OUR WOMEN, OUR TREASURE
It gives me great pleasure to be at this very important seminar on about the most important topic of our time. I must therefore thank the Ministry of Women Affairs for the kind invitation to the 20th Regular National Council Meeting on Women Affairs on the theme: “Gender-Based Violence, Shadow Pandemic in a Pandemic: A Call for Action”.
It has been contended that gender violence goes both ways but for our purpose here, I will restrict myself to violence against women. This is because from antiquity, human society, for most part, is patriarchal. There have been instances of female dominated societies, but these are aberrations.
The male species tends to be physically stronger. The hormone, testosterone, is largely responsible for this. There have been instances by the tweak of nature when some women have a disproportionate quantum of testosterone and tend to be dominant in their environment. Again, this is an aberration. The natural order is for men to be physically dominant. The capacity for dominance is the key ingredient for power and hegemony construction and is the basis of violence.
There has, no doubt, been a significant progress from antiquity when, anthropologists tell us, men used to pull women by their hair and drag them into the caves. Nevertheless, violence against women still persist in various types. The most prevalent is husband to wife violence. Others are boyfriend to girlfriend violence, master/mistress to house-help violence, landlord to tenant violence, neighbour to neighbour violence, law enforcement to citizen violence, employer to employee violence, father to daughter violence and so on. The violence can be verbal abuse, sexual assault and physical abuse.
In recent times, sexual assault in form of rape and spousal physical abuse have heightened. This made Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women to cry out in April that “Even before COVID-19 existed, domestic violence was already one of the greatest human rights violations. In the previous 12 months, 243 million women and girls (aged 15-49) across the world have been subjected to sexual or physical violence by an intimate partner,”
This domestic abuse became worse during the pandemic lockdown as many women and children were trapped with their abusers. There are reports that domestic abuse grew by not less than 20 per cent globally, on the average. In some places, it will be more than that. This is why the United Nations described domestic abuse as ‘shadow pandemic’ within the pandemic.
Violence against women emanated from our low appreciation of the uniqueness, value and role of women in creation. This is the inability to accord women their status as an independent, separate and valuable contributor to the economic, social and spiritual development of our society.
Violence therefore is a reflection of a lack of understanding of the value of women. But in discussing this, women themselves need to appreciate the role they play in creation. If women know that in creation, they are the fashioner of all successive human civilisation, they themselves will attach appropriate value and recognition to their gender.
This is because it is the female species of all animals, especially mammals, that gestate, nurture and groom the successive generations. We therefore have irresponsible men who abuse and batter women because they were not properly brought up. It is therefore a wake-up call for women to take their job of nurturing and grooming more seriously so that their offspring will be virtuous members of society. It is the seed of time sowed today that yield the outcome of the future.
This is by no means an indictment of women who are battered and bruised and are on the receiving end of male aggression. You cannot blame the victim. The transgressor and only him alone bears responsibility for his actions.
It is one of the greatest ironies of life that women are physically overpowered by men, even though they are genetically, biologically and emotionally stronger than men.
Medical science tells us that the X chromosomes that fertilise the ova leading to female babies have longer shelf life than the Y chromosomes that give us baby boys. While the Y chromosome disintegrates under 24 hours, the X can live for three days in a woman, waiting to fertilise the ovum. A female foetus is also more likely to survive the first trimesterin the womb than a male while a girl has better chances of surviving the first three years of life than a boy. In all human societies, the life expectancy of a woman is usually 10 years more than that of a man.
Women deserves therefore to be adored and honoured, not bruised and battered.
Though it is not a settled science, probably due to patriarchal influence than to inexactitude of science, but it is somewhat established that violent crimes against women have deep roots in psychiatric disorder. I will readily agree with this. I will therefore suggest strongly that any offender should be regarded as a mad man. I have never raised my hands to beat my wife. I never even beat any of my children. I still find it difficult to understand why anyone does that.
All existing laws protecting women should be enforced. Laws should also be made to compel counsellors, psychiatrists and family doctors to report actual and clinical signs of an abuser to law enforcement. This will stop ongoing abuses and prevent the potential ones. Of course, the full punishment should be brought to bear on any established cases.
It is also important to address the root cause of women vulnerability by lifting their economic status. At least 33 per cent of all political appointments and government contracts at the federal, states and local levels should be reserved for women exclusively, as affirmative actions.
When women are economically empowered, it makes them less vulnerable to abuse and violence.
I thank you once again for inviting me and it is my fervent hope that the message will travel far and wide on the need to treat women with respect and honour; and not batter and brutalise them.
I thank you all for your kind attention.
Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola