By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor
Friday, March 9, 2012
“A once fruitful and happy marriage gone sour, and not in her wildest dream did she ever think her husband… could subject her to such emotional and physical trauma and occasionally turn her into a punching bag to test his strength.” (The Ghanaian Chronicle)
Everywhere in our society, women continue to be the underdogs, tossed about and turned anyhow by males to achieve their objectives. Injustice to women isn’t declining and nobody should tell me that it will soon. The structures that are in place in our society aren’t designed to support women but to downgrade and isolate them for undermining as if their male counterparts in this patriarchal system have chosen them for a special vengeance.
A classic example of this negative practice is given in the news report by the Ghanaian Chronicle, which I implore everyone to read and make up their minds on. That story is characteristic of the problems facing our women and depressing enough to warrant official action. It is available here:
A brief summary of the incident is that 46-year- old Madam Eva Amoah’s marriage to Nana Yaw Gyapong, alias “Ya-Buga,” the New Patriotic Party (NPP) Chairman for Trobo-Amasaman Constituency, ended on the rocks after Gyapong had indulged in an extra-marital affair with Cindy Aboagye, with whom he now has two children.
Whether spurred on by the usual rivalry in such cases or instigated by Gyapong (as his wife alleges), Cindy Aboagye and two others pounced on Madam Eva Amoah and inflicted much harm on her body.
What makes the incident disturbing is this part reported by the Chronicle: “… They subjected me to severe beatings and when I tried to flee, Adjetey held my hands and in the process, my rival stabbed my forehead with a knife. My husband, who had packed his car opposite the house latter came in to separate us,’ Madam Amoah narrated.
Madam Amoah, a trader, is currently responding to treatment after sustaining a deep cut on her forehead and bruises on other parts of her body, in that scuffle with her attackers. That was not the only instance of physical brutality against this woman.
Let’s listen to Madam Amoah: “My 26 years of marriage life with Mr. Gyapong came to an abrupt end on December 8, 2011, when I was forced out from my matrimonial home with two of our children. It was a painful experience but I had no option than to endure it.
“I therefore sought refuge in a friend’s house in the same vicinity to enable me talk to my lawyers on the issue. My husband sees my move as a threat and is bent on doing anything possible to keep me away from initiating court action against him.”
According to her, she was in the process of instituting a court action against her husband for compensation. To her, knowing her right has always posed a threat to the husband, hence her ordeal to refrain from seeking the court action.
The story has other troubling twists to it, especially considering the fact that some property is involved. The Ghanaian politician will do anything (even including murder) in defence of mundane things gained from political manouevres. I have read the man’s version of the incident but won’t regard it as worth my bother. He is a clear example of a callous male chauvinist who sees women as nothing but a tool to be used and discarded at will.
In using this occurrence as the springboard, the issues I want to raise have nothing to do with partisan politics nor should anybody think that I am using this example because I intend to tarnish the image of the NPP. It is just a clear case of something horrendous happening that contradicts all the official and public show of interest in redeeming women from the male chauvinistic cruelty that our largely patriarchal system upholds.
I have used this happening only to undergird my perspectives in this opinion piece and to suggest that we aren’t doing enough to ensure social justice for all segments of the population regardless of sex, gender, creed, ethnicity, or any other calling.
Despite official claims that the lot of women is being improved in the country to make them enjoy equal rights with their male counterparts, happenings in many parts of the country point to the contrary. Women continue to be oppressed, tormented, and marginalized. Whether it is in their homes, workplaces, or any other space in the public sphere, women are always at the receiving end of brutality, discrimination, physical abuse, and all things inhuman and despicable.
Yet, every year, a day is set aside to celebrate the International Year of Women under the auspices of the United Nations. I suppose we’ve just been marking that occasion this year. Where is the evidence that the situation is improving to make women feel secure and well positioned to enjoy the rights that their male counterparts have hogged all these years?
Just last week, there was a news item on happenings at the so-called witches camp in Northern Ghana, which indicated that the marginalization and maltreatment of the inmates had reached an alarming stage. Over the years, our government leaders and local-level politicians have recognized the danger that negative practices against women at that camp pose to our society but have done nothing to solve the problem.
The existence of a witches’ camp in Ghana in this 21st century is the worst thing for any civilized mind to comprehend. No matter the rationale behind such a practice, labeling women (especially the aged and poor, probably unhealthy ones too) as witches and imprisoning them at such a witches’ camp is not only bizarre but also unbecoming of a country that claims to be practising democracy!
The obnoxious “Trokosi” system is another instance of backwardness, which our government officials know but don’t want to do anything to eradicate. The flurry of activities carried out in the 1980s and 1990s to stem that tide has evaporated and the victims left to their fate.
Constant happenings involving sexual harassment, discrimination at the workplace against women, domestic violence, exploitation of housemaids, denial of education to girls of school-going age, and many instances of male chauvinism that dehumanize females have become the order of the day. We read and hear news reports about these happenings and celebrate special occasions ostensibly set aside to honour the accomplishments or memories of women. Are we being honest at all?
Many laws and regulations seeking to protect the interests of women have been in our statute books all these years. Yet, the violence against females persists and is regarded as part of the problems that a society in transition faces. Are we satisfied at this kind of situation? Is that what our quest for democracy entails?
Why is it difficult for anybody in government to take any decisive action to root out practices that negate the fight for equality in our society? Or why is it that women in positions of trust aren’t leading the fight to free these unfortunate women from the clutches of such barbaric practices? Yet, we have educated and well-placed women in many organizations who can take up the fight and get the support they need to restore dignity to the fairer sex but prefer to paddle their own canoe to personal safety.
Certainly, the NPP Chairman’s (former) wife is definitely not being fairly treated. This is where one expects official action to help victims of this sort. There are many whose stories haven’t hit the headlines and who may be silenced by local practices and norms but are chafing all over. They need help direly to live their lives in peace. Who will help them?
More importantly, one expects that women-oriented civil society organizations such as FIDA (the international federation of women lawyers) that claim to be fighting the cause of underprivileged women in the society will have in place mechanisms to intervene on behalf of these women in the underclass.
Unfortunately, we have an Ursula Owusu in Ghana who claims to be the Vice President of FIDA but who does nothing to solve problems of this sort. She is rather expending her energy and resources doing partisan politics, shouting everywhere for undeserved attention, and making her presence felt only through the foul language that she hurls at those in authority.
There are many other institutions that claim to be fighting for the rights of women but that do nothing in reality to that effect. We recognize them only during ceremonial occasions when their leaders mount platforms to blow hot air.
I am being blunt to say here that such so-called enlightened women tasked with fighting for the rights of women have turned out to be fighting for their own welfare, using the platform given them by the associations that they lead.
In this case, Madam Amoah will definitely not have the means to seek justice through the court system, being poor and marginalized in our political system. Her husband is well placed and has the voice and clout to continue tormenting her.
It is women of this sort who need not only mere sympathy but practical action to escape the injustice that male chauvinists inflict on them. I am appalled by this development, coming just a few days after the celebration of this year’s UN Day of Women (or whatever name this ceremonial ritual is given).
Such occasions have been turned into opportunities for hollow politicking and grand celebrations of nothing related to the practical solution of problems worsening the plight of women. They are part of the routine that reminds me of how lip-service can hurt those on the fringes of society.
We must not continue to allow such social injustice to persist in our society. The democracy that we aspire to nurture and sustain with our national resources is still too tilted to the advantage of males and can’t serve our society’s purposes unless its rough edges are smoothed. I hope someone in authority has a clean conscience to take up the matter.
I have said it several times and will continue to do so that it seems we in this part of the world don’t really deserve all the natural and human resources that abound in our environment. It is disheartening that despite all these resources, we can’t do anything to relieve ourselves and others of the problems that those resources are meant to solve.
We are a sorry example of a “lost people” whose plight is self-created. Nobody should blame any white man for our troubles because we are better at creating problems than solving them.
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