I was having one of those casual talks with an acquaintance of mine who confessed that his sister had gone through FGM in fact I should say sisters because they are two. I was shocked and I asked how his mum allowed that happen because she is educated and quite informed. Well surprisingly she has no idea. Apparently their grandmother who is now late organized it and the two ladies consented to it but this was after they had turned 18.
Well to say I was surprised was an understatement. So why is the main question. Why would a young woman allow this malpractice be done on her? Why would a lady who has gone through an education system that teaches FGM is unlawful and wrong go through this? Stigma was the answer I got.
After searching into the malpractices, I found that there are communities in Kenya that still stigmatize women who have not gone through FGM. My friend’s sisters were apparently ridiculed when they went home to the countryside. Having lived in Nairobi their entire lives they had never thought of going through the practice. However, when their parents moved their business to the countryside and they started spending more time in the highlands they found themselves the laughing stock amongst their peers. With a grandma who believes in the practice, she organized for their passage into woman hood.
Recently I read a piece on a community that circumcises married women. It is apparently wrong for a woman to be married yet be uncircumcised therefore it is mandatory for a woman to go through FGM.
Another scenario is where a woman is beaten up in the community and people will say she is either too loud or ‘kiherehere ilipanda’, sometimes they say she is a gossip and other times she needs discipline. We hear and see such practices happening in our communities and we do nothing about it. Despite knowing that domestic violence is a crime we let it happen then start regretting once a person ends up dead. Earlier this year a video of a man in Narok beating up a woman went viral, in the background voices could be heard encouraging the man. No one said ‘stop it is wrong.’ Worst case someone filmed it and put it on social media. So now beating a woman makes you a man?
What is it that makes a man raise his fist on a woman or makes him clobber her? Does it mean that men who don’t beat up their wives are less of men? Does their restraint and their hold on their anger make their value any less? Who said to be a man you have to run your household with a fist fight? That anyone who does not agree with you should get it rough? I believe any man who raises their fists on a woman is a coward, any community that encourages the beating of wives is uncivilized and they need to come to the 21st century.
I have to mention one more malpractice; owning of women and children in certain communities. Ever heard the term, ‘everything here is mine and even my wife is my property si I paid dowry for her?’ No you paid dowry because you owed her parents a thank you for the daughter you were receiving. She did not turn into a commodity for you to misuse, mistreat and beat because you gave her father a few heads of cattle. How is it that some people can equate the life of a human being with a few heads of cattle? The worst scenario is when their wives have jobs or businesses they want to exhaust their money before they provide simply because they are property owned by them therefore, even the wife’s money is his.
So, as we celebrate the 16 days of activism I want to pose a question, is it that what we are doing is not enough or have some people refused to understand? Campaigns have been called, forums have been started yet even some of our informed ladies are accepting to go through FGM and others have become punching bags for their spouses to practice their anger on.
It’s absolutely absurd that we live in a generation of empowered women yet there are a few who are still going through a certain kind of oppression. It is appalling that despite the fact that we sing campaigns against physical, emotional, and psychological violence some women still keep quiet even when asked.
As Kenyans and Africans we need to say no to all forms of oppression. People have rights and last I checked women to are people too. Why is it that we have double standards as a society? We need to stand up to the malpractices in our communities, report perpetrators of sexual and physical violence. Let’s give victims a voice, lets help end a culture of gender malpractices.
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