The Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer (MD/CEO), Shekinah Hospital and Maternity Awka, Dr Ifeanyi Onyeka, is a general practitioner. In this interview with RAYMOND OZOJI on International Women’s Day celebration, Dr Onyeka spoke on a wide range of issues including family planning and choices of women to sex among other issues.
Last Sunday, we celebrated the International Women’s’ Day. Do you think Nigerians have been fair to the women folk and the girl child?
To be very frank and honest, we have not been fair to the women. We have been more of domineering in all aspect. That notion ‘that women are to be seen and not heard’ made men indulge in all kinds of mistakes in their homes. Again, in the political space, men haven’t been fair enough because some of the political appointments are lopsided in favour of the men and sometimes even in the traditional setting, they don’t have any say. Everything is men and men’s decision is final. Their opinions are never considered and they are just always minority.
Do you think that was fair enough to women?
Never! It was not fair to women because some of them have been good at what they do. From practical experience, they have been good managers, better than men and they handle any work given to them with utmost sincerity and hard work. For instance, the late Prof. Dora Akunyili. We all know her role in NAFDAC when she sanitized the drug industry before her demise. She did well too in her ministerial position as Nigeria’s spokesperson with honour and truth. Most of the positions women have held in Nigeria, they have tried and I even say if they are given more opportunities both in administrative work and other things, there would have been an improvement in running affairs of the country, because this issue of corruption and bribery would have been minimized.
Do you think women have reproductive Rights and that those rights should be respected?
Yes! They have rights to know when they want to get married and the time they want to have children. They also have the rights to determine number of children they would like to have and the time they would like to have sex with their husbands. There would not be any discrimination in terms of profession. They have rights to belong to any profession so far they are academically and morally qualified for it.
Do you think the Nigerian women are getting these reproductive rights?
No! The gap is still there because sometimes we may think that the difference is not there but when you get to places like the North, you find out that even to go to school is a problem. Women are so much restricted in the North but it is only in southern parts that you can see a woman go to school. A lot needs to change in Nigeria in favour of women for equal opportunities for both genders in the society.
Women have rights for family planning. They have the right because everything happens inside them. They have the rights because they bear the whole thing. They bear miscarriages, labour, etc. Men would just do the work and all the things that are involved are faced by the women. They have to be prepared for the baby anytime they want to do the call of nature. When a woman passes through excessive stress especially when they are the breadwinner, it is difficult for them to cope. We should respect our women’s rights always.
It is only the enlightened few in Nigeria that are getting these reproductive rights. The majority do not get these rights. In such situation, the husband has the final say. And, this is not good. It is just like a case of where there is an agreement between a man and a woman but sometimes the man will refuse to do it saying he wants children continuously and in such case, the woman bears the brunt. Can we say she still has her rights or she doesn’t have such rights?
Can a man be said to have raped his wife?
Yes! A man can rape his wife. In actual sense, the issue of rape has to do with lack of sexual satisfaction. If the woman doesn’t give him the opportunity to have it and she is being forced into it. That is rape and it isn’t the right thing to do. When a woman doesn’t want to have sex and is being forced to do it, it is nothing but rape and condemnable. The woman here is not given the chance to make a decision on what concerns her.
What happens if a man rapes his wife?
Due to our cultural belief and setting, a woman can’t stand to say that her husband forced her into having sex. It is often said that even if he asks for it 20 times a day the wife should give it to him which means that even the society doesn’t give the woman her rights to decide on what she wants. So rape in our setting is not recognized. It is never an issue in our cultural or traditional background. The only thing the woman can do is to resist but you find out that when she does that, the man can beat her. That again is domestic violence which is against women’s rights too. Women are facing a lot in the society. But, on this scenario who will the wife report to? Is it to the father-in-law or to the mother or the society? Or is it to external persons that would just laugh at her and tell you to give to him what he wants? Women are in dilemma in our society due to tradition and culture holding them down in egoistic patriarchy.
What do you think is the solution to this?
The solution is public enlightenment especially to the men folk through both print and electronic media and person to person via different meetings so that they will know the implications of denying women their reproductive rights. Also, social talks will make men see that inasmuch as their wives are their companion in the marriage, going to them for sex when they are not in the right state is not ideal.
Why do you think that the society blames the female folk whenever there is rape case in the society?
I will say it is the carelessness of the women because if you have a minor, definitely you have to know the kind of housemaid you are having. Know the places they go and what kind of school they should go, in fact, proper supervision so that they are not exposed to danger. Also, the issue of where little children are given something to go and hawk, they will run into bad people that will lure them to rape. So, the issue of underage hawking should be banned so that it will not make room for underage rape. Secondly, women should make sure they take adequate care of their husbands sexually so that there won’t be much room for their man to look here and there for any reason.
Do you think men who indulge in rape should be centre of attraction and exposed?
I would say that men don’t have any reason for going to underage girls for sex, no matter what it is. They should think if that child is their sister or their own child would they be happy? Also, these drugs, I mean illicit drugs, also contribute immensely to people taking into abominable actions like incest and raping of minors. So, I think men are supposed to be accountable for this issue of rape on minors. They should be named and shamed. The man doesn’t have the right to force his wife into sex if she says no because the woman has a right to take him to court. She has the legal right because she must say yes before the man goes ahead. There might be reasons the woman may not want sex, either she is not emotionally okay or she is sick.
Is abortion a sin?
I will answer it not yes or no. In terms of yes, why should one expose herself carelessly? Anyone engaging in unprotected sex and gets pregnant, why should the person look for abortion? If you prepare for sex and then without protection or prevention and you become pregnant, why going for abortion? If you go for abortion, it becomes a sin. But it is not a sin when a woman is pregnant and you find out that the pregnancy may cost the life of the woman. So you would have to terminate it because here you are more interested in your wife and not the baby. So what I’m saying is that once you get exposed, do something to prevent it.
Is this backed by law?
I am not a legal practitioner but I’m telling you what is right in our profession.
Do you think the law of Nigeria on abortion is still relevant or should it be amended?
Well, it should not be amended. It should stand as it is because if you remove it, Nigerians being what they are, you will be embarrassed with the number of abortion flying left and right. Personally, it is a kind of check to reduce the number of abortion going on in the country every second.