In the Name of Culture and Tradition
In the Name of Culture and Tradition
Those who wield political, economic and religious powers have done the most to retain it, especially promoting teachings and interpreting divine texts that support their ideals to invariably preserve their authority and control over lesser subjects. For now, patriarchy is the rule that best ensures that these powers remain exclusive to a select few; that is, held by a very small percentage of the world’s population, with the chasm between the rich and the poor growing increasingly wider, and the domination of ‘developed’ nations by ‘developing’ nations increasingly suppressive.
A major tool of the ruling class to keep the poor majority in check is through culture and traditional practices. By these teachings, we the million masses of African origin have probably forgotten that culture is simply our way of life; and more than this, it is something we form for ourselves. Rather, we have for ages and ages understood culture to mean something that we must bend to, no matter much it breaks our backs whereas it was made to be molded in our own hands like a potter forms pots from clay
In the Name of Culture and Tradition we have decided that women should not inherit or own land because land is our precious heritage and they are mere women, objects of inheritance themselves. The ‘progressive’ courts of some African countries have found this discriminatory, like in Nigeria. In areas like Botswana, Ghana and Zambia, although there are inheritance laws, they are largely ineffective against cultural practices hence, women continue to suffer these culturally imposed ills without respite.
In the Name of Culture and Tradition, we have also decided to brutally rip off the woman’s clitoris in countries like Egypt, Mauritania, Niger, Chad, Guinea and Nigeria, the laws criminalising this cruel practices notwithstanding. We travel the mile in Djibouti, Somalia and Sudan where we not only remove the entire clitoris but also the labia majora and labia minora. Then we go ahead stitch the vagina close, ‘kindly’ leaving a small opening for urine and menstrual blood. In our thoughtfulness for her to fulfil her sexual duties to her husband, we widen the hole to allow the penis passage into the vagina when she is to marry. We’re more thoughtful too, because to achieve her duties of birthing children we again widen the hole to allow a child pass through at pregnancy. In these countries we remember to stitch this opening shut if she gets divorced, pending another marriage. These are all because our culture tells us the woman should not have sexual desires; everything about her body is for service to her man and her family. Non-Governmental Organisations may be achieving more success is aiding the reduction of FGM incidences in Africa than governmental policies.
In the Name of Culture and Tradition, we have made the widow shave all her hair upon the death of her husbands and to drink the water used to wash the body. We have made widows mere property, subject to inheritance by the late husband’s brothers and children like his barn and goats, under the guise of male protection of and providence for women. It was under the wings of culture and tradition that they made widows in India be burnt alive when their husbands died while their inheritance went to the temples.
21st century patriarchs are so quick to defend culture and tradition. @EniolaHu says on Twitter that she and her husband decided to omit the term ‘submission’ and the practice of the wife kneeling to her husband during her Yoruba marriage rites and we are so quick to denounce her. We ignore the truth in her actions in refusing to bend to a practice that dictates subjection to male dominance. We hold fast to decadent cultural practices which have occasioned far-reaching disadvantages, suppression, neglect, subjugation and abuse of women and women’s rights despite changes in time, educational and technological advancement. To our own collective detriment, but to women’s suffering more than men.
These practices; those introduced through colonialism and those originating from us, are screaming that we revise them for women achieve the fullness of their rights even within sociocultural regimes. But no, we are increasingly hypocritical in our support for culture as the powers that be raise their voice for and against culture according to their whims.
To build or re-build an Africa that is a strong force against neo-colonialism and foreign invasion, we must build and live by cultural values that are aligned towards gender equality, inclusion, access and equal opportunities for all without discrimination. We should shun blind followership of suppressive practices. We should embrace positive change and not abhor it. We should look to one another as full persons without gender bias or discrimination.
This is what African Feminism preaches. This is what we stand for.