When culture is used by men to advance subjugation of women

There are men who still feel that equal rights for women is a concept that is strange to their traditions and that marital rape is an intrusive foreign idea that should not be entertained, the writer says.
There are men who still feel that equal rights for women is a concept that is strange to their traditions and that marital rape is an intrusive foreign idea that should not be entertained, the writer says.

I recently attended a fascinating male-only gender sensitisation workshop in Limpopo and asked one of the participants: What is your take on marital rape?

"Please don't tell me about that nonsensical, absurd Western-created marital rape because it does not exist in my culture," he replied.

"I paid lobola for my woman after years of hard work to ensure that whenever I want sex she has to give it to me.

"Whether she is on her menstrual cycle, tired or stressed from work, she cannot bring all of those into my bedroom.

"All she must do is allow me to make love to her because my father and great grandfather told me that no woman in our culture has any right to deny me my conjugal rights.

"Doing so is fundamentally unAfrican and my ancestors will punish me if I allow her to get away with it. And my late father would in fact turn in his grave."

With his voice quivering with anger, he said the whole thing about marital rape is Eurocentric and all it seeks is to control Africans, more in particular our sex lives, because in their eyes we remain perpetual minors.

"Let me remind you, when I married her I did not marry a feminist. So feminism, or this thing of 50/50, does not apply in my house, neither does it apply in my African culture," he said.

"So, she cannot bring in all these convoluted, confused narratives into my house in the name of her being a feminist, enlightened or a women's rights campaigner.

"I married an African woman, not a CEO, COO, HR executive director or any of those highly paid corporate world positions which cannot prevail in my house.

"I married an African woman who understands what it means to be married to an African man. Those positions, as soon as she enters my house, stop there.

"She is just an ordinary woman who is expected to abide by my law as soon as she enters my house, meaning that those positions are irrelevant and meaningless in my bedroom or my household.

"This gender equality thing does not exist in my house. This whole thing about marital rape is no different to how colonisers, imperialists and apartheid forces treated us as brainless idiots who have no clue about what to do in their marriages and they saw it fit to promulgate such laws as marital rape."

He went on to say that these obnoxious, unAfrican laws were sadly being implemented by an African democratic government which, in his view, should know better what black men went through under colonialism and apartheid.

"If my wife decides to even contemplate or countenance the idea of marital rape, it is the end of this relationship.

"She can go and find a civilised, enlightened husband," he said.

Sadly, what this man said to me is a manifestation of what culture has done to most men. It continues to imprison us and deny us the freedom to challenge it when it makes no sense to our present-day living.

This is what culture means to some men.

I had raised the marital rape issue because of the story of a 19-year-old Sudanese woman, Noura Hussein, who was forced into marriage and subsequently killed her husband. She was found guilty of murder and sentenced to death.

In countries such as Sudan women have no rights, no voice and can be married as young as 10 years old - all in the name of culture.

Culture is used to silence those who speak up against injustices such as child marriages, sexual mutilations and ukuthwala.

Remember that culture is always used as a cover-up for these injustices. I am happy that Noura seemingly will not be hanged any more as she has found clemency.

I ask myself in frustration: Is culture not supposed to be dynamic, evolving and life enriching, as opposed to being an oppressive tool that is often used to kill those that are opposed to it?

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