Sex and the African woman

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MOST intelligent, educated Africans agree that we have not treated our girls and women well — to put it mildly.

It is trite to blame it all on age-old traditions.

The overall rationale was to keep the tribe together.

Men, women and children had to know their place in society.

Yet there appears to have been a denial of the inevitability of change — the only constant in all life.

After independence from colonialism, very few African societies could rationalise the freedom of the girls and women from the bondage of tradition.

To this day, female genital mutilation remains a routine practice among many African nations, 50 or so years after independence from colonialism.

This savage mutilation involves the cutting off of the clitoris.

Its effect, according to some experts, is to kill sexual desire or the enjoyment of sex for women.

It is also called circumcision — yet the same operation for men results in an enhancement of sexuality.

Today, in this era of HIV and Aids, male circumcision is said to help ward off infection among men.

We have not been told if it has the same effect on circumcised women.

Last week, the world began 16 Days of Activism against violence on girls and women.

Horrific examples were bound to be cited.

The idea is to eliminate such violence, which some cynics might call a forlorn hope.

In some societies, including many in Africa, violence against women is assumed to be part of the culture.

Even some women are said to feel unwanted if they are not bashed once in a while by their loved ones.

All that could be a myth — can any human being, male or female, mistake this act of brutality for love rather than hatred? 

But we have to go deeper into the whole complex field of male-female relationships — back to the Greeks.

For instance, Oedipus Rex is said to have killed his father so he could marry his mother — or so the myth tells us.

Sigmund Freud is said to have dealt at length on this subject — children loving the parent of the opposite sex more than of the same sex.

In other words, daughters love their fathers more than they love their mothers — and vice versa.

But how do you explain recent cases of fathers — mostly in Europe — fathering children with their daughters over a long period?

The girls are said to be captives of their fathers for the entire period they are giving birth to their father’s … children?

Isn’t this the nadir of a really sick society?

Yet if you believe the Oedipus story, then there is very little reason to be surprised.

There have been incidents of this nature in African society.

But clearly our concern must be the general persecution of girls and women.

A survey in South Africa, for instance, found that the majority of the men interviewed confessed they considered it “traditional” or “normal” to rape women.

Growing up, they are told that when a girl says “no” to sex, she actually means “yes” — except she would not say that to the boy.

The boy is taught how to succeed in his attempt in spite of the girl’s apparent reluctance.

Once she has been deflowered, the girl is expected to then agree to sex with the boy — routinely, — as he now claims her as “his”.

Some of this could be a load of rubbish: why is there no element of love involved?

Still, for the developing nations of the world, it is the advancement of women to the same level as the men that is of great concern.

The advancement has always been that a society in which women are regarded as equal to their male counterparts in every respect has a far greater chance of economic, social and political advancement than one where the women are, literally, “the drawers of water and hewers of wood” — and nothing more.

Most — if not all — of this can be achieved only if there is real political will among the politicians, particularly the men.

Since independence arrived on the continent in 1957, most politicians have been concerned — almost exclusively — with retaining power and gathering wealth for themselves.

Of course, some will say this is totally unfair, unfounded and anti-African.

But there is a good case for it.

No women have staged any coups — military or otherwise — in Africa.

The coups have stunted our potential for political and economic growth.

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