UNIVERSITY OF NAIROBI
COLLEGE OF EXTERNAL STUDIES
DEPARTMENT OF EXTRAMURAL STUDIES
MASTERS OF ARTS AND PROJECT PLANNING AND MANAGEMENT
UNIT TITLE: GENDER ISSUES AND DEVELOPMENT
UNIT CODE: LDP 616
LECTURER: MARIE MUGO
FRANKLINE OLUM NESTOR
DATE OF SUBMISSION: 15TH SEPTEMBER 2014
Question: Discuss any four Cultural Dinamics that tend to Maginalise and Subordinate Women to the Periphery of Development
Submission of the Assignment in Partial Fulfulment for the Award of Masters of Arts in Project Planning and Management.
Table of Content
Culture plays a pivotal role in the marginalizing and subordination of women to the periphery of development, as there are requisite implications of power and control mechanisms embedded in culture, which allow for the exploration of gender inequality and inequity. In this paper we will focus our discussion on cultural dynamics and its role in the marginalization and subordination of women in development; we will commence by defining some key terms and further interrogate the various societal cultural institutions that are used to perpetuate the subordination and marginalization of women in development.
Definition of Terms
Dynamics- the pattern or history of growth, change, and development in any field.
Development_ The process of economic and social transformation that is based on complex cultural and environmental factors and their interactions.
For us to get a clear understanding of how cultural dynamics contributes to the subordination of women, it is critically important for us to first have a clear understanding of what culture is. Culture is a broad term that refers to the ‘customs, institutions and achievements of a particular nation, people or group’ (South African Concise Oxford Dictionary, 2002:282). Culture may be viewed as the total sum of a people’s way of life. It includes norms and values of a society: their religion, politics, economics, technology, food habits, medicine, rules of marriage, the performing arts, law and so on (NJOGU and ORCHARDSON 2005). Geertz says that culture is “a set of control mechanisms plans, recipes, and rules, instruments (what computer engineers call “programs” for governing of behavior.” According to him, this view of culture “begins with the assumption that human thought is basically both social and public, that its natural habitat is the house yard, the market place, and the town square.” Geertz’s interpretation of culture has the requisite implications of power and control mechanisms embedded in culture, which allow for the exploration of gender inequality and inequity (Geertz 1973:44-5). Radical feminists argue that culture imprisons women leading to their subordination because of the patriarchal nature of society and hence culture plays a major role in the subordination of women in the society.
Radical feminists define patriarchy as a social system in which men appropriate all social roles and keep women in subordinate positions. They further state that this social system has managed to survive for so long because its chief psychological weapon is its universality as well as its longevity (Charvet, 1982). This view acknowledges the fact that patriarchy has been around for quite some time and that this is an element of culture that is universal and as a systemic condition that has been perpetuated for a long time, women end up thinking that it is a natural or rather normal way of life. What this simply means is that women are even threatened by the societal norms and other rules that govern the society to challenge such an unpleasant condition that they find themselves under.
Marginalization is the process whereby an individual or a group of people are pushed to the edge of a group and accorded lesser importance. This is predominantly a social phenomenon by which a minority or sub-group is excluded, and their needs or desires ignored, for the sake of our discussion, the marginalized group will be women.
Every social grouping in the world has its own cultural practices and beliefs which guide its members on how they should live or behave. Culture is like a fabric which is woven and with many shades of colors. Some of these colors represent custom, practices, beliefs and so forth. The sum is what gives the individual and the community to which he/she is part a sense of belonging and identity. The attributes of culture are dearly held and valued by the community. Studies have defined culture as a coherent self-contained system of values and symbols that a specific cultural group reproduces over time, which provides individuals with the required signposts and meanings for behavior and social relationships in their everyday life (Iyanuolu 2008). The above statement shows that culture is a social heritage which includes all knowledge, beliefs, customs and skills that are available to members of a social group. It is also a source of individual and group identity within a given society. Despite the fact that culture is beneficial to its members, some practices are harmful and directly affront the dignity of members of the society when measured against modern acceptable standards of behavior and civility as reflected in international standards. These standards have been articulated in national constitutions and International conventions. A number of cultural practices are harmful to the physical integrity of the individual and especially women and girl children. Some cause excruciating physical pain while others subject them to humiliating and degrading treatment (Hanzi 2006; Iyanuolu 2008). Harmful traditional practices emanate from the deeply entrenched discriminatory views and beliefs about the role and position of women in society. The role differentiation and expectations in society relegate women to an inferior position from birth throughout their lives. Harmful traditional and cultural practices maintain the subordination of women in society and legitimize and perpetuate gender based violence. For example, in South Africa, Swaziland and Lesotho there is an emerging belief that sexual intercourse with a young virgin girl can cure HIV and AIDS and this has led to an increase in sexual violence against girls resulting in huge psychological scars on the victims (UNICEF 2003) which has a bigger role in negating them from participating in national development. Traditional practices such as polygamy, payment of bride price and child marriages are all synonymous with marginalizing and subordination of women to the periphery of development as they reduce women to sub-human assets belonging to men. Payment of bride price and child marriages take place in most communities in Kenya as part of traditional culture ignoring changes in social contexts. In many communities in the region, girls are brought up aware that they are a source of wealth for their family and the training they get at home is supposed to prepare them for marriage. Consequently, “boys grow up knowing that their sisters have no rights to their fathers’ property” (Vincent 2006). This term paper reviews harmful traditional and cultural practices which violate the rights of women in Kenyan community and other regions across the border
Cultural Dynamics and How it Marginalize Women in Development
The patriarchal mode of production refers to the undervalued work of housewives who are the producing class, while husbands are the expropriating class. The second level, which describes patriarchal relations in paid work, refers to the fact that traditionally women have been granted worse jobs. The level which is about patriarchal relations in the state refers to the fact that state is patriarchal, racist and capitalist and it clearly has bias towards patriarchal interests. Male violence constitutes the fourth structure and explains how men’s violence against women is systematically ensured and tolerated by the state’s refusal to intervene against it. The fifth level describes the patriarchal relations towards sexuality, where the patriarchy has decided for dus that heterosexuality is and should be the norm. The sixth level which is about patriarchal relations in cultural institutions describes the male gaze within various cultural institutions, such as the media, and how women traditionally have been exhibited via the mass media etc (Walby, 1990).
We can go back beyond the birth of Christ to encounter patriarchy, when Aristotle and his often avant-garde ideas blossomed. Aristotle assumed that women were the defective part of humanity, having only developed as a mistake when the temperature during conception was too low (Weitz, 2003). During the middle ages this ideology was at its peak. Amongst renowned beliefs during this age was firstly that the woman was believed to be more stupid that the man. Secondly she was believed to be mainly driven by her libido and as a consequence she was blamed for the first sin ever committed in the sanctuary of ed4en (Weitz 2003). Capitalistic economic practices incrementally became institutionalized in England between the 16th and 19th centuries and from there this ideology spread throughout Europe, across political and cultural frontiers. Finally, in the 19th and 20th centuries, capitalism had become the main means of industrialization throughout much of the world (capitalism, 2009). The arrival of capitalism led to the loss by women of areas of work which had been theirs and in the aftermath they also lost certain legal rights over property that they had before held (Walby, 1990). Furthermore, with time the patriarchy changed from being private to public.
Private patriarchy is based upon household production, with a patriarch controlling women individually and directly in the relatively private sphere of the home. Public patriarchy is based on structures other than household, although this may still be a significant patriarchal site rather, institutions conventionally regarded as a part of the public domain are central in the maintenance of patriarchy (walby, 1990, 178).
The rise of capitalism surely did lead to the development of a new form of patriarchy. However, it did not lead to an alteration in its basic structures since this historical shift did not have great effects upon gender relations, “men remained the dominant gender; all six patriarchal structures continued across this period; only a minor shift in the relative significance of public and private sites of patriarchy, which can be identified as far as the seventh century, accelerated” (Walby,1990,200).
Moreover, as time went by little changed and when we examine the eighteenth century and early nineteenth century in western culture and other developed countries, we cannot discern a great deal of changes in women’s subordination. As an example, when a women got married she lost everything she owned to her husband and she herself became his possession and in fact it is no wonder women were though so little of when Darwin, ht most renowned scientist in the fields of the theory evolution in the 19th century, came forth with his conclusion that men were the more developed part of the humankind (Weitz, 2003).
Female Genital Mutilation
FGM entails partial or total ablation of a woman’s external genital organs (Sawadogo 2003). It involves surgical removal of parts or all of the most sensitive female genital organs. It refers to “all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external features of the female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs whether for cultural or other no therapeutic reasons (UNFPA 1997). There are various forms of FGM, namely, clitoridectomy, excision, and infibulations or phraonic circumcision (Obermeyer 1999; Chinnian-Kester 2005; Iyanuolu 2008).
Complications associated with infibulations are more severe where the woman’s vagina has to bere-opened when she gives birth and then re-stitched afterwards. In some communities, the woman may be opened for the purposes of sexual intercourse depending on whether she is able to dilate (Toubia 1993; Iyanuolu 2008). FGM is an age-old practice perpetuated in many communities around the world simply because it is customary, The reasons for FGM tend to be culture specific. These include ensuring virginity at the time of marriage, suppressing a woman’s sexual desire, enhancing social integration, religious reasons and numerous myths (Committee on the Status of Women 2007). For some communities, FGM forms an important part of the rites of passage ceremony, marking the coming of age of the female child. It is believed that by mutilating the female’s genital organs, her sexuality will be controlled, but above all, it is to ensure a woman’s virginity before marriage and chastity thereafter (The High Commissioner for Human Rights 1999 (Committee on the Status of Women 2007). The practice takes place without the administration of anesthetics and under very unhygienic conditions. Mixtures of local herbs, earth, cow dung, ash or butter are used to treat the wound. Often an unsterilized and blunt instrument is used on a number of girls exposing them to the risk of contracting HIV and AIDS and other infectious diseases (Committee on the Status of Women 2007).
How FGM marginalize women in Development
Immediate and long term health consequences have been identified with the practice of FGM. Immediate complications include severe pain, shock, hemorrhage, urine retention, ulceration of the genital region and injury to adjacent tissue. Sporadic research data over the past 10 years has correlated dirty cutting equipment, hemorrhages requiring blood transfusions and injurious sexual intercourse causing vaginal tearing and lesions with rising rates of HIV transmission among women in countries where FGM is still widely practiced (Keown2007). Although a few clinical studies have been conducted, it is clear that at least some form of FGM increases the HIV transmission risk faced by women and girls, both in that unsterilized instruments may be used in the cutting. In addition, FGM is associated with chronic injury and tearing, and delayed healing of injuries, all of which may increase HIV risk (Keown 2007;Iyanuolu 2008). In short, FGM has physiological, psychological and sexual effects (Obermeyer 1999; Chinnian-Kester 2005; Iyanuolu 2008).all these are health related complication that risks the life of a girl child which makes girls dropped out of schools to nurse wounds or due to illness related to FGM, they therefore cant contribute to a cash economy due to being sick and in active.
Marriage by Abduction/Forced Marriage
Marriage by abduction is a practice found in some African countries such as Kenya, Zimbabwe
and South Africa. It violates the rights of the girl child in the sense that in most cases, the girl is
forced into marriage without her consent at an early age hence denies her equal opportunity to participate in the development arena through decision making. The above argument reveals that the root causes of marriage by abduction or forced marriage are enshrined in the patriarchal attitudes of the community emphasized by the inferiority of women (Stormorken et al. 2007:20).
This practice takes place in almost all the communities ,Child marriage is not only a violation of human rights but also tend to marginalize and subordinate women to the periphery of development whether it happens to a girl or a boy, it represents perhaps the most prevalent form of sexual abuse and exploitation of girls UNICEF 2007). The harmful consequences include separation from family and friends, lack of freedom to interact with peers and participate in community development activities and decreased opportunities for education (Juru 2003; Committee on Status of Women 2007). Child marriage can also result in bonded labor or enslavement, commercial sexual exploitation and violence against the victim (Stormorken et al. 2007).In some cases girls are married off to older men when they are at the age of eleven, twelve and thirteen; some even as young as six years(UNICEF 2003). Because they cannot abstain from sex or insist on condom use, child brides are often exposed to such serious health risks as premature pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections and, increasingly, HIV and AIDS(UNICEF 2007; Ikhaxas 2006).these health risks negate girls to actively participate in development agenda fully by marginalizing and subordinating them to the periphery of development.
How Child Marriages Marginalize women in development
The effects of child marriage on the girl child are devastating in the economy of a Nation in terms of development (UNFPA 1997; UNICEF 2003; INSTRAW 2005).Child marriages deprive girls of the opportunity to obtain education which would be helping them participate in development agenda thus, live an economically rewarding life in future. They are also deprived of the right to choose their own life partners. The girls are also not protected from HIV/AIDS since they marry older men, this will lead to a pool of sick community of women who cannot actively participate in the countries development due to health related illnesses. They experience various obstacles to their physical, psychological and social development (INSTRAW 2005; Iyanuolu 2008). Their education is disrupted since they have to take care of their husbands, do household chores and, in some cases, farm work (Iyanuolu 2008). In Kenya and Tanzania, boys and girls in the pastoral groups get married very early. However, boys continue with school despite the fact that they have families while girls are forced to drop out because they have to start families and take care of their homes, Moreover, many young girls marry into ongoing families as second or third wives where they face stiff competition in resources access and allocation and related strain and stress at very young ages (Jonas 2006; UNICEF 2007;Committee on the Status of Women 2007).According to UNICEF (2003:12), “the hardship of dealing with a polygamous marriage and parenting is often beyond the capacity of an under-age wife”. Children who fall pregnant before the age of 18 risk getting complications such as prolonged or obstructed labor because of underdeveloped pelvis. This may lead to loss of life or maternal complications like obstetric fistula (UNICEF 2003; Iyanoulu2008).
Iyanoulu (2008) observes that birth complications that lead to obstetric fistulas may also result in husbands abandoning their young wives thus causing devastating psychological torture. Studies also observe that at times young girls face food taboos that deprive them essential nutrients. Among the long list of foods include eggs, liver, kidneys and certain vegetables (UNICEF 2007). Deprivation of nutrients from certain foods results in impairment of physical and mental development of both the young mother and her baby. This culture of early marriage therefore helps to marginalize girls thus subordinating them to peripheral of development because how can one participate in development when subjected to such cultural injustices?
Let us turn now to the first cultural institution that is also responsible for the subordination of women in the society and that institution is the family. The family, as a social institution, is a brewery for the subordination of women, as children are socialized from a tender age to behave in a manner deemed to be normal by the society, where children are taught to accept a sexual differentiated role which is unfortunately critical in the whole life of the child. From a tender age what determines that boys grow up to be men and girls to be women is how they are taught through various methods like the toys, where boys are expected to get toys like cars, puzzle games and other such games that ensures the development of the psych whilst girls are kept busy with dolls that teach them to be caring but also good wives and mothers. In the family, the male child is preferred to the female child. In fact, males rule females by right of birth and even if the male child is not the first born in a family, he is automatically considered the head of the household who should protect and look after his sisters. The female child is further discriminated upon due to the fact that eventually she marries out and joins another family whilst the male child ensures the survival of the family name through bringing additional members into the family (Human Rights Monitor, 2001). This shapes the way the society views women not only at family level but also in all other areas like in the development arena, cash economy and politics and at the work place. The cause of such differentiation and discrimination is, as some scholars note, the fact that society views women as sexual beings and not as human beings (Charvet, 1982). Such views about women perpetuate their marginalization and subordination to the periphery of development as the women are not even given the benefit of the doubt, whether at work or at any other leadership position and those women that have risen up the ranks are judged harshly as loose as the people would say that such a woman would have had a sexual relationship with a powerful man. Such stereotypes will negate women in seeking powerful political and economic positions that will enable them participate in development agenda fully.
Some scholars also further emphasize that women are not only constantly defined in relation to men, but are defined as dependent and subordinate to them as well. As a result, women are socialized to acquire those qualities, which fit them into a relationship of dependence on men. These qualities include gentleness, passivity, submission and striving to please men always (McDowell and Pringle 1992). This conditioning diminishes the ability of women to challenge such teachings, which further magnifies their subordination to men. In the Shona culture, once a girl reaches puberty all teachings are directed towards pleasing one’s future husband as well as being a gentle and obedient wife. Her sexuality is further defined for her, as she is taught how to use it for the benefit of the male race (Kambarami 2006). As noted in many cultures, the cultural practice of son preference by many families may contribute to denial of girls’ access to education and curtail their opportunities in life. It may lead to early marriage and the onset of childbearing (NJOGU and ORCHARDSON 2005). Son preference is meant to perpetuate male dominance, as women will be pushed down deeper into poverty which works well for men as poverty limits the individual’s ability to challenge the institution of oppression.
This means that at the end of the day women are left with only one choice, that is to adhere and hence women depend on men for their survival as observed in some communities in Kenya where, if a husband dies, the wife quickly gets married to another man as a survival strategy.
Institution of (cultural) Marriage
Looking also at the institution of (cultural)marriage, where the women have to go into and be second class heads of the family, that is to say that women play second fiddle to men in marriage as in some communities in Kenya like the Kalenjins, women are counted as children, The fact that in most African cultures men pay bride price, it means that women come into a family with a price tag, which literally means that the woman would be forced to be a servant of the man and the women has no room under such an arrangement to question what is done to her by the man or to participate in economic advancement of the family through critical decision making. In any marriage, issues around sex are very sacred and as such handled in a secretive manner that suits male dominance. Many cultures express leniency on male sexual behavior but are very proscriptive when it comes to female sexual behavior (International center for Human Rights, 1996). In most of the African cultures males are allowed to experiment with sex, whilst the females are meant to preserve their virginity for their husbands. A woman who plays by the rules is rewarded;
Polygamy also is a mirror to the fact that the society gives less value to women, as it is common for men in such marriages to neglect their older wives to go for the younger women who are sometimes as young as their children. In the era of HIV and AIDS, the inequality of men and women is fueling the spreading of the epidemic as multiple concurrent partnerships are the order of the day with younger women going for older men even outside the institution of marriage as a means of survival, where these young women have lesser power to negotiate for safer sex.
The marriage institution also plays a significant role in the subordination of women, as marriage is only initiated by men, which means that the one who is seen as the creator of such an arrangement also has the power over the one who is asked to come into such an arrangement. This is what also makes it merely impossible for women to equally compete with men in public office like in politics and in national development as the woman is supposed to be busy with house chores and taking care of the children whilst the man is busy drafting policies and perpetuating the subordination of women. This is reflected by the fact that globally there are fewer women than man holding legislative positions. As long as issues around gender roles are not looked at, it will be a pipeline dream for us to expect women to equally compete with men in the society.
Let us look also at another cultural institution, which is religion and how it also contributes to the subordination of women in the society thus pushing them to the edges of development. Because religion is such a powerful source of collective identity, it also is a form of social control. The portrayal of women in most religions is usually negative or rather denigrating. Images of women in religious texts reflect and create stereotypical gender roles and legitimate social inequality between men and women. As Anderson notes that in the new testament of the bible women are aged to be subordinate to men, who are subordinate to God. In such an arrangement it is clear that women cannot communicate directly with God as they have to go through the man, as women in most churches are not allowed to hold an office where they have to stand in front of the crowd and propagate development ideas that could help improve the lives of the congregation. This arrangement ignores the fact that women are the majority in most of the churches, but works well for the subordination of women who are told and shown that they cannot do anything without a man. Anderson also talks about the traditional Jewish Morning Prayer in which a man blesses God for not creating him as a woman, while a woman blesses God for creating her in accordance with His will. Women in most religions are portrayed as the source of sin and in Christianity the case of Eve, who is said to be the one who caused Adam to eat the apple that brought sin to mankind. In the creation story in the bible Eve is created as an afterthought from one of the ribs of Adam. Patriarchal attitudes are also found in Christianity and these have strengthened the traditional customs, which men use to control women’s sexuality (Human Rights Monitor, 2001). Such a portrayal of women perpetuates the subordination of women as they are viewed as second class citizens who should always depend on men from whom they were created from. In Kenya which is predominately Christian nation, men use a verse from the new testament The woman is expected to “submit to her husband” (Colossians 3:18) whilst the husband has to love his wife (Colossians 3:19).As a result, men control their women and justify their actions basing on Christianity.
Let us also look at the education sector and how it also plays a role in the subordination of women as education is a key component of culture which shapes also the way people view themselves. The education system ignores the fact that when children come to school, they come with inequalities from the family and it further perpetuates the view that boys are more intelligent and hard-working than girls who are shown as people who enjoy doing household chores. The school uniforms are also designed in favor of boys as they give the boys an advantage to be adventurous, as the design allows them to climb trees whilst the girls are expected to be sitting in a manner seen to be correct. The Kenyan education system is therefore gender insensitive and gender blind as it encourages male models, male-authored textbooks and theories thus spelling out that women should be academically subordinate as well. The view of women as sexual beings not human-beings is further perpetuated by the education sector, where teachers force girls to have sex with them. This is usually directed at young girls from poor families who are forced into such action to get marks for assignments and money, such behaviors are prevalent in most institution of higher learning in Kenya, its known as sexually transmitted Grades and this works in favor of men as women are infected by HIV and their status is always down-graded by such actions, which leave them in subordination to men hence denying them an opportunity to be an equal partner in decision making in matters related to development.
The above discussion shows that some of the harmful traditional cultural practices have
Devastating physical and psychological effects on women. As stated in earlier, they discriminate against women, enforce their inferior status and submissive role of women and others threaten their lives. Traditional practices are also aggravated by the existence of poverty, illiteracy and ignorance. While it is undeniable that they transmit the values of the group and the community, others are also used as a way of securing a means of livelihood for those involved in practice such as FGM. This creates an institution which must thrive and be supported by some of these cultural practices, however, society will not realize its goal of development if over half of its population are marginalized, women must be an equal partner in development agenda, cultural inequalities and past atrocities committed against women must now be addressed, women must be involved in development process, this will only be possible if the society have a paradigm shift from the status quo and put on gender glasses and go ahead by asking 3 critical questions; Why? Why? Why?
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