Why are so few men bothered with the abuse that women face in their societies? Well, I have a simple theory.
Before proceeding, let me clarify that my theory is about African men because they are the men that I interact with the most and because Africa is the continent whose people, customs and cultures I am most familiar with. My theory is not about African men because they are the only violent ones. Male violence against women is a global evil. Nor did I come up with this simple theory because I swallowed a Westernisation pill. We are many determined African women who are wondering how to solve this ginormous issue, which negatively affects our beloved continent.
OK, let me describe my theory by putting it into a fictional story:
Meet Adejones – or Jones for short. A 42-year-old resident of Lagos. Top dawg banker (not a clerk, hello!). Jones lives in a modern duplex in a nice part of town. He has a wife (beautiful) and two children (well-behaved). Every week night when Jones comes home from work, actually, from a bar, the following scenario awaits.
His wife, whom he calls ‘Wifey’, has seen to it that both kids are well fed, homework’s done, playtime ticked off. Bathed and smelling like heaven must do: ‘Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!’ the kids scream as soon as the doorbell rings. Their hysterical reaction to Jones’s homecoming highlights how tired the kids are. Jones opens the door to meet the very reason he works so hard. He plays a round of video games with them while they share some snippets of their day. This brief (but very important) interaction with the kids conveniently gives Wifey time to heat up dinner and serve it to him. With the kids tucked in bed, there is time for Jones and Wifey to chill together (quality time).
They watch TV, have a drink (a bit like the old times), the 10 o’clock news starts. After the ‘important’ news – Obama, Putin, Israel, other Western leaders – bam, the news reporter says that a woman has been hanged for adultery, another has been murdered for marrying a man of the wrong religion, hundreds of girls are being held captive by Islamists and 17 women were allegedly raped by Bill Cosby – Jones’s favourite TV-dad.
Yet when Wifey shrieks: ‘Chei! Damn! Why are men doing this sick things ooo?!’, Jones lets out a yawn while nodding his head in agreement.
Look, it is not that Jones approves of these acts. Far from it. He would never intentionally violate a woman himself. The mere thought of someone violating his mother, sisters, wife or daughter pricks Jones’s skin. No, Jones does not condone any of the violence that he, night after night, news story after news story, hears. The stuff about how 50 per cent of women have been beaten by a partner in his country. Or that maternal death rates in his country are the second highest in the world, that genital cutting is widespread, that widows are mentally and physically abused, that acid bathing affects an increasing number of women across all ages and that rape is so common it is a national epidemic.
Jones is aware that across the continent, Africa’s nations rank among the lowest on the global Gender Equality Index. The reason Jones does not engage with Wifey, let alone with his friends on- or offline, on the matter of violence against women is not a lack of awareness. No, it is simply because it is considered manly to be ambivalent about the issue. I told you, simple theory.
Jones is just one character – across all strata of society a similar ambivalence is present. What can we do about it? Well, I see only one solution. We need an International Day for the Elimination of Ambivalence Towards Violence Against Women. Seriously.
Are you experiencing domestic violence?
If you are experiencing domestic violence, the Freephone 24 Hour National Domestic Violence Helpline can help. Please call them free of charge on: 0808 2000 247.
You can also visit: www.womensaid.org.uk or www.refuge.org.uk
Anyone concerned about forced marriage or ‘honour’ crimes can contact Karma Nirvana on 0800 5999 247 or visit: www.karmanirvana.org.uk
You can also contact the Forced Marriage Unit on: 020 7008 0151.
Men experience domestic violence too – if you need help, please call the Men’s Advice Line on 0808 801 0327 or visit: www.mensadviceline.org.uk
Always call 999 in an emergency.