Systems of oppression vary across societies and communities; therefore it would mean that any action that involves the exploitation, marginalization and dehumanization of a group of people, race or community is an act of oppression. Oppression is not a new phenomenon across the globe, throughout history there have been records of acts of oppression, boldly expressed by the dark ages of slave trade in the 1780’S.That very notion that there is this divide in terms of access to power, resources, opportunity and acceptance has been in existence right from the very start of civilisation. Policies, rules and rituals have best insinuated the caste system of classification evident in our mindset. We have categorised our communities into three distinct classes; the few elites, the middle-class and the impoverished bottom billion, it’s not like there exists a line that visibly demarcates this for it’s in our subconscious. We overcame apartheid in South Africa and are still in a continuous fight against racism, a battle in which progress is being made, but there exists a subtle yet most devastating form of oppression in this 21st century; it’s the menace of gender violence and inequality.
Every time I listen to the news or read the papers, there’s always a report of a child raped by an adult, a woman killed by her husband or a female student raped by her colleagues, then the pertinent question comes to mind as to how this menace degenerated to the point where it has become a part of our everyday life, in some quarters it’s no longer news anymore it’s a norm. The greatest problem of the 19th century was slavery but it has been reported that the greatest challenge of the 21st century is the oppression of women and girls throughout the world; Sheryl WuDunn calls it our generation’s greatest injustice. Opinions seem to differ on how we arrived at this point in history where we suffer from gender inequality but I’ll like to go down a cultural path in exploring our journey downward.
Generation to generation, we have passed the baton of the notion that implies that men are superior to women even though research has proven that women are equally as intelligent as men, we can see that expressed in our recent outcomes in school, but that aside we can see that the divide is not an intellectual one but a cultural and societal issue. Right from childhood, if a boy shows any sign of vulnerability or expresses his emotions, he is taught to stop that kind of behaviour cos it’s a sign of being feminine, we lock our men into a ‘’man box ‘’ which consists of things he should and should not do, his seemingly ‘’should not’’ belong to the female folks. Over the years, there has been this silent confusion as to whether the role of a woman is to be a permanent housekeeper, or she can also engage in other socio-economic and political endeavours, for the men we don’t debate that at all. When a new child is born, we ask excitedly ‘’is the baby a boy or girl’’ not ‘’is the baby a girl or boy’’, we say it lightly but it simply shows what goes on in our minds. In some African cultures, having two daughters as the first two children in a marriage is an indication for the man to marry another wife. We have been culturally conditioned to these thought patterns and there’s this deafening silence about it. It may seem well intentioned by the people who pass it down to us, in form of parents, teachers and societal beliefs but it’s time to have a second thought. Gender marginalization is the new form of slavery, so subtle in its ways yet damaging in its effect.it is simply practising 19th century methods in the 21st century.
Gender violence occurs in forms such as domestic violence, sex trafficking sexual assault and harassment, Women in Nigeria account for almost half the population and a report I saw recently showed that 28% of them have experienced violence one way or the other. Also it is believed that it occurs mostly in the western part of the nation, while child-marriage is more prevalent in the northern part. Some argue that these acts of violence ranges from crimes of passion to carefully planned acts. I believe very strongly that there are three major factors to consider when discussing the issue of gender violence.
The first one is economic factors, in a society of predominantly men; a good number of women are below the poverty line as compared to men. Women as well girls depend on financial resources from their husbands, brothers and ‘’boyfriends’’, which puts many of them at the mercy of these men; therefore they are ultimately disadvantaged as to whether or not they can escape gender violence. Some of these men see their finances on women as an investment therefore they don’t see their female folks as one who has some emotions and enthusiasm but as ‘’properties’’. Control seems to be their method of maintaining that ownership, and when that control is threatened, violence is the end result. Economics also results in the fact that the higher you go, the fewer women you see. There still remains an avalanche of women yet to be skilled in entrepreneurship which would enable them to be financially stable.
The second is education, women belong to a group of underserved market as it relates to education, certain beliefs hold the notion that there’s no need to educate a girl child if she would end up in another man’s house, I might argue here that we need a bigger purpose for schooling especially for the female child. The female child has hopes, dreams and enthusiasm as any other human being; therefore if we are still debating the idea of child marriage as a nation, then we are far from our walk to freedom. Education of the girl child would bring about ripple effects; most dominant of them is economic empowerment. They would learn about the rights of women, they’d learn never to be subject to sex trafficking by money hungry ‘’madams’’, they won’t be contented with just being housemaids for the rest of their lives; they won’t be contented with being married off to an older man as sex slaves.
The third is both an emotional and sociological factor, over the years; stigmatisation has been closely associated with victims of gender abuse .it’s a common practise now that women have become used to art of learned helplessness. Yes it’s true that many a woman prefer the comfort of silence after suffering from abuse but it’s as a result of her cultural wiring, she has been taught that her major responsibility is to endure whatever she meets her home, to provide sex and obedience no matter the cost and that’s the creed she wants to follow. That deadly silence accounts for the reason very few women speak up against gender abuse, would that be the very reason why the first lady of a nation kept mute when a debate on child marriage was going on in her country. She has been taught to be silent. It’s in her subconscious.
Let me add another twist to this discussion, I believe in the fact that a major challenge in the fight against gender inequality and violence is innate limitation, it’s expressed in their ‘’love to play victim’’. They believe playing the victim appeals to the heart and emotions of people in general, it brings pity and empathy; they would like to be seen as the innocent one who just got victimized by the wickedness of fate in the form of a man. Typical causes of domestic violence indicate that some of the reasons for the act includes; arguments with husbands, promiscuity, neglect of children and some other trivial issues. Our past arguments on gender abuse are not balanced, as much as we canvass for that equality, we must also emphasize on the need to learn the intricacies of interpersonal relationships, this not to exonerate the women batterers but we should not close our eyes to the fact some of these action occur as a result of being pushed to the wall by little acts of nagging and jealousy. It also beats my imagination how girls feel comfortable about being sexually abused not seemingly physically this time but through subtle means such as music, yes you might not be able to separate the ‘’love theme’’ from music but what happens when the lyrics of a song boldly expresses sexual abuse on women. If all he wants is ‘’your waist’’, whether it’s for the showbiz or not it expresses his subconscious thought as to the importance of women.
I must say in conclusion here, a wise man once said that ‘’for every social wrong, there must be a remedy but the remedy can be nothing less than the abolition of the wrong’’. It’s time for women to stop playing victim and lend their voice to the battle against gender violence, it’s time for the society to change our cultural wiring as it relates to women, to teach our men that they are not properties, but one with aspirations and dreams too. It’s time to live together as partners in furthering the course of humanity. Therefore I say ‘’No to Gender Violence and Abuse’’.(F-mod)