IS being a woman a diplomatic passport for one to be ill-treated wherever you go? Is it even a crime to be created as a woman? I always ask myself these questions whenever I see a woman suffering at the hands of a man who claims to be a super human being.
Of course, I have seen some men in trouble and pain, but it is mostly women that I always see in much worse situations and bearing the brunt of the aggregate cruelty that exists under the sun. They are taken advantage of in their everyday lives and some have even come to get used to that.
Tears have become daily food for some women. They cry themselves to sleep every single night and wash their pillows with tears. They have been broken and their hearts are full of anguish.
Don’t you think they have suffered enough? From domestic violence, to being deprived of educational opportunities, to harassment, rape, you name it – how much more should they take on? Don’t women deserve appreciation and honour, rather than selfishness and disgrace?
It is high time for women to be treated with honour, dignity and respect. They are not second class citizens or sub-humans. No one should be allowed to put women’s freedom and happiness in a cage. Section 56(2) of the constitution says “Women and men have the right to equal treatment, including the right to equal opportunities”.
From childhood, the girl child is treated differently from the boy child. The girl child is believed to be irresponsible and unable to choose for herself. The girl child is not consulted when decisions that affect her are being made simply because of her sex. All her ideas, no matter how good they can be, are crushed right before her face. Her dreams are sometimes shattered after being forced into certain situations that the boy child is exempt from.
Does being a woman mean that one has little knowledge and understanding? Does it mean that you do not talk any sense or you are useless, or you are not capable of making useful decisions? In countries like India, they had to actually ban ultrasound scans on pregnant women to determine the gender of the baby. This is because, immediately after finding out that the baby was a girl, the father would force the woman to abort the pregnancy. So, that should have continued until when – the fifth pregnancy, or ninth, or twentieth? Really when? This pains me, and it appears that it has been tolerated for far too long.
Remember the biblical story of a woman who was caught in the very act of adultery – how she was apprehended, paraded and humiliated before the people and almost got stoned. But was she committing adultery with herself? Why was her partner in crime not even mentioned? Why was he not subjected to the same humiliation? Because he was a man, period! Those who caught the two committing adultery probably told the man to quickly dress up and run away with his dignity, leaving the poor woman to face the music alone.
Fast track to the present era, there are still many instances of women being treated immorally and illegally. Sex workers used to be arrested for loitering while the men who were coming to demand their service would be let go in their flashy cars. The other day I read about a woman who poured paraffin on his wife for failing to cooking sadza for him, and set her ablaze. Although the man did not buy any food to be cooked in the house, he expected her to cook something for him to eat. Can it ever end?
Some are forced into child marriages unwillingly and unwittingly. Can they be blamed, at the end of the day? Desperate circumstances are also compelling young girls into child marriages. They may be continuously ill-treated to the point of thinking that marriage is the best solution to their problems, even if it means being battered daily by their husbands or being deprived of food.
Sometimes it is the greediness and heartlessness of the parents who give away their girl children in exchange for food, wealth and money. Why force your child into early marriage when it is clear that she cannot manage it? I was touched to hear that among the victims of the Tokwe-Murkosi disaster were young girls who were forced into marriages with older men, old enough to be their fathers, so that the families would get grain to feed themselves for a few months. Is a girl child really worth a few buckets of maize?
When you look at some married women today – who may be our sisters, aunts, nieces or mothers – some of them just smile in the public yet they cry themselves to sleep everyday behind closed doors. They are not at peace. Who shall deliver them from the hell they are living in?
If married couples are failing to have children, it is the woman who will always be blamed for being barren. And if she happens to be fertile enough to bear female children, the woman suffers mockery, dis-respectfulness and more condemnation. Why is it always the woman’s fault? Do women choose the gifts they receive from God from a menu?
Do you know that there is someone out there praying for just one child, irrespective of gender? Yet you cannot appreciate a girl child that you have been blessed with! Why should a mother who only gave birth to female children be a laughing stock in the community? Why should she be condemned for giving birth to the next Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Tsai Ing-Wen, Ursula Burns, Christine Lagarde or Ertharin Cousin?
Lots of women are doing double duties in their marriages; they are both the mother and the father to the children. They are left to do everything by their heartless husbands, putting food on the table, raising the children and educating them alone whilst the husbands are busy being tough on them. They are not allowed to further their education by their husbands. They cannot visit their relatives; they cannot attend the funerals of their loved ones; they cannot dance on their birthday parties or smile to their neighbours. Should they only be happy when they die and are six feet under?
My heart sinks when I think of the problems, troubles and pain faced by fellow women in their everyday lives. Think of the cheating husbands who hunt for diseases out there, and bring deadly diseases like HIV/Aids into the matrimonial home to infect their wives and, on top of that, blame them for their sickness.
Also, think of the violent and abusive husbands who hit their women in the eyes of the public and shout at them in the presence of the children. What do they expect their boy child to be like in the future, when all this is happening as they watch? What lessons are you teaching him - that women are punching bags and must be shouted at and be ill-treated? Then it will be a vicious cycle of women abuse. Other men are even proud and you hear people saying “Ndozvaiita baba vacho izvozvo” (that is what the father used to do), as if it is a good record to abuse and ill treat women.
Today’s society should destroy the walls of patriarchy that are constraining women from living fulfilling lives. Women deserve to be loved and treated with dignity and respect.
THERESA is a woman rights activist.