Recently I tuned into a BBC Town Hall meeting which featured a panel consisting a senior physcian/ U.N. High Commissioner; a highly experienced Rwandan Adminitrator, who we will call Louise; and a Lady High Court Judge. These three represented the thinking of future Africa. Historical and current thinking were represented by an opposition political member of Parliament, and one of the loveliest ladies who was perfectly serious in her thinking, but I'm afraid I was so taken with her I didn't get her credentials. I'll call her Marion.
Members of the audience who had been previously chosen put their questions which covereed the following subjects: The status of women in society; The Bride Price; Polygimous marriage; the continuing practice of Female Genital Mutilation; and the prospects for the future of women in Africa.
In my opinion this was probably a broadcast that was inspired by President Obama who had much to say on African traditions and customs that never had any real value to begin with, but that in the 21st century have no place at all. Yet these traditions are honoured as though they were written in stone.
Upon close analysis, not all of the above customs fail to stand the test of modern times. The Future Thinkers were in agreement that the status of women in general throughout Africa leaves a great deal to be desired. In fact it can be said to be scandalous. A lot of work needs to be done in this area, starting first with the men. However, on the subject of Polygimous marriages we have to ask the question: why would a woman want to be the second, third or fourth wife? Can anyone be happy in such a union? I know the man sees lots of ever ready sex available to him, and as this panders to the way in which men are wired it will be tempting. However, the reality must be a very different matter.
The Bride Price is quite controversial because in practice a family try to get as much as they can from a prospective son-in-law, so it really does sound a lot like the selling of the bride. Having said that, many other cultures are guilty of this attitude as well.
Clearly, the subject of the evening was going to be Female Genital Mutilation. Lovely Ms. Marion said that as a young child her mother spared her from the operation as she was too young to choose. When she turned 21 she felt that this was something she should undergo under proper conditions. (Bloody Hell!) Consequently she requested the operation be carried out, and she was there to say that it is not nearly as bad as critics seem to think, and that she does not consider it a mutilation.
The esteemed physcian pointed out that in his opinion we should call it mutilation; senseless mutilation, and having been presented in his profesional capacity with many complications he had never seen one that was even competently completed. As humans we are constructed in a certain way. True, we men have one or two pieces of equipment that are surplus to requirements, but in general are bodies are perfect. The cutting off of perfectly healthy tissue, when you don't even know why you are doing it is the height of stupidity. Then, when things go wrong, as in the case of botched circumcisions on infants, the problem lasts a lifetime.
The program ended on a hopeful note with the agreement of everyone on the panel, including Ms. Marion, that attitudes are changing towards women and that the future will quite naturally mean more respect and involvement in all levels for them.
From my point of view, I think we just have to believe that. Women are the last major class of oppressed citizens, and supposedly enlightened men find reasons for paying them less than their true value. That is an embarrassement for us all.
"Until we are all free, none of us are free."
Copyright (c) 2015 Eugene Carmichael