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Discrimination against women, Man's making or God's creation

Thu, 18 Nov 2004 Source: GNA

Tamale, Nov. 18, GNA - The sad news from home is that "your wife has produced her own picture again". This is the way the news is broken to husbands whose wives give birth to baby girls during their absence by family members of certain ethnic groups in the country.

Sometimes the husbands react violently to such news as Bawa, one of the half-brothers of this writer, did one evening.

"Don't mention it again. I tell you never again. I am tired of her. I am not going to stand it any longer. Seven girls. What am I going to do with these people, who will not cover me against the cold?" He meant that the girls would not go to the farm to help him in his farming activities or bring him some fuel wood to make fire during the cold harmattan season.

He went on: "She may do as she pleases, but I insist that she stops making life here at home so unpleasant for me. I am not going to give her any foodstuff."

Bawa's mother, Hayong rushed out from her room and tried to comfort her son but Bawa would not listen.

He told the mother that he was going to divorce the wife in a week's time because girls were not counted as part of the man's family. They are considered as people, who build their husbands homes while their fathers' homes fall.

Since girls are not considered as family members they cannot inherit. Girls cannot bury their dead parents and because of that they are not considered as being useful as boys.

Indeed members of the clan regarded the situation of Bawa and his wife Lamisi as a misfortune and some advised Him to take a second wife, who could bear sons for him.

Anytime Lamisi gave birth to a baby girl her colleagues, who have boys in the family, used to insult her. They sometimes protested to the clan head not to give her foodstuff because her daughters did not go to the farm to produce foodstuff.

For instance, while women in the family, who had delivered boys, were served with a basket full of millet and some smoked meat, she was always served with a calabash full of grain and without any meat anytime she delivers.

Anytime one of the daughters fell sick nobody in the family would go to the bush to bring her herbs. Most fathers preferred boys to girls and, therefore, acted indifferently when it came to matters of welfare of girls all in the name of traditional beliefs.

In the clan of this writer the birth of a son is greeted with happiness.

Comments like: "A warrior has come;" "The family tree has sprouted" and "The village builder has come," are made by the Clan Head.

In the case of a baby girl comments such as: "The woman has produced her own picture"; "The bush baby has come"; "The unwelcome stranger has come" or "The valueless baby has strayed into the family".

This writer has grown to appreciate that discrimination is the worst form of disease in the world. When people discriminate against a person, it is like closing a chapter in that person's life. Discrimination is the source of hatred and the cause of modern day conflicts in the world. It is also an abuse to God's wisdom and creation since it divides human race and impedes development and progress of those discriminated against.

Morally, no child has ever asked to be born. Children are often born as a result of the conspiracy of two adult parents to a have a baby. Sometimes a child might be born by sheer accident. The aim of the partners was just for pleasure not for a child.

However, whatever the circumstance leading to the birth of a child, the child comes with some rights that must be respected. The child has the right to life and protection, the child also has the right to education, food, clothing, shelter, good upbringing, the right to a good mother and as well as good and interesting name.

Most traditions in the Northern Regions discriminate against women. The right of women comes with serious variations according to the traditions and religions. The differences are the result of the different perceptions of a woman in each religion or tradition.

For instance, in Northern Ghana, most parents are of the belief that if you have more boys you are better positioned to fight your enemies than girls.

To them, boys are a source of protection to their parents than girls in times of war. Besides, boys also form the labour force of their parents and, therefore, perceived to be seeds of the family that need to be nurtured well to perform their respective roles.

In fact boys are seen as the symbol of the family and should be fortified to project the family name in the community and outside the community. The preference for boys is high and so the land, the village and the family "Gods" are entrusted to them while the wealth of the family and the communities as a whole are bequeathed to them to take care of.

Most parents believe that the fortunes of girls benefited only their husbands' family and not their parents.

The fundamental human rights of girls are lost. Indeed no wonder that men in this part of the world call their wives "sexual object" or "child bearing object", the only value men see in women.

Indeed, women are regarded as property of their husbands and not as partners in development. This attitude among men has largely contributed to the stagnation in the development of the North. The many conflicts in the North could be attributed to discrimination against women, who in many ways would have served as symbol of peace to their husbands if they were educated.

It is extremely difficult for a girl in the rural North to make it up to the top. Girls are betrothed to friends while in school and some are removed from school and given out for marriage.

In Christianity the issue of Eve legacy: "the woman you put here with me, she gave me some fruit and I ate it" and consequently, God's response to Eve that "I will greatly increase your pains in child bearing. In pain you will give birth to children and your desires will be for your husband and he will rule over you". This image of Eve in the Scriptures has created the impression that all women are believed to have inherited their mother, Eve, both her guilt and her guile.

Consequently women are all untrustworthy, morally inferior and minced. It is also said in the Scriptures that: "No wickedness comes anywhere near the wickedness of woman. Sin began with a woman and thanks to her we all must die". Eve is held responsible for her own sin, for the sin of Adam and the original sin from which the Son of God was brought to die to save mankind.

Statements of the saints on women are doubtful and worrisome. For instance, in the New Testament it is said, "a woman should learn in quietness and full submission. Don't permit a woman to teach or have authority over a man. She must be silent because it was the woman who was deceived and she became a sinner."

Similarly in Islam, in the "Hadiths" it is read: "If a man could prostrate before another I would have asked a woman to prostrate before her husband. A man can beat his wife".

Religion and tradition to a large extent worked against the rights of the women. Muslims and Christians today have the greatest task of working to improve the image of the woman and to accord her the status she deserves in order to give more meaning and more sense to religion as a human institution. There is the need to give certain verses contemporary interpretations to promote the rights of women. .

Culture, they say, is dynamic and so culture, beliefs, norms and perceptions should not hold people hostage and draw them back into under-development.

It is painful to note that in some parts of the country, women are assets to their communities and contributing immensely to the development needs of their people while in the North, women are considered liabilities, all justified by tradition. The Northern Culture has retired women to the background as their fundamental human rights are abused.

The low level of education among girls despite abundance of wealth some of their parents are living in and are refusing to send their girls to school or invest in their education is unpardonable.

The race for success in life is now opened to those who can endure but not for boys alone. The time has now come for Northerners to give priority attention to girls' education to enable them to add more value to themselves and those of their families because "the worst educated women is still better than the best uneducated women".

The North would continue to lag behind in development if girls' education were not taken seriously. The socio-economic advancement of the North rests largely on the empowerment of girls in education.

But when will this cultural war end? Are men really discriminating against women, or God has destined them to be discriminated against? Is it not that women are discriminating against themselves. Are they sometimes not doing certain things to please men but later turn to blame them for their own mistakes? Is it not also that women are compromising with men and suffering the consequences of their own folly?

Where are the gender advocates, have they not closed their eyes to the modern day discrimination going on against women in the world? Are they ignorant about this new wave of discrimination that they are perpetuating against themselves but will tomorrow-turn to blame men for it?

When will women learn to stop insulting each other? One's heart bleeds when any time one sees the best parts that God has bestowed to women being exposed to men on the screens all in the name of beauty contest or beauty pageant. What is beauty about when the womanhood of our young girls is abused on the screens?

Let put decency into these contests of "Miss Ghana", " Miss GIJ" "Miss Mighty Legon" "Miss this and that..." to give meaning to our Ghanaian Cultural heritage. Let us also advocate decent dressing in the famous "Miss World" and the Olympics games contests.

It is appalling to see half-naked mothers and mothers to be. It is said that an "already peeled banana is meant to be eaten". It would not be far fetched to link the recent spate in rape cases to the indecent way that young girls dress these days all in the name of modernisation. In Ghanaian culture, it is a taboo for a woman to expose her sensitive or private parts to the public. Indeed, it is only her husband that has the prerogative to see those parts of hers.

It is believed that if a man should see the private parts of a woman rather than his wife, then, he has seen the private parts of his mother. The beauty of an African woman is in the decent way she dresses and how she keeps her private parts from other people. Women should be accorded the respect they deserve because they bring men into this world.

Columnist: GNA