The concern African leaders and governments show regarding violence and mistreatment of women on the continent is a far cry from the kind of response and attention they should give to this cancerous vice.
Dehumanization of women is an ubiquitous plague that has continually beleaguered states in Africa. African governments come up with specious and spurious policies that camouflage protection for women, yet fall short of achieving this objective.
A staggering eighty two percent or more of African women suffer one form of violence or another. Often, this violence takes physical and/or psychological forms. I have purposely omitted emotional violence because of its universal applicability. It is disturbing, indeed, melancholic that African women have unfortunately and helplessly come to accept these mistreatments as the norm rather than the exception. Most of these women are raised in the belief that their identity is subsumed or attached to the man’s and that they can’t have dignity of their own.
This fallacious belief is rooted in most African cultures and the African women born and raised in these disquieting cultures know nothing other than the system and way of life they are used to. They, thus, are blind to the aberrations of these cultures. It is commonly argued in sociology that no culture is vice and none would promote evil or antisocial behaviors. Yet, the distinction between good and evil is in most cases is subject to the understanding and reality of the party making such distinction and dependant on several variables. Living in Nigeria, I have come to realize that certain cultures are repugnant to natural justice.
The Ikwerre culture of Rivers State requires that if a woman must inherit her father’s property, she has to remain single i.e. unmarried. The very moment an Ikwerre woman marries, she forfeits her right to any inheritance. On the contrary, men may marry as many wives as they wish and yet inherit their father’s.
In the Tiv culture of Benue State, men offer their wives to august visitors sleeping over in the man’s house in demonstration of the host’s regard for such friend or visitor. The wife that is offered usually does not have any prerogative on the issue other than to make sure she satisfies the visitor in bed that night. Rather than spite such culture, married women look forward to the visit of strong, macho, herculean men especially, wives married to men with diminishing strength. This is a typical example of a weird culture a people have come to accept.
In Benin, families pride on sending their daughter abroad for commercial sex. The female trafficking industry in Nigeria has gained so much traction and is now a multimillion naira business.
In some cultures, women are made to drink the water used in washing the corpse of their deceased husbands to determine if the wife had a hand in the death of the husband. In most cases, the women are forced to drink the corpse water.
Domestic violence is not construed a crime, and women of all cultures in Africa suffer this form of violence in marriage commonly. And it is only the women that knows and feels the excruciating pain she goes through in a violent marriage. Every moment of such marriage equals the pain in a labor room. So, as long as the woman remains in the marriage, she feels a pain, maybe psychological and, sometimes, physical, that equates with the pain of child-bearing labor. It usually is more terrible than words can describe.
These forms of violence against women go on in Nigeria, indeed, Africa and the governments treat them with levity. Women suffer in silence and go into all manners of depression. Women are an important part of any government, society and politics and the need to protect them cannot be more imperative than it is now. Our leaders and men should show sensitivity to our women by promoting the integrity of African woman through reorientation, social re-engineering and change.