Nollywood actress Mercy Aigbe is the latest Nigerian star to come forward with accusations of domestic violence. Social media was rife with bloody photos of the actress detailing the suffering she allegedly endured at the hands of her estranged husband, Lanre Gentry. Aigbe is only the latest case, following closely behind major Nollywood actress Tonto Dikeh who detailed her alleged domestic abuse in several social media posts and a tear-filled interview with Media Room Hub in March of this year.
The revelations shed light on a major problem facing women around the world. It is estimated that nearly 1 in 3 women worldwide suffer physical or sexual abuse by a domestic partner according to the World Health Organization. According to the World Bank report, Poverty in a Rising Africa, nearly 51 percent of African women report domestic violence. The report goes on to indicate that there is a higher acceptance of domestic violence in Africa, where violence is often justified in cases where it is believed the woman neglected her female duties.
These staggering numbers are often overlooked by a glib public happy to disbelieve the prevalence of violence against women. With the recent revelations, Nollywood has become an incredible vehicle to facilitate the discussion in many Nigerian and African homes where the genre is enjoyed. According to the International Monetary Fund, the Nigerian Nollywood industry is worth nearly 7.1 billion USD (900 billion naira). It’s reach throughout Africa makes it the third largest film industry in the world, comprising nearly 2 percent of the Nigerian economy.
While relationship details, fidelity and familial relations has become fodder for the Nigerian gossip blogs and magazines, the plight of both Aigbe and Dikeh illustrate the shame and secrecy with which many women contend in abusive relationships. Furthermore, their courage to come forward publicly may permit other women to escape the violence that plagues nearly a third of all women worldwide. Recent anti-violence campaigns on social media by Nollywood starts have underscored the need to address this taboo subject and the attitudes surrounding it and many are speaking out.
Nollywood icon, John Okafor (Mr. Ibu) is reported to have said in an April interview with Nigerian Saturday Beats (www.punchng.com), “ . . . whenever you raise your hand against a woman, you beat your joy, success, business, peace in your family.”