The African Culture Contributes to Gender Based Violence

women in africa. source  (

women in africa. source(


Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to visit and spend some time with our community. It is always nice to get out of our comfort zones and find out the hardships of others; especially those who aren’t as fortunate as we are. So, as I went, we shared some stories and I have to admit that I was heartbroken by what still happens in our communities. As I mentioned in my previous blog, a single story can open our eyes to larger and more dangerous issues in our society. Here is a shocking facts that I was reminded of this past weekend. A man coerced and impregnated a young sixteen year old  girl in his village. After the horrendous act, he had the nerve and audacity to go and apologize to the young girl’s family. As if the story could not get any worse, unfortunately it does get worse, the young girl’s family simply asked for two cows as a ransom. Let that sink in for a minute. Which is sadder? That the man walked back home free and only short of two cows or that THE SOCIETY THINKS THAT OUR YOUNG GIRL HERE IS WORTH TWO COWS! Please notice the danger and the agony here. How many more girls have gone through this horror? And how many more WILL go through the same in the future? This is what inspired me to raise the issue today; as long as the African society thinks its women’s dignity and honour are worth two or even ten cows, Gender Based Violence will NEVER be history.

Gender Based Violence is making the headlines of several media channels and is also the subject of many campaigns. But there is an issue; we could be as efficient as possible in our campaign and publicity but as long as the cultural beliefs are not changed, GBV will forever be alive in the society. The African Cultures, although a bit diverse, all come together in agreement that the woman has less value than a man; the man has the authority and the woman is merely a servant. Therefore, there is a pressing need to educate the people about the negative impacts of some aspects of culture. The people need to get out of the boundaries of culture; learn its failures and correct them. I am not saying that culture is not good; culture is the heritage of a country from centuries and generations of the past. Culture carries the riches, qualities and uniqueness of a country. Culture is important. However, as the world evolves and changes, culture must also find its relevant place in the society. Therefore, the African population must be educated about the boundaries and wrongs of the culture and the way it treats women; the humiliation and violations they endure.

As a medical doctor, I thought about the young girl mentioned above and the complication she might face with the pregnancy be it now or in the future. I decided that abortion could be a suitable option for her. She might not be financially, physically or even emotionally ready to have the child. Is it her right to carry on with such a controversial act on African soil? You could be the judge of that. But I would like to say that I would support this young lady if she made the decision. One of the descriptions of Gender Based Violence is “An act that could result in the deprivation of freedom and negative consequences”. Basing on this definition, wouldn’t this young lady have the right to regain her freedom through abortion? If yes, shouldn’t she carry on with it? If this was your own daughter, what would be your reaction?

Women, just as men, are entitled to their dignity mainly because they are human beings! There are some many other horrendous cases all around Africa that show the extent of GBV. Female Genital Mutilation is practiced in more than 28 countries in Africa. According to some cultures, this is an important rite to passage. It has been part of their cultural identity for several years and the people have come to accept it. Let me tell you some of the dangers of FGM and how it is violence against women. According to EndFGM (, the practice has several consequences such as severe bleeding which can lead to death, neurogenic shock as a result of pain, infertility, and painful sexual intercourse. FGM inflicts such suffering on young women in Africa that it is high time for leaders to come together and fight this issue! Many who practice this mutilation on young women argue that women are not supposed to have sexual pleasure. They are only supposed to please their husbands. They also argue that FGM lessens the woman’s sexual desire which is pivotal for her faithfulness. There are so many reasons, may I call them sad excuses, given to exercise FGM. The truth of the matter remains; women are considered as mere objects by our cultures and societies and this needs to stop! If you have a daughter, like I do, the emotional pain I carry for these young ladies will be yours as well.

Our cultures will only change if our leaders begin to intensively educate the people against treating women as object. There is a priceless value that a woman carries and it must be honoured. Why not ask women if they want to have such practices done on them? Why not take the time to educate the women on dangers they might face if they proceed. Sometimes, the society takes advantage of the ignorance of people to harm them! It is the duty of all leaders to educate and protect these women. We need to realize that for a brighter future, the women’s role is as important and necessary as the men’s



9 replies »

  1. As a true son of Afrca, I disagree with the good Dr. on his approval of abortion. Forget the platitudes of “Reproductive Health Rights”- And on this, I have the Holy books including the Bible on my side-

  2. It saddens me each time I come across such a story. Really the change should start somewhere. We should be the change we want to see in our community. Here I talk about the issue of lobola, dowry, bride price or whatever words is used to describe the practice. That should really be revised. Why can’t we just get married without paying something when we all know that cows are considered as compensation? Are we selling our daughters? What are we compensating? We should start challenging that in our families and communities. I do not have any problem with cultural practices until when they humiliate us.
    There comes the issue of FGM…OMG! I attended a meeting were a woman took 30 minutes to defend the practice. To quote her ‘the practice helps our girls to remain virgins until their marriage. I do not see what kind of pleasure a woman would have except pleasing her husband. Girls have become unfaithful, FGM is the only way to ensure that they do not go out to look for another man outside their marriages. Again why should circumcision be allowed and not FGM? ’. That sentence will never leave my mind. I thought I was dreaming and the conference room went quiet. Not because we could not respond but because we could not understand how a woman can defend such a nonsensical and idiotic theory? How can a woman betray fellow women??? How could someone, a woman, intellectual, confuse male circumcision and Female Genital Mutilation? After all it is called mutilation!!!
    Please We are women, we are human beings!

  3. I will like to share a very personal and a true story of mine conserning cultural practice;my father died leaving us a tender age,but also age enough to know between good and widowed mum was given a multiple reasons why she should be inherited and the long ready note came in hand with the threats as well.(faiture will leave not more than months and your kids will follow the sequence of death if not so your sons will never marry and your daughter will never conceive like the likes of so so…)
    She stood firm with a clear well NO,and before the sunset we could perfectly write a whole book on’how it feels to be isolated’…n ofcos the rest is history!!!
    My mum lives,all my brothers live and I’m here typing as well..
    Abortion will not change the fact to that young girl,,it will just make her a mother of a dead child!!that again is my opinion.

  4. What Margaret Sungu has said is very powerful and I really want to hear your thought on that. “Abortion will not change the fact to that young girl,,it will just make her a mother of a dead child!!that again is my opinion.” What do you think about that sir?

  5. Thank you!I hope it will impact/be useful to someone.
    Abortion will be the best mistake she will ever make.Dr.Ryarasa,a person is a person nomatter how small,leave and let life!
    Assuming I was a drunk person talking,I would have said”yes”let the girl abort at the same time I would have asked you,would that be the end of an error?

    • May I mention that your story is very touching. What happened to this girl is very sad but I believe that she has the choice to do what she believes is best for her. If she later realises that it is a mistake at least she would have had the opportunity to choose. When the dignity of an.individual is hurt, she must have the opportunity to decided what would ease her pain. Especially in the case of rape and incest.

  6. Thank you very much for your contributons! I value all of them deeply. There is one thing that I forgot to mention that is crucial to the story. The man was the girl’s uncle and this is a case of incest. I spoke from a doctor’s point of view considering all the complications that might occur. I was not saying that I would force the girl to abort. I simply meant that if the sixteen year old thought it was best for her, she would have my support. I am sorry for those i offended with my views.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s