Ghana has made giant strides in terms of gender relations. Of course, this does not mean that we have achieved equality; equality is not something that can happen any time soon (probably anywhere in the world) considering various historical and current socio-economic and political factors. Nevertheless it is refreshing to see how as a country we have better representation of females when it comes to certain situations and conversations. Representation leads to more space for voice, which in turn helps to create a more composite picture of the nation. It is important to improve ethnic, gender, class and other such relations in order to make the country a better place.
While advancement can set the context for this blog post, simple common sense demands anger when a member of the legislature makes a nastily sexist comment in Parliament.
The Member of Parliament for Daboya/Makarigu Nelson Abudu Baani reportedly demanded during a sitting in the house that women caught in adultery should suffer stoning to death as punishment. This “request” was made during debate on the Intestate Succession Law, which concerns family/spousal inheritance. According to the man, such punishment would make women “behave”. On any level, this type of rhetoric is disturbing: it tries to blame women and punitively control their actions while leaving the men (who play a significant role in such issues) free. Or you can simply say that it is stupid. If you are reminded of the incident where Christ was approached by people with the adulterous woman and the man she committed the act with (unless he was a ghost) was nowhere to be found (maybe in that sense he was a ghost) then you realize that there is a long-standing problem.
If we stop at being content at the furious response to his statement then we lower the bar for standards. Nevertheless it is good that not only women but the leadership of his party as well as various interest groups have condemned him. His statement was a breach of human rights, not just of women’s rights. Thus, any well-meaning person should not find cause to defend him. Not on any level.
Yet Mr. Baani initially wondered why people were offended. He even went on air to counter his female accusers by asking why they would not want to be stoned in the case of adultery. With time he predictably “came to his senses” and rendered an apology. Yet his failure to do so immediately after the incident implies that he did not understand the gravity of his rhetoric. One can therefore wonder about the type of environment he grew up in for him to embrace this type of thinking.
It would be helpful if we received a better idea of the gender expectations and relations in his constituency, which is found in the West Gonja District of the Northern Region. If Mr. Baani is representative of the cultural set-up of the place then one can only wonder how the average girl or wife has to deal with the various barriers as she goes to school, deals with domestic/and or work duties, or generally betters herself. The Ministry for Gender, Children and Social Protection can also be more vocal in the work they are doing by showing the challenges and successes they have encountered so far. Their Facebook page for instance is quite vibrant
People are calling for the resignation of the MP but beyond that, I think that there should be a more sustained conversation on the rights of women and other such groups in places where leaders can say this type of thing and be bemused at vitriolic reactions to it.
There is a lot to be said about this notion that allows husbands to commit adultery while women are supposed to be chaste. One can ask for instance that if women are supposed to be faithful then who are the ones that these husbands cheat with? That would lead to a longer discussion but in the meantime let us hope that something can be done to change the attitudes that some people, including leaders, have when it comes to females and society. If we want to improve our gender relations then let us go beyond this MP to be fair to people from various walks of life on any issue.
If anything needs to be stoned, it should be the attitude that led to this problem (I would have proposed stoning the MP himself but that would be an eye-for-an-eye reaction).