Tuesday, 21 February 2006

Batter yourself not your wife

Seeking kindred spirits
Having left Nigeria just over 15 years ago and now effectively spent more than half my life in total in Europe. I find that quite a few elements of my Nigerian heritage are coming to the fore.
Generally, I am not a person given to ethnic community gatherings or associations of common identity, but I find that I have been drawn to the Internet equivalents of these groupings.
Whilst I try to catch up on Nigerian events in the news, blogging is quite an interesting phenomenon because it takes primary opinion out of the hands of paid professionals and puts in arena of general public debate.
Debate however can be interesting as intelligence, common sense, knowledge, wisdom and commendable discourse sometimes contends violently with prejudice, ignorance, intolerance, bigotry and plain stupidity.
The Nigerian Blogs Aggregator does this job beautifully as Nigerians and lovers of Nigeria – home and abroad – congregate to dispense with their perspectives of ideas, events and people.
Vagina Monologues in Nigeria
One topic that got me surfing through links to other blogs and varied comments to an authoritative source was pertaining to the arrival of the Vagina Monologues in Nigeria.
This is a post-feminist analysis of issues developed on the experiences of over 200 women globally related to their sexuality and status in society as they deal with violence, rape, genital mutilation and other customs that border on savagery.
Some countries like Uganda, Malaysia and China have banned the performance of Vagina Monologues because it addresses difficult topics most especially that recurrent masculine pastime of wife battering.
Observation has given me opportunity to write about this for the first time, however, I give credence to those who have tackled this issue in the interview granted by the organizer of the event Hafsat Abiola-Costello and theNaijablog entry that develops the context further.
Personally, it is a raw subject since at one stage, one had to be involved in trying to placate a difficult and complex situation.
Where is the love?
Marriage continues to be a mystery to me, you really never can understand the machinations and intricacies of love and affection between two people who meet and decide to spend their lives together.
It is usually just between those two and what we observe as family and friends is the bond of love, concern and devotion which results in the celebration of marriage.
The world we live in today indicates that this power and quality of love is no more the exclusive preserve of heterosexual relationships, it is chemistry between the hearts of two human beings regardless of sex and pairing permutations.
For the many, the pairing beyond man and woman is a mountain to climb, but the facts are each person to their own chooses what represents the joy in their lives.
What baffles me is how that engine of love falters in the privacy of the environment of that couple leading to domestic violence and probably more.
Marriage should not be an end; it has to be nurtured through expressions of love and affection, sometimes frank talk and disagreement but with mutual respect for what incidentally was supposed to be “till death do us part”.
Total submission
So, an uncle wrote to me to address an issue with a protégé who had to be brought back on to the path of honour, dignity and total submission to her husband.
No, I was not angry, maybe, I was not incensed, but indeed, I was livid with rage, however, I had to temper my eventual response with reason and purpose in the context of the patriarchal setting of Nigerian society.
The matter could not have been more disturbing when it became apparent that the wife battering scoundrel was also a medical doctor. The things we condone in Nigeria.
My father had said years ago that I have always thought like a Westerner, indicating that I sometimes presented a range of views that normally never gets expressed for purposes of deference.
For instance, in Yoruba culture, you cannot accuse an elder of lying directly, rather, one has to be smart about the way the facts are presented for others to deduce and deal with it in closed company.
Basically, the structure of society is built on completely preventing the older generation from losing face or admitting their mistakes to anyone but their peers or an older generation.
The language is pervaded with proverbs which masquerade as frank talk to devastating effect.
I could afford myself the luxury of that political double-speak or basically not mince my words using the privilege of my Western heritage to good advantage.
The path to honour
In general, it appears that many husbands think that their only role in a marriage is provision; that could have been true in times past, there is now a lot more to the role of a husband than that.
I cannot count the number of times my parents quoted the Bible on the issue of my honouring my parents having left out their own responsibilities in achieving that symbiotic relationship. [1]
When the scripture talks of this, it offers the promise of long life to the child – first responsibility, the parent who does not want to bury their child would probably get involved in the process of ensuring the conditions conducive to having the child honour them.
I know, not all issues of the death of child are encompassed in this situation, but it is a sound warning to both child and parent. Further study indicates that the parent school the child in the ways of God and also not provoke the child unto wrath.
There is a fundamental and initial part of care and duty on the part of the parents that sows the seeds for the honouring they would eventually receive off their children.
The path to submission
The previous illustration shows how we select the choice cuts from Scripture to plant our views in domination of other parties.
It is interesting that Ephesians 5 in the Bible helps illustrate the subject of submission all too clearly by comparing the relationship between Jesus Christ and the Church with the relationship between the husband and his wife. [2]
Beyond the fact of the headship of Christ and the husband the issue of the service and servant-hood of Christ looms large.
Whilst, this looks like a religious exercise, it is the context of the relationship that I want to extract for inference.
Christ gave his life in sacrifice for His Church, He teaches, nurtures, encourages, listens, admonishes, enthuses and builds His Church as His body, the full expression of Himself to the world.
Now, if a battered wife is a husband’s idea of sacrifice and the full expression of himself to this wife, the family, and his friends and to the world, we are the poorer for it.
Seen in that context, it appears that the selfless sacrifice and devotion of a man to his woman is the conducive environment for “required” submission.
Submission is then borne out of the respect, admiration and the husband’s humility in relating to his wife rather than the husband’s disrespect and humiliation of his wife. [3] It is a tall order.
Institutions and traditions
The framework of our society allows for marital conflict to be resolved within the extended family network of people we trust and respect. In the West, one might even seek professional advice through marriage counselling.
In some cases, these networks have failed such that the issue is best addressed by temporary or permanent separation; this gets complicated by the presence of offspring – I would not delve into that here.
The concern here is with the traditions which believe that the woman should pay the ultimate price for dishonouring the family.
Thankfully, governments are taking a more strident view of these activities; there is no justification whatsoever for murder, regardless of the event that so infuriates the family and their status in society. [4]
Whilst, I had no easy solution to help resolve my protégé’s circumstances, I had this much to say.
If nobody had a way of resolving this precipitous disagreement, the woman would best to separate from her husband, but I would not sacrifice my protégé on the institution of marriage.
Marriage was made for us, not humans for marriage. If I had to choose between tradition and the people, I would choose the people.
Vagina Monologues would have a good few people shifting in their seats; hopefully, it would get aired before the Nigerian Moral Police stymie issues that really need to be thrashed with the utmost ferocity.
A welcome development indeed.
References

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