I read all about the Gender Equality bill in Nigeria and how it died at the second reading on the second floor, and I was disappointed, but not surprised. I mean, we’re talking about Nigeria – our beloved country that still doesn’t think a woman’s body actually belongs to her. Single or married, every man has the right to tap current when they see you, especially when it’s in a public place like the market. It’s an unspoken rule.
I was going to write about it, and I had so much to say on the issue, but I was weak. The thought of everything I wanted to say made me weak. Why would such a bill die sef? Do men not want their wives, sisters, and daughters to live in a world where they are not discriminated against based on their gender? Even if they don’t want their wives to do well, do they also not want their daughters to do well?
Then I came across this video yesterday and suddenly, it all began to make sense again. In the video below, a woman asks some pastors what she should do about her husband who smokes, drinks, has no job, and beats her.
The first pastor who responds starts by asking what the victim does to her husband to constantly make him beat her because we, women, our mouth is too much, and perhaps, the man is down on his luck and she keeps using her mouth to bring him further down. She also adds that her husband used to beat her up, but that she was the architect of her own beating because her husband was a military man who was used to giving orders. The second pastor goes on and on about Michelle Obama, talking about how Michelle said her marriage to Barack became difficult when he started running for office.
There is a certain comfort for me – because it helps me sleep better at night – when a man is the one perpetuating these wicked thoughts and actions against women because when it’s a woman who’s holding another woman down, I just don’t understand it. When a man does it, I can say that he is not a woman, that he does not understand, and that he just needs to be educated. How do I justify it when it’s a woman doing it?
The average Nigerian woman does not worry about her future father in-law, but she worries about her future mother in-law because it’s the woman who gives the woman hell. The first Pastor that answered the question said her husband was in the military and that he used to beat her up. She acknowledges that it was an abusive relationship, but she follows it up by saying that it was her fault because of her mouth.
I want to be angry, but I have to remember that this woman cannot give what she does not have. She advice she has given the battered woman is based on what she thinks is the norm, what she herself went through, and what she has been taught to believe all her life. She does not know that a man beating his wife is actually not a man, and that there are men who do not beat their wives. She thinks that because her husband is a military man, he should also be a militant at home. A man should be a husband and a father at home, not whatever job he holds outside.
The second Pastor ranted on and on insignificantly about Michelle Obama. She said something about how Michelle Obama said her marriage became difficult when her husband started running for office. This Pastor went on to tell how Michelle had to look within herself and decide what she really needed and how she could get it from someone other than Obama, and she was able to delicate. Was she implying that the battered woman should decide if it was important to her to not be killed by her husband’s hands?
This is why the Gender Equality bill died. It’s because some of our women do not even know that they are suffering. They don’t know they are being given the shorter end of the stick because they have a vagina between their legs. And some of the ones who do know like it just the way it is because they think it is how it’s supposed to be.
In Nigeria, we have a way of confusing God’s words for our cultural beliefs. I have already been reminded on Facebook that these women are Pastors, so my words are touching God’s anointed. People forget that pastors are men mortals with titles, that they are not without sin. It is Jesus that we should look to, not man – no matter the fancy title he adds to the beginning of his name. Pastor. Apostle. Priest. Bishop. Prophet. All words.
This is why the Gender Equality bill did not pass in Nigeria. If women cannot recognize domestic violence and gender inequality, then how can we convince a room full of men to see it? How? It starts with us.