Fact CheckMainstream

Lady in viral video being flogged by men, not for marriage refusal, and incident not in Nigeria

Claim: Users on WhatsApp share a video of men flogging a young lady as punishment for allegedly refusing to marry (somewhere in Nigeria). 

Verdict: The incident depicted in the alleged video did not occur in Nigeria. It took place in Congo and was perpetrated by the men from Mai-Mai militia, who flogged her due to their belief that her dress was too short. The claim is false. 

Full Text

Recently, a 5:47-minute horrid video began circulating on WhatsApp with a narrative. The footage captured moments when a group of men flogged a young lady for allegedly refusing to agree to a forced marriage.  

The video starts with a gripping scenery of horridness. As the young lady’s voice echoed with the intensity of fear and agony, the men bearing AK-47 rifles dragged her to an open space and pinned her down to what was about to be a horror-flogging session. 

Seconds into the scene, two men began hitting her with an apparent flair of satisfaction. At the same time, the rest kept yelling some words (in an unidentified language), cheering the ‘floggers’ to hit even harder. 

Helplessly, she cried for help from the indifferent standing villagers who appeared to have more interest in spectating rather than intervening. As her hope for help soon dwindled, she endured the continuous horrid whacks of cane piled on her bare buttocks. 

The video was indicated to have been shared several times on WhatsApp with the narrative that the lady was flogged for refusing to marry. While there is no hint or clue as to when or where the incident occurred, some users on WhatsApp insinuate the incident took place in Nigeria. 

Others suggested it happened precisely somewhere in Northern Nigeria, backing their theory by asserting that the men spoke Hausa in the video. 

Lady in viral video being flogged by men, not for marriage refusal, and incident not in Nigeria
A screenshot of the video on WhatsApp.

Forced marriage in Nigeria

Forced marriage has been a recurring issue for decades. In Nigeria, it violates women’s fundamental human rights and is also a criminal offence. In 2015, the National Assembly (Nigeria’s federal legislature) made the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act to discourage violence against human beings in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and to punish offenders. 

The said federal law for the FCT listed forced marriage as a harmful traditional practice and declared such harmful traditional practice as unlawful and criminal. 

The Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act 2015 is popularly known as the VAPP ACT, it is operational in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), and many states of Nigeria have adopted and enacted similar laws. So, there is now Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Laws in many states of Nigeria.

Forced marriage is a crime punishable with a maximum of two years imprisonment or a fine of N500,000 or both. Punishments for attempting such an offence or aiding an offender are imprisonment for one year or a fine of N200,000.

This video claim and narrative could foster a negative discourse on Nigeria’s efforts to combat gender-based violence against women. Some users believing the act occurred in Nigeria, called for intervention and justice for the molested lady in the country. 


DUBAWA uploaded the video to Google Pinpoint, a tool that transcribes multimedia audio in written documents to get a written version of the footage. The results from the transcribed written version were further copied and pasted on Google Translate to detect the language. The outcome of the process points to Swahili as the language spoken in the footage.  

The Swahili language is widely used as a lingua franca in Tanzania, where it is the language of administration and primary education; in Kenya, where it is, after English, the primary language for these purposes.

It is also used in Congo (Kinshasa), where a form of Swahili is one of the four languages of administration, the main language for this purpose being French, and in Uganda, where the primary language is again English.

With this clue, DUBAWA reached out to Linda Ngari, the Editor of Piga Firimbi, a fact-checking platform based in Kenya. Ms Ngari, who understands Swahili well, confirmed to DUBAWA that the language is indeed Swahili but of a different dialect primarily spoken in the Democratic Republic of Congo. 

Due to the poor audio quality in the footage, Ms Ngari could only translate a bit, like “nakufa”, which means “I am dying”, a word the lady being flogged kept yelling. Also, “piga mi” means “beat her”, a word the men kept saying while she was flogged. 

Putting the facts together

To track the footage’s genealogy online, DUBAWA performed a fragmentation of the frames in the footage using the InVid video verification tool. Results from this analysis reveal that some frames of the footage were first shared on Twitter on January 20, 2023, by Albert Rudatsimburwa (@albcontact), a journalist who reports for the News-Times on the Rwanda-Congo crisis that began in 1996 when Rwanda and Uganda invaded the eastern DRC to root out the remaining perpetrators of the Rwanda 1994 genocide.

In the post, Mr Rudatsimburwa tweeted initially in French and translated using Google translate, alleged the incident occurred in Congo and was perpetuated by the “Mai-Mai”. 

Lady in viral video being flogged by men, not for marriage refusal, and incident not in Nigeria
A screenshot of a tweet made by Mr Rudatsimburwa

Who are the “Mai-Mai”? 

The Mai-Mai are community-based militias formed in the 1960s to defend their local territories against other armed groups, such as the Congolese military and rebel groups. However, according to the International Journal of Emergency Mental Health and Human Resilience, the Mai-Mai now exist and proliferate within a context of entrenched ethnic polarisation, endemic insecurity and widespread human rights abuses against civilians, an absence of the rule of law and a fear of “foreign invaders”. 

The United Nations has spotlighted these groups several times on account of gender and sexual violence against women, especially in the Katanga, North and South Kivu, Orientale and Maniema regions of Congo, where they are militarily active. 

Exactly where did the incident occur?

A news story published on January 23, 2023, by an online news website based in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), JuaRDC, identified Maniema Province, Eastern DRC, as the location of the incident. Based on the report, the men carrying A-K 47 rifles in the footage belong to the Mai-Mai militia that reportedly banned women from wearing trousers and skirts they believe are too short in the region.

Lady in viral video being flogged by men, not for marriage refusal, and incident not in Nigeria
A screenshot of the report by JuaRDC on the flogging session carried out on the helpless lady by the Mai-Mai militia.

Another report by France 24, published on January 27, 2023, also confirmed the location to be Mainiema in Congo. The report highlighted other gender-based violence targeted at women by the Militia because of “unauthorised dressing.”

“In the province of Maniema, in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, populations are targeted by attacks carried out by the Mayi-Mayi Malaïka militias, originating from the region. Since January 20, videos published on social networks show these militiamen whipping young girls, women and men in the district of Salamabila. According to testimonies, they reproached these women for wearing skirts that they believed were too short.” 

Lady in viral video being flogged by men, not for marriage refusal, and incident not in Nigeria
A screenshot of the report by France24 highlighted the spree of gender-based violence perpetuated by men on women in the Mainiema region of the Congo.

Stéphane Kumundala, president of a civil society in Maniema, told France 24 that: “At the end of November (2022), the new leader of the Mai Mai Malaika militia, Sheik Kabala Selemani, broadcast a message on local radio – and it also circulated as a voice message on the telephones – explaining that his militia had decided to prohibit women from wearing dresses and ‘short skirts’ and pants. And during December and January, they started attacking women wearing similar outfits and administering whippings to them,” Ms Kumundala said. 

DUBAWA also found that this is not the first time this footage was used to misinform the public about the location. Early this January, the same video trended in Kenya with the false narrative that a girl from Kuria (a part of Kenya) was being flogged for running away from home to avoid being a victim of female genital mutilation. 


The incident depicted in the alleged video did not take place in Nigeria. The incident occurred in Congo and was perpetuated by the men of the Mai-Mai militia, who flogged the lady for wearing a dress they believed to be short. The claim is false. 

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