Customs and values in our society are stronger than the law, stronger than religion and pave way for male domination over females. Some things apply to men and if the same happens to be done by a woman there are all sorts of connotations attached to the very same activity. We can argue the finer points about this issue and we may even get to a place where some people can believe that men and women are equal. To the contrary, this is not true. The only statement that rings true in our African society is the fact that “men are more equal than women”. There is nothing more and nothing less to it. We live in a patrilineal society, where a man can force his partner or spouse to have intercourse, and can never be charged for it. This is unlike the newspaper headlines screaming “women rape man at gunpoint”. A man can have multiple partners and it is called “barika” but a woman in the same position “ari kuhura”. Double standards? Yes and it does not end there.
Zuma's Three Wives
I read a story once about a woman in a rural part of Zimbabwe who had multiple husbands and there was a great outcry from the village in which she lived. Many people expressed “disgust” at her behaviour and her son is even said to have disowned his mother. I found it very interesting that a whole village would make it their business to speak about this -her delicate situation. At the same time the fact that this was an even newsworthy story speaks volumes of what our society thinks about women in polygamous relationships. Apparently there is a term for this and it is called polyandry. It goes without saying though that for many men, there is no excuse for having many women at his beck and call. I have heard the statement a million times that no woman should ever think they are alone in a relationship. Our society allows men to have multiple partners and its okay, women cannot do the same as it ultimately makes them a prostitute, and a horde of other names I can think of but will not dare to write in this forum. We are ignorant to the fact that in some Tibetan societies, polyandry is common. The widely marketed reason for this practice is the general belief that any child should be financially secure, and one father might not be able to provide for that particular child sufficiently. This therefore results in a woman carrying out multiple relationships openly so as to support her children. Unfortunately for us, African women, particularly Zimbabwean women, we cannot have the best of many worlds. We stick to one partner, sometimes not because that is what we want, or because there are sexually transmitted infections out there, but because society says so.
My mother often talks to me about the major differences between courting and dating. She has given me enough the lectures about staying “pure’ until I get married, and that I can achieve this by staying away from situations that can potentially lead me to temptation. It is a fact that rings true lately that more and more, young girls are sexually active before they get married, in fact statistics show that at least 45% of girls between 12 and 18 are sexually active. I am sure that many parents are actually unaware of this fact, unless something goes horribly wrong and their young wards get pregnant. Why are parents unaware of their children’s extracurricular activities? It is because they do not talk to them, and they want to believe that all girls get married virgins. Our society has many expectations of the female child and we often expect that to be the path that they follow. Funny how after the wedding night, in some parts of our country people still expect that the bride’s sheets be paraded around the household so that they can establish that she was indeed pure. If we however take a good look at this practice, it might be no surprise that it is flawed and one sided- the bridegroom was probably responsible in his hey days, for deflowering many girls. Who then gets to marry those ones? If society applauds the young man for exploring his sexual capabilities, while restricting the young woman, how do we expect things to really turn out? Is this not then the very reason why many marriages are founded on deception and lies? As women try to maintain a saintly appearance to her in-laws and the society at large?
I wonder if women have duty placards written on their foreheads. She cooks, she cleans up after him, she does the laundry, she nurtures the children and sometimes she is responsible for all this after she has been through an eight hour working day. It is nevertheless of note that women are still below her male counterpart in the workplace. The entry level is very different from the working conditions, despite the many calls for equality in business circles. How can I, the single woman compete with my male colleague who can attend meetings after work with the company seniors, over drinks to discuss business, while I have to rush home and help my mother prepare the evening meal? Most women in the work places can be admired, humoured and tolerated at most but usually never taken any more seriously, unless they fight for what they believe is rightfully theirs. It also goes without saying that in most work places, women are victims of their own sexuality. We can suffer sexual violence from our bosses and justice can be very hard to come by. There is no chance that the business sector is equally competitive for both men and women. Men have an upper hand without doubt. It is seen as their domain, while women are expected to perform miracles, mergers and decrease interest rates in the kitchen.
Bachelors are common place in our societies and yet bachelorettes are not very welcome. Any young woman looking to living by herself, becoming independent, while waiting for Mr Right to come along is not taken seriously. The common view is that she wants to exercise her freedom and start being naughty, hence the vehement discourage. What then is the difference between a young man and a young woman who is growing up in the same society and probably got the same education? Why does he seem to get ahead and while she struggles and lag behind? The main reason why anyone would want to leave home is so they can grow up and be more responsible. Many a time we are very comfortable staying at home, that we come very dependent. Harsh reality usually hits us when the parent dies, leaving us to fend for ourselves, the very reason why prostitution seems to be on the increase. Economic freedom is something that everyone wants, but at times our people make it very difficult for a girl to attain it, while handing the keys on a silver platter to any young man.
I can spend the whole day, talking about how independent women are seen as controlling freaks who probably got some concoction from a witchdoctor to make their husbands submissive, how trousers are generally seen as disrespectful when worn by a woman. If one then chooses to wear a skirt that shows her figure, it is seen as an invitation to be raped or harassed by men. We can even talk about the idea that women seen in night spots and pubs are all prostitutes that should not be taken seriously, unlike the fact that most of them are just a bunch of people out having a bit of harmless fun. So there we have it. Society is just but a two edged sword, encouraging men to do as they please while condemning women to silence and misery!
I am an administrator by profession. I have a first Degree in Political Science, and I started the first year of my Masters in International Relations but i am yet to finish it. I am a sports woman, and have participated in Rugby and Basketball at National level. I did my primary school in Mutare, Chancellor Junior and high School in Domboshava, at a Catholic mission. I am passionate about women issues.
I would like to know your views and please do not hesitate to comment below your thoughts, suggestions and views.