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Of Fundamentalists, Control, Alooma Mukhtar And The Future


So much has been said about where a woman’s place is. For some religions, it is in a separate pew. For some others, it is just simply in the background. Yet all of mankind is in agreement about one thing. The woman is a fragile creature that must depend on the man for her very existence.

Now, this isn’t one of my usual rants about the injustice meted out to women all over the world at the moment. You have the dailies, twenty four hour news stations and the internet to tell you about the fate of Serata in the Ghazni province of Afghanistan who was beheaded by her aggrieved husband alongside  their two children a few days ago in what is presumed to be an incidence of honour killing. I also do not have to tell you about Blessing Friday who died after a fight that lasted all night in the hands of her boyfriend in Shasha, a suburb of Lagos a few days ago as well. Like I said earlier, let that be the job of news agencies because today,  I am in a dilemma of my own.

Let me take my story back to some weeks ago when I stumbled on an ensuing argument between members of an online forum over what the Christian scriptures thought about women preachers. The debate started intelligently until it turned spiritual and some members of the forum (men of course) started quoting reasons why it was sinful for women to take leadership positions in a Church. As usual, yours truly went off on a tirade against outdated rules that had no place in the modern society. Yet, no matter what was said against that thinking, those men stuck to their guns and advocated a return to archaic beliefs and traditions that were obviously created to serve sensitive male egos several centuries ago. 

After that incidence, I realized that the fight for women liberation was far from finished. I have always hoped that somehow my generation was getting the hang of it and more men were becoming to see the importance of doing away with cultures that oppressed women, be it religious in nature or just a social phenomenon. Apparently, I was wrong. The men who advocated a return to traditions steeped in outdated Middle Eastern cultures on excuse of religion were young, internet savvy and relatively modern. So what happened? Why did they think it was okay to belong to this advanced age and then give priority to an ancient rule that made no sense? In these times where a floundering economy has made it pertinent for men to marry women with careers, I don’t see why such an oppressive rule should even be a topic of discourse. Many of those men who argued in favour of silencing women in the Churches probably belonged to the category of men seeking women with good careers. Their contradictory morals and it left me in a dilemma. After that day, I began to look at the men around me. I wondered if they thought it was okay to be educated, outspoken but decidedly docile, and robotic with malleable qualities (don’t ask me how that works) just like the men in that forum.

It wasn’t long before I had my answer. It came in form of a thinly veiled reproach and one word hung in the air…’control’. I can’t tell you how much of a history I have with that word. It was one of the many reasons I grew to become a feminist. I heard that word so many times as a young child and a teenager. It became synonymous with philandering, late night keeping, womanizing and mental torture. Best of all, it was the perfect excuse to do what the accuser wanted. Yes, that is my problem. At what extent is it okay for an educated woman to be outspoken without being hit back with the ‘control’ line. Should women shy from being themselves for fear of being labeled control freaks? I wonder if the late Selata would have been spared her fate if she was less in control and stayed on in an abusive marriage, instead of the seeking divorce that ultimately led to her death. How much control should a woman give up for society to accept her as the perfect citizen. Is the word a constant reminder that a woman should know her place? This is my dilemma.

On another note – the appointment of Justice Mariam Alooma Mukhtar, first female justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria as the Chief Justice of Nigeria is one step forward for the Nigerian female. Hopefully, my daughters will live in a world where female justices of Supreme courts around the world equal their male counterparts and having female attorney generals or chief justices will be as normal as taking a walk to the park.

Umari Ayim

Written on July 6 2012 on