An Open Letter To “Men” By Anifowoshe Titilope
Put it ALL together, write a position paper on “Women: We are as much flesh and blood as you are” as an open letter to men
WOMEN: we are as much flesh and blood as you are
“I write for those women who do not speak, for those who do not have a voice because they were so terrified, because we are taught to respect fear more than ourselves. We’ve been taught that silence would save us, but it won’t.“- Andre Lorde
It is in vain to say human beings ought to be satisfied with tranquility: they must have action; and they will make it if they cannot find it. Millions are condemned to a stiller doom than mine, and millions are in silent revolt against their lot. Nobody knows how many rebellions besides political rebellions ferment in the masses of life which people earth. Women are supposed to be very calm generally: but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties, and a field for their efforts, as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a restraint, to absolute a stagnation, precisely as men would suffer; and it is narrow-minded in their more privileged fellow-creatures to say that they ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings, to playing on the piano and embroidering bags. It is thoughtless to condemn them, or laugh at them, if they seek to do more or learn more than custom has pronounced necessary for their sex.
– CHARLORTTE BRONTE
THE HISTORICAL ABYSMAL
For decades the issue of discrimination of the female gender has been reverberating in our society. When in an assemblage of both genders, a female is expected to be a listener rather than a contributor. Owning or inheriting properties is verboten because she is presumed to be the property of her spouse, she is taught to sit behind her brothers or male colleagues not at the front. The society teaches her never to aspire to takeup a “lead role” because men are naturally created to be the leaders. She is advised to pursue a marriage certificate before a PhD certificate.
A child’s failure is the mother’s fault, but the success of a child is the father’s pride. A widow must perform some crude rights to prove that she didn’t kill her husband, but a Nigerian widower has to get a new bride to take makeup for his wife’s death. While her brothers are the Victors, the female child is the victim of domestic slavery as it is a taboo for a man to wash dishes or engage in domestic chores. she is trained to be contrite and meek; infact a woman’s shyness is presumed to be her virtue.
MY BONE OF CONTENTION
Dear Men, Indeed you are our brothers, you are our husband, you are our lover, you are our father. Life is of uttermost nihility without your presence. We appreciate you for being there for us from time immemorial, we are thankful to you for subjugating us; we appreciate you for making us look abnormal whenever we try to make you realize that we are as much blood and flesh as you are. Many thanks to you for handling us like your property and sex machine. Thanks for depicting us as handmaidens rather than a patner.
From the time I grew up to recognize the value of money, my journey back to lagos from Igbonla (my hometown) during sallah was always characterized by dilemma and sadness which was always triggered by my genial grandmother. In her way of biding us farewell, my late grandmother loved giving my younger brother double or triple the amount of money she gave me and my elder sisters; after she must have spent close to twenty minutes reciting my younger brother’s oriki, praising and praying for him and merely chanting our “oriki” in less than two minutes. This repeated action of my affable grandmother broke my heart, because she obviously recognizes my little brother as “our” father and superior, even though we are way older than him. I searched through my aggrieved mind for what my sisters have done wrong to my grandmother; my inquisitiveness led me to ask her the reason why Muhammed was always treated like a king. She smiled and told me “bashe ba laye ni yen” meaning “that’s the way it is”, she further explained to me that no matter how intelligent or rich I and my sisters are, we will surely end up in another man’s house as his property and Muhammed will be the only one to keep the “Anifowoshe” legacy.
What an ironic truth!
But is the female gender not the producer of kings and men? Did Prophet Muhammed (SAW) not say that “he who trains a woman; trains a nation”? Is the world not largely populated by the female gender? Are Men not the product of a proper upbringing of a great mother? Can a man produce a child naturally without a female genital? Is the effectiveness of the cerebrum gender determinant? Is excellence in any endeavor determined by the number of ribs one possesses? Is Honesty a question of gender or individuality?
THE QUEASY SYSTEM
All over the world, the law is seen as the adhesive force that cements the society. The Nigerian Constitution is the fons et origo which creates order out of chaos and conference in place of anarchy.
In truth and indeed, the Nigerian Constitution has empowered both gender by virtue of the various provisions on the dignity of human person and right to freedom from discrimination.
In fact a literal and liberal scrutiny of sections 42 and Section 17 of the 1999 Constitution is a lucid certification of Nigeria’s fight against discrimination of the female gender. However the indecipherable stand of the Nigerian Legal System on the fight against gender discrimination is a pure acknowledgement of the Roscoe Pounds’ sociological definition that law is “what the society says it is”.
An examination of these legal provisions makes me wonder, if the Nigerian law regulates our society, or our society’s primitivism modulates the law?
Section 26(2) that a woman who is or has been married to a citizen of Nigeria may be registered as a citizen of Nigeria, but the law is silent as to whether a woman married to a foreign national can confer Nigerian nationality on her foreign husband.
The above provision implies that a woman cannot confer Nigerian citizenship on her foreign husband. It should be noted that and this provision exist despite the fact similar provisions have been identified and repealed as discriminatory in other parts of African nations such as South Africa and Botswana. In fact, S26 of the 1999 Constitution is not in consonance with Article 9(1) of Convention on the elimination and Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) (which Nigeria is a signatory to).
Section 353 of the Criminal Code (which applies to the Southern States in Nigeria) provides that an indecent assault against a man is a felony, punishable by three years in prison. But Section 360 holds that the same offence against females is a misdemeanour is punishable with only two years of imprisonment. It is worrisome that this distinction remains on the statute books, especially when indubitable facts exists that indecent assault is an offense that is often committed against women. Here, I have no choice other than to infer that the law implies that, the offense is of less gravity when committed against a woman.
Again, this is inconsistent with the cardinal principle of criminal law which stipulates that like cases should be treated alike and all persons should be protected from harm of a similar degree. More so, these provisions are antithetical to Article 2(g) of CEDAW, which requires state parties to repeal all national penal provisions which constitute discrimination against women.
Section 55 of the Penal Code provides that:
“Nothing is an offense which does not amount to the infliction of grievous hurt upon any person and which is done by a husband for the purpose of correcting his wife, such husband or wife being subject to any native law or custom in which such correction is recognized as lawful”
Thus, the Penal Code permits husbands to use physical means to chastise their wives as long as it does not result in “grievous harm,” which is defined as loss of sight, hearing, speech, facial disfigurement, or life-threatening injuries.
Section 121 of the Police Act provides that
Women police officers shall, as a general rule, be employed for duties that are concerned with women and children only. Section 42(3) of the Act provides that woman who is married cannot be recruited into the the police force. Where an enlisted single woman wants to get married, she must have spent not less than three years in the police and she must also apply for permission to marry.
She must furnish the police with particulars of fiancé who must be investigated and cleared before permission is granted. Section 125 of the Act expressly states that A married woman police officer “shall not be granted any special privileges by reason of the fact that she is married and shall be subjected to posting and transfer as if she were unmarried.”
In addition, police w omen are required to place the alphabet ‘W’ before their rank.
Police women married to civilian husbands are disallowed from living in police barracks.
Dear brother, I hope you do not see this letter as a vilification of your manhood. That I complain about the way you treat my sisters and I doesn’t mean that I don’t adore you. When I quetch about the various discriminatory laws against the female gender, I am only asking for the true essence of what the law stands for. When I demand for equality I am not saying I want to beat up a man I am just saying I should not be seen as one to be beaten with impunity.
Dear Brother, I know that I don’t possess the same components of muscles that you possess, I know that my bones aren’t as strong as yours, I am well abreast of the fact that you are masculine and I am feminine ; but all I ask for is to be seen as a human being with all her 5 senses and an accompanying brain and not as a toy to be toyed with.
Dear Father, my birth should be heralded with as much joy as my brother’s birth because we are both “human”. My education should be as important as muhammed’s education. When I demand for gender equity I am not saying that Alhaja should not be submissive to you as the husband I am just saying that your wife should have a place in the partnership.
According to Harry V. Jaffa “A law is foolish which does not aim at abstract or intrinsic justice; and so is it foolish to attempt to achieve abstract justice as the sole good by succumbing to the fallacy to which the mind is prone, which regards direct consequences as if they were the only consequences”
I dare not open my vocal cavity to delineate our great legal system as “dopy”. I am way too little to belittle the works of our great draftsmen.
However, the flexibility of our laws, the reasonability of our brothers and the power of the male dominated Nigerian Senate gives my heart an array of hope that end time is near for these gross laws and in due time, my brothers will no longer treat my sisters and I like interiors. Our Fathers will no longer treat our mothers like subordinates but as their mothers.
And we will be able to show them that we are indeed as much flesh and blood as they are.
May God’s will be done.
Anifowoshe Titilope T (LegalEagle)
**LEGAL EAGLE is the CEO of Eagles Foundation for Humanity (www.eaglesfoundationfh.org ) and a 500L student of Law at the University of Ilorin, Kwara State.