The old and less enlightened African beliefs and traditions, which taught women to be submissive and inferior to men are fiercely at war with the recently imported and progressive ideals of foreign civilisations, which argue for the realisation of full equality among women and men.
One of the most gruesome outcomes of this war of ideologies is gender-based violence (GBV).
The toll of this deadly war is reaching unprecedented levels in Africa in general and Namibia in particular.
As more and more African women continue to become educated and empowered in many different ways (i.e. economic, social, political and legal) the more and more that African men continue to lose the discriminatory status of exercising “power and control” over them.
Historically, the men were considered as the breadwinners, the feeders, the providers, etc. and the adage that “whoever feeds you controls you” comes to mind.
However, globalisation and the introduction into African society of democratic systems, principles and values have ensured that African women are set on the path to realising full equality with their male counterparts.
GBV is, therefore, the last hopeless attempt of a conservative man fighting to retain superiority, an old-fashioned man who fears losing his personal “imaginary” power and control over a woman.
In normal daily conversation, one sometimes comes across men who use expressions such as “my woman this or my woman that.” The word “my” in those phrases is quite dangerous when it is literally taken as the truth and believed by certain men. The root of the problem is to be found at exactly this point. Here is an African man who actually believes that the woman literally “belongs” to him (and by the way, Lobola is still part of African culture and norms), and here is an African woman who is happily living in the modern foreign-influenced world believing that her constitutional rights are fully guaranteed and she can walk away at any time if the current partner is failing to treat her the way she expects to be treated. The catastrophe, which is GBV, emerges from these scenarios were the fundamental beliefs and interests of the partners are totally misaligned. While the modern foreign-influenced African woman thinks that she is exercising her democratic rights in questioning the behavior and conduct of her partner, the “slow-to-catch-up” African man thinks that she is totally disrespecting him (he, thus, takes it upon himself to “teach” her appropriate manners and respect through abusing her, physically and otherwise). While the toiling traditional African man thinks that he is investing his hard-earned wealth in his own “private asset” by financing her livelihood, the modern and foreign-influenced African woman thinks that she has every right to keep enjoying her life by forming useful and ending useless “friendships” whenever and with whomever she wishes to.
The misalignment in beliefs and interests eventually create tensions in the relationships over time, and when these tensions become unsolvable, GBV erupts like a volcano and the rest of society is left to ponder at what is going on. Interestingly, African society typically resorts to calling for more prayers and divine intervention (the most favoured option in Africa when answers are hard to come by).
Other forms of GBV which are perpetrated by men on female babies, adolescent girls, disabled women, old aged women, and on generally the defenseless women in society are triggered by the same hopeless urge to keep practicing and retaining situational “power and control” which has been entrenched in the psyche of men for centuries.
On the other hand, if one was to really have a closer look at most cases of women perpetrating GBV on men, forced self-defense and mere reactionary rage would top the list of culprits.
This article is in no way absolving the rest of the world from GBV, but it is rather pointing out that non-progressive customs and cultures, which for so long promoted the superiority of boys over girls, are at the center of the plague of GBV afflicting African society today.
Therefore, in order to overcome this cross-cutting and complex problem, the debate on GBV must first and foremost shift to understanding the various beliefs and interests of different types of people (the things that make people tick as individuals), and secondly, African society must then work towards abolishing dangerous beliefs and promoting mutually aligned interests in relationships between women and men.
*Abednego Katuushii Ekandjo writes in his private capacity
2019-10-11 07:56:07 | 6 days ago