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 (http://www.endfgm.eu/en/female-genital-mutilation/what-is-fgm/effects-of-fgm/), 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