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Respect African women's rights or reap the whirlwind

By unknown | Sep 14, 2007 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

At a recent civil society conference, the amazing excuse for the rape of women by United Nations troops on missions throughout the African continent was put this way: the UN knows these men need their sex regularly, but they still send them on missions for six months on a stretch. What do they expect then to do for sex?

Some of the male delegates laughed uproariously, apparently finding the statement a bit of a joke. Other men hurled abuse at the speaker, as an example of the sort of male chauvinism that has plagued Africa, even while it pays lip service to the equality of the sexes.

The reaction of the women was understandably explosive. "You rapist!" one of them hissed.

What possible defence would the UN have offered? That it was not The World's Pimp?

I have read somewhere that the UN intends to impose very stiff sentences on offenders.

There is likely to be a backlash from the member states: their soldiers will not want to go on UN duty, if their insatiable sexual appetites cannot be catered for.

Some of us still find it incredible that there are African men who dare to believe our women can still be treated as chattels or second-class citizens.

This in spite of Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf's success in Liberia, after years of the barbarous reign of rascals such as Charles Taylor.

There are still men who look askance at women claiming political equality with men.

I met Indira Gandhi and Margaret Thatcher during the peak of their power. They exuded self-confidence. I shook hands with Queen Elizabeth II, admiring her royal poise and charm.

I tried, in vain, to remind her of the first time I ever set eyes on her - in 1947 when she and her family paid a royal visit to Southern Rhodesia.

Secretly, I fumed over the recent controversy in South Africa involving two women in government, both in the health ministry.

One was fired by President Thabo Mbeki, ostensibly for insubordination; the other was praised by Mbeki, though others thought she ought to have been sacked . for incompetence?

After starting in journalism, three women became my idols. They were journalists at African newspapers.

Angeline Mhlanga was a trained nurse, yet as a reporter she was exceptional. She became a diplomat after independence.

Mavis Gumede, also a reporter, had guts and ended up as Justice Mavis Gibson of the High Court. She holds a similar position in Namibia.

Then there was the South African, Ethel Bwanausi. She had worked for Drummagazine, as their Agony Aunt. Her husband later became a big man in the government of Malawi.

I have lost track of her, but it is my bet that she is performing what, for her, must be something in which she can invest all her talents. We African men must recognise the real danger of continuing to trample on the African women's rights. We might reap the whirlwind, if we don't repent and reform.

l Bill Saidi is deputy editor of The Standard in Zimbabwe.


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