Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Friday, November 30, 2018

Political results of gender inequity

And what are the political results of cultures perpetuating female subordination?

Why are African women more at risk of violence? Nigeria tells a patriarchal tale
As the United Nations launched its 16-day worldwide campaign to combat violence against women on Sunday, I was reminded of how, while it is a global problem, it is one that leaves women in developing countries particularly vulnerable.

A UN report shows women in Africa are most at risk of violence. In Nigeria where I grew up, 23% of women have been victims of physical or sexual violence committed by a previous husband…

While poverty affects both genders in sub-Saharan Africa, it affects women more: 122 women aged 25 to 34 live in extreme poverty for every 100 men of the same age. For such women, the decision on whether to leave a violent partner would involve practical issues of food and shelter for herself and her children. However, the problem is much more than just economic. I also have friends who are middle-class professionals yet tolerated years of domestic abuse.

In their cases, when they complained to their families that their husband was abusing them, they were usually told they must have done something to “disrespect” him. While Nigeria is a multicultural society comprised of hundreds of ethnic groups, each with their own traditional value system, what they all have in common is a view of the male as an authority figure who deserves automatic “respect” from his wife. This involves the expectation she will regularly acknowledge her subordinate position to him in the household.

If he is abusive, it is thus often attributed to the woman not playing her role properly, not being a “good wife”. When one of my friends who spent many years in the UK before marrying and relocating to Nigeria complained to her family about how her husband was treating her, she was told she had “spent too long living among white people where everything is upside down and the women control the men”…

One issue that is often grossly under-appreciated is that tolerant attitudes towards domestic violence have a domino effect on society, producing adults traumatised by childhood experiences of seeing their father regularly abuse their mother. How does a society that lets its children witness such consequence-free abuse expect them to grow up fair-minded sensitive adults?

Non-governmental organisations combating violence against women do their best, but the harsh realities of life in a society with endemic poverty, a nonexistent social safety net and weak formal mechanisms for safeguarding the vulnerable, compel too many women to make unfortunate choices for themselves and their children…

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