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17/02/2014

Is the Image of Africa a Reflection of the African Woman’s Face? 4 Common Abuses She Suffers At Home

 

Is the Image of Africa a Reflection of the African Woman’s Face? 4 Common Abuses She Suffers At Home

African woman

With the rising tide of violence around the world – new wars erupting every day, rampant killings and bombings, one has to wonder what’s going on. Why is there an increase in the number of human beings killing each other when one would think that as we evolve in the 21st centuryhealthy competition in a globalizing economy would lead to a better understanding of people?

As DUNIA Magazine’s Women Are The Core initiative kicks up efforts on empowering women and raising awareness about the plight of the African woman, we are meeting many women silently struggling under the weight of personal relationship struggles.

One cannot help but note that Africa has become the epicenter of world violence, carrying the banner of the continent with the most wars. Which leads some of us to wonder why for so many centuries, Africa so very gifted and naturally endowed with natural resources, continues to be poor, sad, vandalized and plundered.

Lately, I have found myself wondering, is the image of the African continent the face of the African woman? Could the root cause of the dysfunction that we continue to face as a people be traced to the home? What happens in societies where women are dismissed, forced to fit into certain molds and seldom allowed to blossom into their full potential? Aren’t such societies held back due to important missing components that only she is capable of bringing to the table? Don’t these communities stall? Isn’t that why allowing women basic freedoms and respecting her human rights is an important factor of progress in societies that have moved from the dark ages into civilized times?

What leads some African men – educated, seemingly cultured and well spoken to exhibit mean abusive behaviors on their spouses behind closed doors? Is it because our culture fans the flames of abuse and makes it OK for women to be treated like commodities and property instead of being respected as human beings? What is it that allows us to strip our women and girls of their dignity? Why are they treated like objects with no feelings, and branded as “no-bodies”?

A close look at the core cultural make-up of Africans leads to these 4 common abuses that African women and girls are subjected to:

1 – Beatings. Most African men believe that beating a woman establishes their authority. Most women have suffered some kind of beating at the hands of their partner – whether kicks, slaps, punches, beatings with belts, etc. According to figures released by South African Deputy President Kgalema Motlanth in 2012, 90% of South African women have experienced emotional and physical abuse; 71% have experienced sexual abuse.

These numbers are not reflective of South Africa alone, I believe them to reflect the general demise of African women. Physical abuse is prevalent both on the continent and in the diaspora. This is mainly because women are expected to be well behaved and well mannered. When the man perceives her behavior to not be in line with “his expectations”, he takes it upon himself to discipline her, after-all, most African customs and traditions regard the wife as belonging to the husband.

The need to dominate and control the home primarily drives African men into abusive behaviors. The culture expects them to have authority over their wives; hence they find it hard to refrain from physically assaulting her if need be. The lack of respect for women and their feelings is deep rooted in most Africans’ psychs … including some women themselves who have grown up to believe that they are not worthy of anything better. Most men (especially those raised in stringent cultural environments) have to be taught to think and react differently.

A recent conversation with a man of God who counsels African couples revealed that in mosttroubled marriages, the men complain of not being respected by their wives. And what does ‘not being respect’ mean? When a woman tries to voice an opinion, when she tries to express feelings and reacts to being treated badly. The African man who considers himself the king is not particularly wired to be considerate of how she feels, why she’s “complaining”, why she’s unhappy, or even what she’s saying. He is very quick to shift into the gear of setting her straight … and hence abuse permeates relationships.

2 – Public humiliation. In patriarchal societies such as Africa’s, most girls are raised to be good housewives and responsible mothers. Women and girls who do not behave themselves properly are commonly subjected to public humiliation. When “crimes” which can range from stealing to pre-marital sex and adultery are committed by girls, public humiliation is a commonly used form of punishment (such ignorance is sadly lauded and cheered by other females). Whether at the village square, in her parents’ compound, at the school general assembly, more girls than boys continue to be subjected to humiliating experiences for all eyes to behold.

Parents (especially mothers who know no better) are often the ones inflicting the punishment themselves. Common is the pouring of hot pepper in a girl’s private parts as punishment for sexual promiscuity; the stripping of her clothes and making her walk around naked for stealing.

So when men grow up witnessing such behavior, they turn around and punch their wives in public, insult them and humiliate them infront of others as a way of teaching her a lesson.

3 – Skin Bleaching. Behave a certain way, look a certain way … is the general message instilled in young African girls growing up. The spike in the number of Africans who’re bleaching their skin to look whiter is an indication of this. Poni Gune Shamera, a South Sudanese in Juba agrees that “there’s social pressure to use the skin creams, saying that it was hard to get a husband without lighter skin.”

For most African girls living in poverty, hardworking, financially stable husbands are not so easy to come by; so most African girls scramble for men, determined to do whatever it takes. An indication that not love, but survival and ‘image’ are main reasons why most marriages happen. Girls are hence pressured into fitting into certain molds of attractiveness to please men. Skin bleaching is one of those.

HRH Queen Kradin Abusuakuw of Bete Yisrael, who in her younger years bleached her skin believes that expectations of men who do not honor the black skin drive girls into cultivating such destructive behaviors. “I’m blessed to have a wonderful down to earth man in my life, and he said all the time that people in society are brainwashed to believe what is pretty and what “beautiful” looks like. He is right. Brainwashing techniques are used everyday in society to bypass the thinking part of your brain and flip a switch deep inside that says “OBEY”. People are so brainwashed that they are lost in their true self, they believe what others have brainwashed them into believing. Many beautiful people see themselves as not good looking only because society has set the standards for what color is beautiful and what color is not so beautiful. When you are brainwashed as my husband said, you go with the majority influence. Black is beautiful to me not because society told me it was but because I’m not brainwashed to believe outside of myself. Beautiful is being who you truly are and sexy is being strong enough to not let society brainwash you and being strong is about not going along with the majority influence. The truth is the same majority that would tell us being light or white is more beautiful than being dark, are spending billions every year to tan and become darker.”

4 – Verbal abuse. Children live what they see, they speak what they hear. Most Africans grow up in strict disciplined homes, where there’s no shortage of stern verbage. Common names children are called growing up include, “you stupid fool”, “you good for nothing child”, “idiot”, “bastard”, “useless thing”, etc. Such harsh language is carried with them into adulthood, and becomes weapons against their spouses.

Verbal abuse is one of the most painful forms of abuse. In African homes, when partners become frustrated with each other, insults fly. Women are called bitches, sluts, witches, and all names under the sun. One may argue that women insult men too, but in my opinion, the woman’s insults are often mitigated by her respect for the man, and fear of being physically attacked if she insults back. Hence, victims of verbal abuse tend to live in silence.

A University of Nebraska publication entitled ‘When Words Are Used As Weapons: Verbal Abuse’ sites a 2006 study conducted on women in rural areas by Bosch and Bergen which reveals that “emotional abuse, which includes verbal abuse, was endured by 100 percent of women living with a physically abusive partner. When verbal combat leads to physical assault, men have the distinct advantage because men are usually stronger than women and often inflict physical harm…. One woman who was verbally abused reported that ‘the soul dies a slow death’. Those who are verbally abused often think they are at fault and may have caused the abuse. Some even believe the terrible things said about them.”

A Vicious cycle. Even more disturbing is the cycle in which kids are being raised in. Studies show that girls who grow up in abusive homes are most likely to end up in abusive relationships themselves (because they subconsciously believe that abuse is normal) and boys who grow up with abusive fathers are most likely to repeat such behaviors. If such behaviors continue to trickle down to our children, where do we stop the downward spiral?

In conclusion, I would like us to switch from traditional cultural beliefs to modern teachings. At the core of abuse in relationships where both partners are educated is the christian biblical believe that women are supposed to be submissive to their husbands. But hardly ever mentioned is the teaching that men are commanded to love their wives. Isn’t it time for husbands to understand that love is kind … It does not dishonor others … Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth … Love always protects. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Today, the African continent is in a state of turmoil – Africans fighting against Africans. Black on black crime is at an all time high in the United States. We must stop as a people and reflect on what in us triggers the need to dominate and control, to the extent that we no longer have empathy and would hurt and damage each other just to “win” an argument or prove a point… and the home may just be the perfect place to start such self-examination.

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