Gender Parity and the Prohibition of Violence against Women
I had planned a completely different post for today but well this happened and I just had to voice my opinions. As some of you may be aware, the Nigerian senate- consisting mostly of old men-recently opposed a bill aimed at protecting the rights of women in marriage, employment and education. I am in no way surprised at this and I don’t know anyone who is frankly, but I am utterly disgusted.
Checking my privilege: I can not speak for all women and I certainly cannot speak for all Nigerian women. Some of the people who may have been most affected by this bill may have varied views on it’s relevance. I have been privileged thus far in the family I was born into. I have been heavily shielded from a lot of the realities of being female in Nigeria. I have been taught repeatedly to see myself as a leader, as someone with much to bring to the table. This is not a reality for all (many) Nigerian women. This is not to imply that I am oblivious to the realities of being female in Nigeria, patriarchy and frankly misogyny seeps into even the most mundane conversations. I however feel it is important to acknowledge the ways in which I may be distanced from a full understanding of what is at stake.
Several articles have highlighted a few of the senators who were opposed to the bill and of course Senator Yerima felt it was his duty to oppose this bill on the basis of his religious beliefs. Now I respect anyone’s right to assert their beliefs, however there comes a point where you need to stop using religion as a medium to serve your heinous desires. Can we just stop to think about how after we all hash-tagged #childnotbride on social media, wrote articles and protested, this man still sits comfortably in the house of senate without a care. No accountability. No repercussion. And to think all it took was to cite religion and our uproar became a silent grumble.
Nigeria for all its patriarchy does a huge disservice to men because if a room full of decision makers whose sole purpose is to serve their country still cannot stretch their perspective enough to consider how protecting women against the constant violence that is inflicted on them could be necessary then you my friends are enduring the greatest torture. To be so enraptured by your privilege that you fail to see how you are setting yourself up for failure, I truly pity you.
Nigerian women are phenomenal! As evidenced by the few women I have featured in this series and those who I will feature in the months to come, they are barrier breakers, leaders, innovators, creatives! How is it that in 2016 we are still reducing a conversation about violence against women to the institutions under which they marry? How is this relevant to protecting their basic human rights? We pretend that the only context that women are abused is within marriage when in fact at every phase of a Nigerian woman’s life she must face some form of abuse. You can’t play this way, You can’t dress this way, You can’t speak this way, You can’t earn this much, You can’t advance this fast. We are constantly saying, limit yourself, do the bare minimum, wait for a man, don’t shame us by your brazenness. I felt it was important to state my privilege at the beginning of this post because as much as violence against women tears at my soul, there are women who wholeheartedly believe that their husbands can “discipline” them physically, that there is no such thing as a man raping his wife and that they deserve less in life simply on account of their genitalia. I can not speak for anyone other than myself and I cannot present anything other than my own moral stance and I say Nigeria you are failing your women!
We can not continue to lean so heavily on principles that have systematically diminished the worth of our own people. This should not be a tousle between man and woman. If truly all a woman is to you is your property then the least you can do is protect what is yours but even in your own logic you fail. I am thoroughly unimpressed with the light that this casts the majority of the Nigerian senate in.
I am a Nigerian woman and I am not afraid to say that I expect more.
I expect more from my country’s decision makers.
I expect more from Nigerian men.
I expect more from Nigeria.