoretical, ethnographic or qualitative work on childhood sexual violence (CSV). Feminist theorizing of sexual violence has been generated overwhelmingly in the Global North. Most of the work on sexual violence in Africa is conducted on contemporary legal and medical issues from a public health perspective, and this is important work. However, we need insights provided by an explicitly African feminist/womanist lens which draws our attention to age grades, dual sex systems, and the importance of different cultural understandings of sexual violence. My dissertation, therefore, brings sexual violence against Nigerian children into focus calling for a critical examination of the medico-legal system and underlying socio-economic, cultural and religious practices within Nigerian society that foster sexual violence against children.

My methodology is interdisciplinary and applies feminist, African womanist, and public health lenses to explore definitions of family and community by interrogating framings of sexual violence, redress, and justice for child sexual violence survivors. The dissertation examines the co-optation of medical intervention within an unresponsive legal system. It also analyzes the intersections, interactions and implications of governmental and communal understandings of and approaches to childhood sexual violence. Furthermore, it explores childhood sexual violence and the significance of social networks - hierarchical and inter-generational relationships while paying attention to cultural, religious and economic influences. Second, it employs public health mixed methods to evaluate associations between emotional violence, socio-economic, and cultural factors and childhood sexual violence in Nigeria.

I determine that an African womanist/socio-ecologic framework is required for illuminating how social relations and the need for ‘social belonging’ in a child’s socialization process enable or dis-enable current childhood sexual violence intervention efforts in Nigeria. An African womanist/socio-ecologic framework also enables childhood sexual violence intervention programmers to re-vision, diffract and design contextually transformative and actionable solutions. Thus, this dissertation contributes to understandings of sexual violence in an African country and to fields such as women’s gender and sexuality studies, public health, religion, and law.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vi

Table of Contents viii

List of Tables and Figures x

Abbreviations xi


Interdisciplinary Scope of Work 7

Outline of the Dissertation 9

CHAPTER ONE: Understanding the setting 12

Background 12

Sexual Violence 14

The Nigerian Law and Sexual Violence 17

       Nigeria 17

      The Medico-Legal System 21

Family 25

      Family Structure in Nigeria 25

      Socio-ecologic Framework 30

      Family, Community, and Social Belonging in Nigeria 34

Sexuality 39

      Childhood Sexuality, Culture, and Community 39

Relevant Childhood Sexual Violence Frameworks 42

International Frameworks on Violence Against Children: The World Stands Together Protecting Children 42

      Human Rights vs Socio-ecological Framework 43

      African Child Rights, Childhood Sexual Violence, and Gender-based Violence Framework 46

Surveys 46

      Violence Against Children (VAC) Survey 46

CHAPTER TWO: Feminists Theorizing Rape, Childhood Sexual Violence, and a Critique of the Medico-Legal Framework for Redress 52

Introduction 52

Sexual Violence, Social Norms, and Legal Constructs 53

Problematizing the Medico-Legal System for Addressing Sexual Violence and Rape 62

Sexual Violence and Justice: African Critiques 65

      Of Gender- Why They Matter 65

      Of Personhood and Womanhood 68

Complementary Approaches to Sexual Violence Justice in Nigeria: Unexplored Spaces 72

Conclusion 75

CHAPTER THREE: Associations Between Socioeconomic and Socio-Normative Conditions, Emotional Violence, and the Experience of Childhood Sexual Violence in Nigeria 77

 Introduction 78

 Statement of Problem- Nigerian Context 78

 Purpose of the Study 85

      Research Questions 86

      Definition of Terms 88

 The Significance of the Study 90

 Methodology 94

      Ethical Considerations 94

Study Design 94

Methods 96

      Qualitative Study 97

      Qualitative Analysis 99

      Quantitative Study 102

          Measures 104

      Quantitative Analysis 108

Results 109

      Qualitative Data Findings 109

      Quantitative Data Findings 115

Discussion 123                        

     VACS and Study Design Limitations, Strengths and Future Research 126

      Policy Implications 130

      Recommendations 131

Conclusion 133



CHAPTER FOUR: Re-envisioning the Childhood Sexual Violence Intervention: An African Womanist Perspective of Weaving Theory into Practice 134

 Re-visioning Theorizations of Childhood Sexual Violence 134

 Diffractions 143

     Re-visioning—Old Truths Revisited: Epistemologies and Methodologies 147

     Epistemologies 147

     Methodology 154

Acting 159

     Interventional approaches 159

     Culture, Religion, & Justice 160

     Cultural synthesis for Action 163

     Health is Justice and Justice is Health: Unhinging “Health and Justice” to Free access to Health 164

Conclusion 165

Bibliography 167                                                                           

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