Do African Women Really Need Husbands To Keep Them In Check?

What happens when an African woman gets married?

  • People in society take her seriously.
  • She is no longer considered a threat to her married friend’s husbands.
  • She gets to sleep with one man.
  • She now has somebody to keep her in check in terms of taming her once ill habits while still unmarried.
  • She can now be accorded the status of a respected mother once children are in the picture.
  • She has a title while being identified as Mrs. So and So.

What happens when an African woman fails to get married and especially if she has children or a child from a previously failed relationship?

  • Every perverted man now feels he has the warrant to hit on her.
  • Her married friends can be excused for secretly considering her a threat to their marriages.
  • She is untamed because she has no figure of authority in the house.
  • She must be slutty for choosing to remain unmarried and especially if there is evidence of children.
  • Who beds her?!
  • She probably set unrealistic standards that ended up in her being single.
  • She is damaged goods.

And what happens when an African woman fails to get married, has a child/children or no child and is highly successful in her career?

  • Well, some influential man contributed significantly in her climb on the career ladder.
  • She’s free to use her body in whichever way to get ahead. No inhibitions. I mean, she has no husband…

About two weeks back, I attended a Girlfriend’s Confidential Talk in Nairobi and when the floor was opened for women to share their views, literally every unmarried woman mentioned something concerning the pressure to get married that some were already facing. The theme behind the talk was totally different but it was not long before the conversation veered off toward marriage and the expectations that the African society places on women concerning it.

A Ghanaian traditional marriage. Photo courtesy of www.pinterest.com

A Ghanaian traditional marriage. Photo courtesy of http://www.pinterest.com

There’s a notion in Africa that a woman needs to have a husband in order to be kept in check. Single women in top positions in our country have often been criticized bitterly concerning their marital status. It almost seems like nobody in Africa wants to believe that someone can remain unmarried at a certain age and be totally normal. There has to be something wrong with that person according to many. And it sometimes goes both ways with unmarried African men in their 40s and 50s being considered selfish and irresponsible to choose to avoid starting families.

African women approaching marriageable age with no fiance in sight have been known to go to crazy lengths just to speed up the marriage process. I was a child or pre-teen then, I can’t remember, when some preacher decided to show up in Nairobi with a promise that after his crusade, all the women present will be contacted by their future husbands. As ridiculous as it sounded, Kenyan women turned up in droves all jostling to get space in the already crowded stadium where the crusade was being held.

The pressure for an African woman to get a husband is pretty much intense. As you approach your late twenties and seem not to have an eligible character in sight, your elder sisters, mum and aunts will begin questioning frequently when your boyfriend will be visiting. I think the most appalling thing I heard from a close relative was to hurry up and get married before my arms got flabby. Apparently, according to some, women age faster than men. And in Africa, we do not quite want to believe that an older woman can indeed get a husband.

We associate marriage with a woman having a husband who ensures she tows the line. No wonder all the tag names that single women and mothers have to endure being branded. Marriage is a wonderful thing but many times the “Wives submit to your husbands” Biblical phrase is usually taken out of context. Marriage is then made to seem like only the woman has an obligation to the husband to be obedient and to follow his direction.

We forget the Biblical phrase “Husbands love your wives just like Christ loved the church”. So it is not only women who are obligated to obey the husband and to submit to him and to allow themselves to be kept in check. Husbands have an obligation too to love their wives unconditionally. How will it be possible for a woman to submit to a man who does not show any slightest signs of love for her?

Love does not only encompass romance and sex. There are many aspects of love that ensure that the act of submission of a wife to a husband is easily and willingly, effected. Love includes care, support, understanding, encouragement, wise counsel, guidance, tolerance. It is only when both African men and women understand this that the stereotype of African women needing husbands to be kept in check will go.

As a matter of fact, you do not need a man to keep you in check. Your own individual principles are enough to keep you in check. Every person has different principles. Principles are varied and choosing to be and act in a certain way depends on an individual’s perspectives. So even if an African woman who has always been a rebel got married, a husband will not successfully change that. It may even be a cause for their separation or divorce. And that is the main reason why compatibility in a partner is particularly important when choosing someone to date possibly leading to marriage.

I feel like many African women fail to reach their full potential while single because their minds are preoccupied with the pressure to get married and the fear of their success while single being associated with sleeping around. Marriage is a personal choice and there is absolutely no wrong in a woman choosing to concentrate on career and fulfilling her dreams first before settling down in marriage. We all seek self fulfillment at some point in life.

It would indeed be a tragedy if a woman rushed into marriage to beat the biological clock and got kept in check by a husband so much that all she ever wanted to achieve got buried 6 feet under. We need to understand the concept of marriage rather than confusing it with a husband’s right to domination of a wife. Because this whole keeping in check argument is in essence a form of patriarchal, chauvinistic thinking needing to be done away with.

Thoughts?

 

I recently got the opportunity to join the contribution team of Conor Boyle’s amazing blog The Conversation Room. You can keep up with some of my posts and Conor’s work on http://www.theconversationroomblog.wordpress.com

 

 

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13 comments

  1. Thank you for raising your voice. For the women of Africa and the women of the World.
    I challenge the readers to read again and ignore the word ‘African’. Because You actually describe very vividly the situation women are facing in different regions (even in the so called ‘developed’ world).

    Liked by 1 person

  2. you know lorna.. i was about to say the same thing that sunnymirros said… we in India have the same mentality .. It is difficult to convince our parents/ relatives and friends that we don’t want to marry… its just not acceptable.. having children without marriage is a “sin” out here and any woman who has a child without marriage is easily outcast..

    What i wanted to point out (especially about the situation here) is:

    1. women are socially obligated to marry at a certain age (as you mentioned in your article )
    2 women are socially obligated to have children by certain age..
    3. Women are required to be financially independent but not career oriented. she is always forced to compromise her career for family which does not apply for a man… Things are slowly changing but it is still more or less the same.. women choose a job taking into consideration her kids and spouse’s convenience.. does not take up promotions easily because promotions would mean more work and less time for children…
    4. If any women decides to quit a job to be a homemaker they generally remark “the education is wasted…” Is education only meant to earn money ???

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’ve actually clarified what happens in the Indian community even here in Kenya with regards to marriage. However, like you say, attitudes are changing. I have an Indian friend who was my childhood best friend for 8 years who has been married for about 3 years, has no kids yet and is actively pursuing her career as an interior designer. However, for may i’ve seen the situation is just like you have mentioned.
      I feel as if society plays a big role in suppressing a woman’s potential. Then society instills that fear in women that they are actually banking on very little time. So she has to be married by this age, have kids by this age, choose less demanding careers…the list is endless.
      Thank you for sharing this perspective. I’m glad my post resonates well with the situation not only in Africa but other parts of the world.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. yes.. women like you and me need to stand up and voice our opinions.. and make the society understand that a women’s decision is hers.. There is a difference between family decisions and her decisions.. there need not be an approval or consent from family about the decision concerning her life…

        Liked by 2 people

  3. Men have historically used violence, laws, and religion to maintain their power over women all over the world. It takes a lot of women rejecting this notion in order to make progress. Kudos to you for recognizing this in your post. Everyone has value and a right to make their own decisions about their lives. It is so sad that women still have to fight for these rights.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I love this article!!! I know some people that are at the point of completing their studies, and are now talking about marriage even though they are still too young with many years ahead of them. It’s very bad now as they are being pressured by their mothers, worst still, some have packed away from home. Everyday, this issue continues to grow especially with the fact that both the literate and illiterate are either victims or perpetrators. I really enjoyed reading this!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. i love this post. I know of someone who said she wasn’t going to get married and the reaction from people around her was terrible. Marriage to me isn’t something you should rush into. why rush in and rush out? If you aren’t ready for it I think you shouldn’t get married.

    I believe women are a lot more stronger in taking care of kids alone. I for one person praise single mothers because they are really strong.

    In conclusion, the whole idea of a woman having a man in her life to define her status or like you said “keep them in check” is wrong.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I totally agree. The root cause of most marital problems is people rushing into it before being sure if this is the person they want to spend the rest of their lives with. I think women need to rise up and stop letting society give them a time frame for marriage no matter how difficult it may seem. Thank you for this perspective Debbrah.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Great post! Nowadays, it seems like marriage is what defines a woman. Even your fellow women look down on you when you are not marriage at a certain age. Many women have been molded to cater to man and parents have stopped enforcing doing it for yourself. “You better learn how to cook or your husband will find some one who does”. We need to start learning for ourselves because at the end of the day, it is our life to live and we should not let it be defined by a man.

    I am a new blogger. Please visit iveryarie.wordpress.com to see topics surrounding the Contemporary African Woman.

    Liked by 1 person

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