No let up in women rights violation
Even after the continued celebration of women s day in Africa and the ratification of the draft protocol on rights of women last June, women are still viewed as sexual objects who enjoy pain and humiliation when their rights are being abused.
"The major reason why we suffer these frustrations continually, is our inferiority complex as the weaker sex , said Mary Wanjiru a mother of four who is recovering from serious physical injuries after being battered by her husband. My husband, came late one Friday night contrary to his usual 5-6.00P.M. He accused me of being a prostitute. I was stunned and had no answer. As though my silence hurt him, blows started landing on me one after the other until I fell unconscious , she recalls with bitterness.
Women all over the world also suffer discrimination. A case in point is Malawi, where women in different parties approached `women lobby , a local NGO to help them raise public awareness on the importance of women s participation in politics. Reports show that men are determined to dominate in politics, and will use unorthodox means to keep women out of politics. It is more discouraging to realize that political parties are not willing to include women.
In line with politics, parties only promote women in difficult constituencies with transport problems, thus leaving them disadvantaged to campaign. They are also kept out of daily political participation. Reports continue to say that they have been denied access to and control over productive resources such as land, livestock, market credits, and modern technology.
Separation, loneliness and bereavement due to war in war ridden areas has militated against promotion of women rights and international peace. Wars have caused women to lack protection and are exposed to sexual abuse from army soldiers and rebel fighters and run a higher risk of becoming HIV/AIDS victims. This is because majority of refugees and internally displaced people uprooted by conflict are women.
In Somali, hundreds of defenseless women have been killed and thousands have died of starvation. Having lost their husbands and children, they are left to bear the pain alone. They experience beatings and undergo forced labour thus depriving them of basic needs including medicine. They have lost their homes and possessions in search for safety. There is no authority protecting the weak from the strong.
A refugee woman from Southern Sudan, who sought anonymity shares her experience, My husband died in the fight between the SPLA (Sudan People Liberation Army) and the Islamic government in the North. I had to bear the pain of bringing up our three children in such a risky atmosphere. As though the ongoing threat was not enough, discriminatory food distribution practices left my children and I malnourished. This was after resisting coercion into sexual acts by men who are generally in charge of food distribution, a responsibility which give them enormous power at the expense of the most vulnerable in the community .
She continues: One evening as I was fetching firewood across a path, two gigantic men raped me rationally over my overrated resistance. Suffering the trauma of rape, I became pregnant, a thing that added to my emotional and psychological suffering. It is against this background that thousands of us fled to Kenya for security .
The high rate of unemployment in the African continent has exacerbated sex tourism cases, where women are exploited sexually. They are lured by false promises ranging from better jobs, good salaries and increased standard of living but end up being sexual objects.
Cecilia Wairimu, an 80 year old widow from the Kenyan central district of Murang a explains how her only daughter left for good contrary to her expectation, My daughter and I were working in my small field when she received a call. After conversing with her source for almost 15 minutes, she explained that she was leaving the country for America. With shock and surprise I asked her to substantiate her story. She said that a friend of hers Jones Mark was expecting her at the airport since she wanted to offer her a job. With much conviction to hold back the invitation, she said she knew the man pretty well at the time she was schooling in Mombasa .
She adds: I therefore gave my daughter leave with the hope of getting her helped despite the loneliness I would suffer. Its now 20 years and have never heard from her. I have no hopes of ever seeing my daughter again. It is about time the government enforced strict emigration rules ..
Embedded cultural beliefs also militate against the prosperity of women. Notably, the nomadic communities such as the Turkana and the Maasai of Kenya, girls are married off as soon as they show signs of puberty. This deprives the girl child of an opportunity to make informed choices in her life. The argument behind this culture is eradication of poverty from the girl s home.
Susan Akinyi, a student of Sociology at the University of Nairobi says: ``People who marry off children for wealth purposes have totally misapplied the purpose of a woman. Women are not goods or services but human beings just like men."
In connection to this culture Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) still remains a challenging tradition that negatively affects women. FGM is still leaving the girl child in danger of contracting HIV/AIDS and other health complications, exposed to death during the process and even lowering the dignity of the victim.
The practice of wife inheritance has left widows displaced from the matrimonial homes, denying them the freedom to possess property and instead exposing them to hardships. Mary Kwabuka,32 is a living example ``I was inherited by the brother of my husband after he died of severe headache. I had to move to another village and my property distributed among the mourners. I couldn t stand to see my herd of cattle and goats being slaughtered but then could not talk because I am a woman and besides it s the culture".
Kwabuka, who is now suffering from AIDS continues her narration, ``After 2 years my present husband s health condition changed, he became slim and every body in the village pointed fingers saying I am a witch. It s after a long time when I realized this was AIDS and that I am also bound to die of it. If it were not for this tradition, I would have a future".
It is true women are in tears. The pregnant question is: When will women ever be heard?