Causes of Wife and Women Abuses....

Thu, 10 Aug 2006 Source: Bottah, Eric Kwasi

...in Matrilineal and Patrilineal Families in Ghana

Afua Ankoma article (Ref. Ghanaweb Aug. 4, 2006: “Of Insensitivity and Deodorant”) touched on a very important social issue. This article, in all sincerity is to further deepen the conversation, to arrest the canker of sexism and discrimination in our community. I do not subsume to exhaust the topic but to touch on those aspects that border on wife and female abuse.

For the purposes of getting to the bottom of this canker of sexism in our society let's accept that there is a prima-facie case of sexism in all facets of our society. But accepting a fact is only one-third of the equation. We also have to probe why such inequalities and discrimination exists and what can be done to eliminate or reduce to the barest minimum such practices.

Recently I was privy to a comment that sent my head into some spinning. Here is a friend who had constantly badgered his wife, using the woman's face as a punching bag, and the object of all unprintable insults. I made the casual comment of saying what would he do if any man laid hands on any of his daughters. In an instance, I saw the blood rushing to his face. In sum he said he would skin the hide of any boyfriend or son-in-law who would ever lay hands on his princesses. I said to myself, wow, wonders shall never end. He opined that in the first place such a thing would never happen since he would never give away any of his precious daughters to ignoramus and stupid buffoons. Let's say I was puzzled. Male chauvinism and incorrigible hypocrite are some of the words that crossed my mind.

It is very worthy of note Afua put out the following comment:

"Ghanaian culture is far from being completely gender insensitive. In his book Girls' Nubility Rites in Ashanti, Peter Sarpong writes about Ashanti Attitudes to the Sexes, "If all children are very precious in Ashanti, the value of girls is inestimable.” However, after further reading of that particular section, the value of a woman tends to reside in both age and her womb (for the record, a woman is worth more than her ability to bear children).

"Whereas the boy is completely incapable of providing successors for his matrilineage, in the girl the lineage has potential males as well as further potential females.....many adult bachelors have rough handling from their matrilineage women who may tease and provoke them with such remarks as: "You are not virile, you woman".

It is very revealing what the statement attributed to Rt. Rev. Dr. Peter Sarpong says about the different roles played by Akan girls and boys. To keep it short I would dare to say either way it is our system of inheritance that often lends hand to the discrimination against and abuse of women, irrespective of whether the family unit is of matrilineal or patrilineal heritage. In the Akan nucleus family it is often the case as Rt. Rev. Dr. Peter Akwasi Sarpong rightly pointed out; the male is often seen as just a fertilizer, contracted out to germinate somebody else's family, that is, his wife. Your own seeds or children are seen as not yours and cannot enjoy the fruits of your labor when you pass on. The rooster is often cited as symptomatic of an Akan man. “No rooster (cockerel) is followed around by its offspring”, so the saying goes. Inherently this concept has the tendency to make the male not to want to bond tightly with his wife and actually be resentful of the woman. Who would want to be dealt with like just a sperm donor and nothing else? In “principle” your sisters' children have the right to enjoy your property and all family possessions, whilst you are treated like a piece of meat. Your children are welcomed, but not really, really, welcomed into your blood family, rather your sisters children are. You tend to take that resentment and transfix that on your wife because you never fail to realize she is also exploiting you, just like your sisters. She is going to take your children to her blood family. Yes you are just a sperm donor, real power lies with the women in Akan societies and families. You the Akan man is often alone, just a mere tool in the unholy exploitation of man by female. This, my friends, explains some of the reasons why some Akan men maltreat their wives and women, and subject them to all kinds of male chauvinism and abuses including discrimination. This is the reason there is so much schism in Akan marriage.

Having said all that above, you would think it would be all blissful and dandy in a patrilineal nucleus family. Far from it. Over there, it is the wife or woman who has the resentment harbored by an Akan man. A case in point, some of the comments made against Dr. Jo Blankson on his ascendancy to become the new Ga Mantse. The most consistent negative comment made against this, otherwise a very qualified and capable man, fit to be even the president of Ghana, is that his claim to the throne could not be justified since he is only a descendant of the daughter (princess) of King Tackie Tawiah I. What does it say to you if your brothers' children can take to the family's titles and possessions and you are treated like a second class family member? What does it say to you if you are treated like a piece of property with no right to inheritance, except the meager possessions of your husband? Your children, especially your sons are even more prized than you the wife. Of course you would resent the system. Nobody wants to be dealt with like a purchased good or property, only to come and bare children for her husband's blood family. More often than not the men treat the wives like their personal properties, and the women return the favor by disrespecting their husbands. Such antagonisms degenerate into wife abuse and discrimination. In most patrilineal societies where the family lineage pass from father to son, wives become the target of extreme abuse, both mentally and physically, if the wife is not able to give the husband sons to carry on the father’s name. Often on the death of the husband if the surviving wife does not have a son, the husband’s brother(s) would descend on the nucleus family to overtake everything to the detriment of the wife and daughters. It is even worst where the couple did not have any children at all. The woman is sent packing to her blood family with nothing. Everything recoils back to the husband’s brothers and nephews.

The way forward would be for parliament to enact laws to protect the interests of everybody in the nucleus family and by extension the whole larger society. Children irrespective of gender should have the unassailable right to inherit BOTH parents, in titles and deeds. Dual lineage is the only way to strengthen and protect marriage as an institution and also bring gender equality to boys and girls, men and women. If such laws are passed all of us would be protected at the same time and men and women, husbands and wives, would be really committed to each other. The current situation where both husbands and wives try to hold something back – as if to limit ones potential adverse financial losses in case of divorce or death - does not augur well for the children, and by extension the larger society. It is to this extent we should all stand up and doff our hats out to ex-President Rawlings for the Intestate Succession Law of 1985. I think parliament should go even further to extend the law to protect both sexes with regard to traditional office titles and property ownership. Equal protection under the law for both sons and daughters with regards to any familial customary titles and ownership on both sides of the family is the way forward. Anything short of that would be uncivilized. After all it is not every child who has an uncle, but every kid has a father and mother as it takes the two to bring one to the world. Why not be equally responsible to your own offspring in all things and everything? Let’s do it, as that cannot harm but bring solid peace and prosperity to the nucleus family in Ghana. Cheers.

Presented by,
Eric Kwasi Bottah, alias Oyokoba
Philadelphia, PA USA

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

Columnist: Bottah, Eric Kwasi