Date Published: 07/21/10
On the violence against women By Rev. Fr. Clement Muozoba
In my culture, for one to quote his father is likened to swearing an oath. Though my father died early, I have many causes to quote him and even swear by his name. I learnt much from him. Whenever the year draws to an end, I feel the pains of his death for it was at such a time that he departed this world many years ago. One of the lessons he taught me early in life was my relationship with women. That day, I came home triumphantly after beating up a girl in the school. I told him the story, thinking that he would praise me for being strong. For the first time, he was so harsh on me and made me understand that whoever fights is a fool and whoever beats a woman is a coward. He further made me to understand that every woman is my mother, wife and sister and that on no account should I beat her. He ordered me to apologize to the girl and I did that the following day.
Another day, I returned home from school very moody. I was asked why I looked sad and I narrated how I struggled over pebbles for our arithmetic lessons with a girl. Unfortunately for her, I got them and she slapped me in frustration. I wanted to retaliate and actually raised my hand but my father’s voice was whispering to me, “Every woman is your mother, wife and sister. Do not raise a hand on her!” I let her go. When I told my dad this, he smiled and parted my head and told me, “You are learning so fast. Look, my son, you will be a good husband.” I smiled at the thought of being a good husband then and covered my face with my hands. When I returned the next day and told my father that the girl apologized to me in tears, he told me that she had good parents who talked to her. However, he quickly added that I should beware of women’s tears. Spontaneously, I asked, “Why? Do they burn?” My father simply replied, “You will understand later.” I thought much about this and only understood later.
Why I went on to narrate these experiences is because of the media report few weeks ago. It was how the Deji of Akure, Oba Oluwadare Adesina, in company of some thugs and his new queen, Olori Remi, assaulted his ex-wife, Olori Bolanle Adesina. It was said that they poured some poisonous powdery substance on the hapless woman which got her arms burnt. The reason for this act of brutality was that the traditional ruler wanted to forcefully retrieve some of his property in possession of his ex-wife. This brings us face to face with the abuses that our traditional societies have subjected women to even in this modern time. Most unfortunately, some women or groups of women sometimes participate in enforcing the practice of some of these pagan beliefs and superstitions on the womenfolk especially the widows, childless and unmarried women.
In some cultures and traditions, the women are generally believed to be nothing but the property of their husbands and hence, they have no rights whatever even in their matrimonial homes. They just exist for procreation and sexual satisfaction of their husbands, sometimes in polygamous families. In many occasions, when the husbands die, the widows are subjected to some obnoxious pagan practices especially the ones that will prepare them to be inherited by other men, many a time, against their will. In some places, they are forced to perform the Ajadu ritual in which they are taken to a stream in the dead of the night for a ritual bath. It is alleged that an unknown dwarf, pre-arranged for the purpose will perform the ceremony after which he will have a carnal knowledge of the woman, thereby ‘severing’ the bond between her and her dead husband such that no harm will befall any man that sleeps with her. They are so much intimidated to believe that they will die if they do not perform the ritual. It is unbelievable that the women themselves champion this. Many a time, the refusal to do this is behind all forms of oppressions against the widows, including dispossessing them of their husbands’ property and ostracizing them.
In the same manner, the dust-to-dust rites performed at funerals have had this belief attached to it. Many believe that if a woman pours sand into the grave of her deceased husband, the bond between them will not be severed. Therefore, it is believed that any man who goes to her will be slain by the spirit of her dead husband. This has caused some rumpus between the church and some local communities which now see any funeral of any Christian man to be a theatre of war against the church. Funny enough too, some women lead this war against the church and themselves, still preferring to remain in the dark.
Another aspect of this is the plight of women without male children or childless women. In many occasions these two groups are regarded as one because of the low regard for the female children, who in the ancient African culture are just mere alternative to barrenness. Some of these women have always been made from onset to understand that their lives are wasted. Many a time, their husbands discard them to marry brand new wives who are always available in different shapes and sizes, and are so convinced of their fertility. One thing our people have not come to terms with is that, in spite of the advance in modern science, it is God that gives children. Human beings are just collaborators. For this, the love for one’s spouse should be considered first above any other thing in marriage. The value of a woman should not therefore depend on the number of children she produced, whether male or female. After all, the women reproduce what the men gave them.
It is true that the people like the Deji of Akure have been taken care of by some punitive measures like deposition; the women should come out to free themselves from these shackles. As I rightly pointed out, in many occasions, the women are the cause of their own woes. Take for instance, the youngest wife of the Deji who accompanied him and joined in beating up his fellow woman. She could have stopped him from the assault if she has respect for womanhood. In the same way, it is the women who form the cartel for the exportation of their fellow women to foreign countries for prostitution from which they make high profits. In the recently concluded World Cup in South-Africa, it is said that of the 40,000 prostitutes imported for the occasion, Nigerian girls from different universities in the country were the highest in number. So what we lost in the pitch, we won in strange beds.
It is again disheartening to know that many women still subject themselves to some outmoded religious and traditional beliefs. A female lay reader was of the view that her monthly period is a ritual impurity and so, she could not ascend the altar to read in that condition. Another believed that it made her lose the state of grace and therefore, could not receive the Holy Communion that time. Most surprisingly, both of them are not illiterate. It was like squeezing water out of the rock to make them understand that, “Grace does not destroy nature but perfects it.” The greatest disease is ignorance!
This piece is not intended to portray the women as innocuous. They have their own problems. Some of them have been known to be behind the ruin of many men, including their husbands. Many have been known to be on the offensive against the men and cry foul at the reaction of such men. Their best weapon is to accuse the men of sexual harassment. It was said that Hon. Doris Uboh, a member of the House of Representatives for whom the women demonstrated against the way she was taken out of the chamber during the exchange of blows recently, was the first to slap a male legislator. The women demonstrators did not think of that. They also did not think of how some of the male legislators were beaten up and their dresses torn. That is real selfishness. Recently, the Nigerian nation was held to ransom by a woman during the period of illness of the immediate past president. It was only God himself that came to our rescue. Also a woman is said to have held one of the South-Eastern states in-between her laps, manipulating and financially draining it with her son, an ex-governor. Women achieve their goals with crocodile tears. This is the situation where their tears become more corrosive than raw acid.
However, these are exceptions. There are many wonderful women who can help liberate others. They should seek their rights and protect them instead of leaning on the so-called privileges granted by men. Women should encourage themselves to participate actively in politics and not just stay back to seek 30% political appointments after the men must have sweated to clinch the political posts. It must also be acknowledged that naturally, though men and women are human beings, they do not have equal physical strength. As such, men should protect the women where they should without taking undue advantage of them. The women should also help the men where they can. Men should ultimately remember that every woman is their mother, wife, sister and daughter and should not bear a hand in any violence against them, directly or indirectly.
Rev. Fr. Clement Muozoba