Sir: The large craving for gender equality and a continuous upgrade in affirmative action for women, may yield a generous amount of progress in the liberal world, but will continue quite sadly, to suffer reoccurring setbacks in Africa and the Middle East!
Africa is traditionally built around draconian cultures that frown at the allocation of certain privileges to women, which take liberties with gender equality, or promote any form of insurrection towards their male counterparts.
Women’s rights are almost extinct in most places in Africa! The heavy occurrence of female genital mutilation and coercion of teenage girls into early marriage in countries like Mali, Chad and Somalia, seems to be a revered and celebrated practice! In most parts of Nigeria, women who dress in clothes that are perceived to be “indecent” are often mobbed, and in most cases, stripped and subjected to gruesome public ridicule by hoodlums. These events are astonishingly displayed at the spectacle of a cheering narrow-minded audience, comprised of even security agents! (I really cannot understand how a lady’s choice of fashion deserves such extreme humiliation, or how her dressing infringes on the fundamental human rights of these mobs!) Could this be the unfortunate effect of illiteracy? Or the hypocritical and judgmental nature of the typical African society? In some parts of Africa, a woman can be easily expelled from her marriage without any severance package, for being ‘incompetent’ at conceiving a male child, or ‘committing the evil’ of birthing too many female children! Of course, not too many Africans embrace the “dangerous idea” of legalizing their marriage at the government registry, so this ultimately yanks off any safety nets for the women when adversity strikes.
Most African husbands, uncompromisingly demand the production of children in quick succession without considering the health and psychological preparedness of their wives.
Treading the part of religion, women are rarely allowed to preach in some rigid African churches. The same counts as blasphemy for the Muslim folks as well… Are women the proponents of sin, or I’m not getting something right?
The ‘Restraining Order From Freedom’ Given To Women In The Middle East: Islam is practically a ‘Male-Centered Religion,’ so I’m not naïve to expect the Muslims to be apologetic about that, or suddenly expect them to bend to public opinion(regardless of how prevailing!)
But my point will be made anyway… The horrible punishment meted out to women for disobedience, or for causing a dent on the family name, commonly referred to as “Honour killing” continues quite strongly in the Middle East! Women are periodically put to death by their male relatives for either converting to a new religion, marrying a suitor of their choice, or embracing western education.
Women in some parts of the Middle East, are often dissuaded(sometimes forcefully) from their desire to acquire education or become literate. It is also a common practice for female rape victims to be compelled by ‘law’ to marry their defilers! Achieving a guaranteed provision of Women’s Rights in Africa and the Middle East may remain a figment of our imagination, until the deep cultural and religious roots of both environments are reviewed or ultimately reinvented!
• Nimi Princewill.