An African woman’s right ….to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness

As the campaign for the 16 Days of Activism against gender-based violence kicks off – I have found myself pondering on the acceptability and tolerance of women bashing that is inherent in African cultures.

Women get beaten for the flimsiest of reasons as men seek to demonstrate their domination over them – and even with offenses that are regarded as being grave such as unfaithfulness – it is impossible for me to embrace the idea that laying a hand on a woman is justified.

...kutshaywa imali ye club hatshi umfazi!

I know there are men who have never, who would never, and who can never ever lift a finger to hit a woman. The thought is repulsive to them, alien and completely divorced to their mental software.

My brother is one of them. The father of my child is another one. A number of my male friends also come to mind and several men I have known along the journey of life.

It makes me wonder then: if beating women up comes ‘naturally’ with acquiring the status of ‘manhood’ – why are there so many decent male human beings who are not inclined towards violence against women?

In embracing the concept of “Africanness” how does one reconcile these barbaric tendencies with the most rudimentary notions of justice, of fairness, of respect, of the recognition of women’s humanity and dignity?

I was appalled some weeks ago when a Zimbabwean man who had been hauled before a court overseas shamelessly admitted that he had beaten up his wife and excused his disgusting conduct by stating that this sort of violent interaction with women was “common” where he comes from and basically “normal”. don't have to face what you can turn your back on

Of late the media has been awash with the objectionable reports of men beating up their wives for all manner of flimsy reasons – ranging from acquiring a new cellphone, to not answering one’s cellphone, to why the cellphone was switched off at night or why it got lost or misplaced and other absurd contentions.

Gender-based violence is about exercising dominance; it is about the social constructs regarding the worth, the place, the value and the “ownership” of a woman by a man.

Most women derive a sense of worth and value from being “claimed and owned” by a man in the form of matrimony – they don’t regard marriage as a partnership but rather they see it as an opportunity to serve, to obey and to endure.

By internalizing these normative patriarchal values; women become more vulnerable to violence and abuse because they fail to assert themselves in relationships in a way that ensures that the men they share their lives and bodies with do not exercise undue control over them.

...don't surrender your life over to someone else's control

But why do men beat up women?

Culture: some people say it is socialization they’ve been told it is an appropriate demonstration and expression of manhood to beat up women, especially wives because wives are their matrimonial “property”.

Upbringing: some people argue that men who abuse women watched their own fathers or male role models beat up women and now merely repeat, re-enact and replay the script they memorized in childhood.

Inadequacy: other people assert that men who are violent have a sense of inadequacy and derive some measure of self-assertion when they display violence, instil fear and physically exercise dominance over those they know are mostly powerless to defend themselves or retaliate – women.

Masochism: some people are just pre-disposed to evil and gain immense satisfaction in inflicting pain on those they perceive to be weaker than they are and these kinds of people go beyond inflicting physical harm to the cruelty of emotionally, mentally and psychologically tormenting another person because it makes them feel powerful to destroy the confidence of another.

So what can women do?

This year; I am inclined to urge women to do the only thing they can do when faced with an abuser – flee! You can’t change somebody else – you can only change how you react to them.

Walk away – keep walking and don’t you dare go back to him. Walk away and start anew. Walk away and live again. Walk away and believe in your humanity – believe that you’re human too and that you deserve better.

...don't stay with someone who makes you feel bad about feeling good

Believe that you too, have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Parting shot: The role of the female species is to pick the right mate. The wrong males are supposed to be barred from mating and procreating. Nature didn’t intend human females or females from any other species to “fix” deficient males; we’re just supposed to reject them so they don’t pass on their bad genes – Elizabeth, thoughtsopinionrants Blog

how do you plead?

...does our womanhood obscure our humanity?









Standing before the jury of life
They’ll ask in voices dead
And indifferent –
Are you the washer of clothes,
The tiller of fields
The fetcher of wood
And the cook bending over the fire
And how do you plead
I plead woman, woman as charged!

Kneeling in obeisance
Before the altar of patriarchy
They will ask –
Are you the bearer of children
The suckler of infants
The raiser of mankind
And the keeper of home fires
To this how do you respond
I plead woman, woman as charged!

Lying prostrate before
The edifice of culture
They will demand to know –
Are you the keeper of silence
The longsufferer of wrongs
The beast of burden
The slave of all who are male
And how do you plead
I plead woman, woman as charged!

The verdict is in
The shackles made of tradition
The cells forged by stereotype
We pronounce you woman
Sentence you to a lifetime
Of subjugation, of oppression and inferiority
You one of us but less than us
What have you to say for yourself
I plead human, HUMAN like you!

(in cognizance of the 16 Days against Gender Violence campaign)