Kenyan Maasai women: Many of them are said to be strongest supporters of FMG and have opposed the ban on the practice in the country. source: AFP
Recently,I was examining some aspects of our culture especially in Nigeria and I couldn’t but wonder the quality of thinking that produced such practices. For instance, I tried to figure out the thinking that says when a man dies, his younger brother – who must have been married to another woman and with children would inherit or acquire his wife and property and the guy would then go ahead to have as many children as he possibly can with her. So, you now have two kids born by one woman for different men who were born of the same parents.
Then, this same woman(after she lost her first husband) would be made to sit with the man’s corpse, her hair shaven and ashes rubbed all over her body, she would end up staying between 7 and 14 days with this corpse until it’s washed and the water given to her to drink. This is based on the suspicion that the man would have been killed by his wife since he is not supposed to have died naturally!
Her journey to sorrow and anguish is not over yet.
She’ll be made to wear a particular black clothes which she would likely wear for one year and not expected to leave the house or go to the market or visit anyone until the anniversary of her husband’s death.
As if that’s not enough, this woman -Im sure would have had a taste of her terrible culture even as a girl. Having being born with all parts of her body intact and complete our forefathers woke up one morning and thought to themselves and concluded that she doesn’t need her clitoris because it makes her find sex pleasurable and if its not cut she might end up promiscuous. Her mother and Aunties-all of whom have been brainwashed by legends and various myths and misconceptions from our forefathers would tell her “you need to cut off your clitoris so you don’t end up like a whore”.
They tell her ‘girls have their clitoris cut to ensure they remain faithful and this would be possible because the sexual organ is not there anymore and because you’ve been cut, you will not be a slut looking for men here and there like a prostitute. You are docile, waiting for your husband because after you are cut, you have sex which is just for having children not for pleasure or anything else.’
And with that dummy sold to her,they open her legs and cut off her genitalia.
This is how our forefathers designed the lives of their women and girls. And they actually meant well. Or so it seems.
While we really can’t determine whether or not they really meant well, what we can at all agree to -at least to a large extent is that our forefathers were very selfish and insecure men. And that’s because everything they did in the name of culture were meant to restrict and subjugate women while making life more comfortable and pleasurable for men.
Imagine not being able to inherit your father’s properties. Imagine being one of the many wives of one man-while a woman can be banished or stoned to death for expressing affection towards another man while still married to her husband.
That’s our culture for you. Eerie to say the least! Some of them are simply mind blowing albeit draconian. And each time we succeed in relaxing or sidestepping some of them you find out that our lives become easier and even better to live.
Our culture (at least some of them) and the thinking that drives them should show us how far we are from the civilised world and how close we are to the bush.
A friend told me sometime this year that many of us are just two or three generations away from the bush or the dark ages. Hearing the word “bush” I wanted to take her up but she immediately challenged me with this question and I think it should challenge us too to think about how much catching-up we need to do with the rest of the world just because of some of our cultural practices.
“How many of your Uncles, Aunties, maternal and paternal grand or great grand parents went to the university or ever wrote a book?”
I couldn’t chew that let alone swallow it.
And then.. in my mind, the pictures of all my Aunties and uncles began to pop up one by one and I kept scanning to know which one of them went to secondary school let alone the university.
Dont ask me what I found out because…I won’t tell you.
As I was doing the checks ,my friend popped another question: “some of the universities in the US, UK and most parts of Europe were founded in the 1700s and 1800s by human beings, right?”.
“And their curriculum were designed by men and women then? “
“And you know the lecturers and professors then were some people’s great great grand fathers and grand mothers?”
Again I blurted “Yes”, not exactly sure where she was heading.
“Now, imagine if your great great grand father were a professor of medicine in Oxford or say one of your Aunties were a dean in Harvard University in 1902 what would your heritage be like today-do yo think, they would have conceived some of these terrible practices?”
Wow! At this point I got the point!
So,you can see how much we need to travel on this journey. And if you are the first generation of graduates in your family, you need to appreciate how close you are to the bush and come to terms with the enormous task of liberating your family from cultural practices that could make the information age seem like wasted years.
We’ve always had our cultural heritage. In fact most so called culturalist would tell you that the African culture is our essence and part of why we are deeply admired by the West. I’m not sure that includes cutting a woman’s clitoris or sending a woman away from her matrimonial home for not having male children. Or worse still abducting strangers, eventually slaughtering them and using their heads as part of internment ceremony for a late King who must be buried without human sacrifice. All these in the 21st century.
I’m not sure there is anything to be proud about there.
Indeed we have several stagnating and retrogressive cultural practices in Africa nay Nigeria. And we need to stop them as they are becoming ugly signposts pointing only in one direction; the past.