Feminism is a movement of the group of women to end sexism, sexist and oppression. There are a number feminist theories which are propounded on three main principles. The principles states that women have something important to subsidize to every part of the world, women being viewed as a burdened group of people and women being unable to achieve their prospective, gain rewards, or gain full participation in societies. (Sachikonye, 2016). Western feminists have been fighting back historically contrary to certain models of subordination that all women encounter. The female personality is not the same according to each culture and their societies, but many cultures are based on a male-controlled where men exercise more power than women. Women experience problems in finding jobs, education, sexuality and reproductive choice. In trying to eradicate these stereotypes western feminists have also come up with some models in the area of law and women’s issues which are unconsciously and uncritically applied to African women in order to explain and change their position. The aim of this easy is to show how the western feminists wrongly understand the African culture and end up imposing ideas which are not applicable to the African communities. Western feminists’ needs to understand African are people who are capable of setting their own priorities and agenda. So this paper will give some of the examples for African and Western feminism and also strategies that can be used to develop greater co-operation between them.
2.0 Overview of Feminism Issues
The United Nations has laid the foundation for an International women’s law of human rights that surpasses the boarders of national, religious and customary laws through the women’s convention on the basis of pre-dominantly laws, non- prejudiced method, education, work, political participation, credit facilities, to marry and to divorce on equal basis with men, (Hellum, 1917). The overall aim of the Women’s Convention is to improve the position of women as group in the long term perspective. In order to address the legal, social and cultural structures, the convention requires state parties to undertake constitutional, legislative and social economic reform. The Eurocentric character of the agreements has been pointed out by number of African scholars within family and women’s laws because most of the guidelines which are made, are based on western culture which is different to African culture and are forced to be applicable in African culture. That is why it most of the African culture clash with the existing laws adopted from the women’s convention. The African protocol of rights of women positively rejects hurtful cultural traditions in article 2 but at the same time, Article 17 states that women shall have the right to live in a positive cultural context and to partake at all levels in the willpower of cultural policies.
3.0 Examples of women’s issues in the area of law that are unconsciously and uncritically applied to explain women’s position in African societies
There are a number of women’s issues in African culture which were wrongly understood by the Western feminists. Such issue are abortion, female genital mutilation, virginity, women’s rights and the use of traditional medicine. Western feminists, seem to have overlooked the important features of these issues. For instance they come to Africa and criticizing what women in Africa are experiencing without considering their culture (citation needed). As a result African culture is being filled up with western backgrounds, from where general agendas originate which are not applicable in other cultures. Feminists in western countries suffer from being too western identified, when they should be more concerned with analyzing local women’s issues ‘on their own terms, (John.M:2) (citation needed)
3.1 Female Genital Mutilation
Female genital mutilation also known as Female circumcision is defined as the partial or total cutting away of the external female genitalia (citation needed). It has been practiced for centuries in many parts of Africa, usually it is one component of a rites of passage preparing young girls for womanhood and marriage (citation needed). This is one of the significant culture practices in African countries e.g. Nigeria, Tanzania, Kenya, Guinea and others. Some African people see FGM as a religion obligation.
Article 5 of CEDAW shapes that the public parties shall take all suitable actions to adjust the social and cultural designs of conduct of men and women with a view of accomplishing the removal of biases and habitual and all other performs. Women have right to partake in procreation activities and sports (United Nations, 2006). Following this article, most of these countries have now criminalize the cultural practice of FGM. For example in Guinea Article 265 of the Penal Code prohibits the practice of FGM. The law sentences death to the perpetrator if the girl dies within 40 days after the FGM (citation needed). Article 6 of the Guinean Constitution, which outlaws cruel and inhumane treatment, could be interpreted to include these practices should a case be brought to the Supreme Court (citation needed). Article 305 of Guinea’s penal code also prohibits FGM, but not one person has yet been punished under any of Guinea’s FGM-related laws. Kenya is also another country which is well known of its prohibition of Female genital mutilation in the prohibition of female genital mutilation act of 2011. The act also provides offences to those found doing this practice, and the maximum punishment is life imprisonment (National Council for Law Reporting, 2011).
Even though FGM was prohibited in these countries, there is much evidence that the communities are still doing the practice secretly in their homes. This is so because the people believe that FGM is an important cultural practice which prevents infidelity in marriages hence helping in the prevention of HIV/ AIDS and STIs. It also helps young children from getting early pregnancies as it reduces sexual desires (citation needed).
Western feminism criticized FGM that it is a tremendously harmful to women and girls’ health and well-being. According to them it is also a brutal act of violence. There is no possible explanation for this practice on cultural, religious or medical reason. Some consider it as a ritualized form of child abuse and violence against women a violation of human rights (Citation needed). Western feminists have develop this argument base of the radical feminist’s idea that men controls women’s body through some cultural beliefs which are mostly done to please men.
3.2 Polygamy in Africa
Another cultural practice that struggles with the progressive international models is the existence of polygamy. Polygamy occurs worldwide but African men traditionalists particularly maintain polygamous marriages especially in areas with limited environmental resources (citation needed). Generally, polygamy is a custom found all over Africa though in some communities is common than the other. The custom fits well in the social structure of traditional life and into the thinking of the people serving many useful purpose. Polygamy is believed to increase productivity and survival among children, to provide economic security to women, and to maintain strong religious values more especially in Islamic religion and in the churches of apostolic faith mission (citation needed). Considering some of these reasons among African women the practice of polygamy is not a crime. Because of the coming of different feminists e.g. the Radical feminists who claim that polygamy is an act of oppression to women, polygamy now is starting to be criminalized in some of the African countries e.g. Uganda where Muslims including women demonstrated against legislation that would have banned polygamy (The New Yolk Times 2005). In Malawi civil laws does not recognize polygamy marriages but it does not mean that it is prohibited. The customary laws affords a large amount of benefits to polygamous unions ranging from inheritance to child custody. Western feminism have criticized that polygamy creates communal setbacks responsible for the continuation of gender inequality, the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, marital conflict, family disagreements, and the spread of AIDS (citation needed). Many organizations e.g. Campaign Against Polygamy and Women Oppression International (CAPWOI) have aggressively dis-campaign polygamous marriages through education, advocacy and support. To such organizations, polygamy signifies an extreme expressive issue that fuels the inferiority of women (citation needed). African men uphold that polygamy is practice, telling deeply that it signifies power and priority that are not easily damaged. Some African countries legalize polygamy by imposing legal responsibilities that safeguard the rights of women and children though western feminists discourages this practice. In Namibia, for example, the constitution holds men accountable for a multitude of legal obligations favoring proper treatment of family members (Oyekan, 2014).
This is another issue that western feminisms especially radicals want to impose on African women. They criticize that men control women’s bodies, controls abortion and contraceptive methods. For the woman to be pregnant is oppressive and the woman has choice to abort if she doesn’t want to keep it. The radical feminism worked hard in western countries to make abortion legal until it was legalized and they want African countries was to legalize it. African people have a respect for life as the human rights declaration command. In the additional holy scriptures and church tradition have always emphasized the sacredness of life and the dignity of each and every human beings hence abortion is strongly condemned. Turyomumozima (2018) explains that in Africa termination of pregnancy is only allowed in unexpected conditions.
The western feminists are trying to impose abortion in African communities because they haven’t have time to understand the African culture in terms of procreation. However in African tradition beliefs and practices abortion is not accepted as Africans love children. African communities values children as blessings from God that is why most of the African cultures welcome babies with great joy, (Mbiti, 1990). African people believes that marriage is one of the stages of rites of passage. Mbiti points out that without procreation marriage is incomplete. Women who are unable to bear children are not respected hence abortion is unacceptable.
In Malawian culture for a woman to miscarry is a very painful moment to her as well as the whole family because during the pregnancy everyone in the family is happy as they expect to add another person to the family on the other hand a woman to abort in Malawian culture is considered to be a taboo, one who doesn’t care about life and everyone looks down upon her. The laws of Malawi strongly prohibits the termination of pregnancy. Chapter 7:01, section 149 of the penal code provides a punishment to any person who attempts to procure abortion, or anyone who supply drugs or instruments to procure abortion. The offence is considered to be felony and it is punishable with 14 years of imprisonment (Laws of malaŵi, 2015).
4.0 Issues which Western feminism and African feminism can develop common grounds.
4.1Women should be involved in politics and in leadership programs.
Western feminists as well as African feminists should involve themselves in fighting for the women to be involved in politics as well as to be leadership, for this necessarily holds women’s continuing missions for enlightening equity, commercial prospect and public rights. It also embraces arguments over women’s entitlements to drive, to device their own bodies prominently and their fruitfulness, and even their assessments of destructive shapes of male sexual behavior (Offen, 2011). There is fairness in politics which includes civic conversation of shared difficulties, not just a soundless counting of specific pointers. And when people altercation together, the debate can occasionally tip the contributors to see their own pale in the wider interests of the communal, so it is good idea aimed at both women and men to partake in politics, (Mansbridge, 1990) .Liberal feminists believe that women can be liberated through law reform. So if women participate in politics and have position in parliament/ legislature they will be able to address issues that affect their lives and have an influence in changing some of the laws. Article 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights also delivers for fairness before the law and equal defense of the law. Usually, women have been prevented from political life and decision making processes. Women’s campaigns for contribution in the public and political arena date back to the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and continue today,(Salaam, 1979). Liberal feminism practices the individual connections between men and women as the place from which to change society,(Oyekan, 2014).
4.2 Advocacy for Women’s Rights
The Commission on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women has clarified that, to accomplish genuine fairness, the fundamental reasons of women’s discrimination must be spoken; it is not adequate to promise matching treatment with men. In the Committee’s view, the Convention entails that women should be given an equivalent start and also that the Government must generate an empowering atmosphere for the authorization of women in order to succeed egalitarianism of conclusions. Over separate procedures, previous crimes and differences are modified by provisionally generous rewards to women, and generous them admission to prospects that usually have been out of their reach. Accomplishing practical fairness needs a modification in arrogances, in sexual category roles and typecasting; an important common change which enterprise principal to a transformation in women’s lived realities,(Salaam, 1979). The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women promises women equal rights in shaping easily and correctly on the number and spacing of their children and to have access to the information, education and incomes to allow them to exercise these rights (article. 16). It also stipulates that women’s right to education includes “access to specific educational information to help to safeguard the health and happiness of families, including information and advice on family planning” (article. 10),( United Nations, 2006).
4.3 Sexual and Reproductive Health.
Both western feminism and African feminism have to be considered in sexual and reproductive health and family planning issues. Reproductive health rights should be a freedom to tie on. Women should have a say when it comes to provision of health services. Women should be able to talk about Sexually Transmitted Infections without restrictions. Motherhood can also affect the enjoyment of women’s rights in terms of education and work. In the past, human rights had been abstracted in a way that did not take explanation of women’s lives and the element that women normally faced violence, insight and oppression. Therefore, women’s practices were until relatively recently not sufficiently spoken by the human rights setting. The work of activists, human rights mechanisms and States has been critical in ensuring that the human rights framework has grown and familiar to encapsulate the gender-specific dimensions of human rights violations in order to better protect women(Salaam, 1979).
5.0 Strategies which can be used to ensure greater co-operation between Western feminists and African feminists
5.1 Technology should be used
Notably, to ensure greater cooperation between Western and African feminists there is need to encourage the use of online networks between women to draw people together hence bridging the divide into a mutual, virtual space. One suggested explanation for the joining between Western feminists and African feminists worldwide is technology though there is different cultural backgrounds and socioeconomic statuses among these two groups. Internet is a powerful force behind globalization, drawing people from all angles of the world together into a joint, practical space. This can be positive for worldwide feminism because it agrees women to speak for themselves to the concerns they are most worried with. Even multinational groups have a particular state base and political resolution that reflect the circumstances of their basis. As partakers in this global conversation in the virtual space of the Network, feminist groups address the sufferings that are most expressive to them, given the political chance construction as men do, in which they are shaped and finished which they draw properties, (Dixon, 2011). This equal global space is significant because it permits the Western Feminists to speak to the African Feminists about related or even shared difficulties. This kind of treatise could be helpful for forming ways to care groups of women worldwide based on their careful needs and worries without impressive cultural norms or opportunities on that group.
5.2 Research should be conducted
Western feminists have a propensity of simplifying stuffs they don’t know well, to them certain additional matters connecting to women in African culture may aspect actual unfair to them but they want to sit down and survey and discovery why such stuffs keep on happening. Western feminists essential to take into explanation the issues of cultural belief. For example instead of just disapproving that female circumcision is bad one has to recognize why the people are still practicing the culture. This can only be realized by connecting both Western feminists and African feminists when leading a research, so that African feminism can do their own research and issue them so that western feminists can read and appreciate them why such things are still fashionable in Africa. Western feminists should also do research on their cultural performs and share with the African feminists so that African feminists can recognize the culture of the westerners. This will help to avoid arbitrating issues founded and one’s culture without caring the other culture. Some cultures place a noteworthy value on traditional practices other than, other things. So if complete research is done both western feminists and African feminists will be able to comprehend one another when doing things without cement at one another.
The paper has attempted to look at issue of Western feminism as well as African feminism. It has tried to highlight the strengths and the weaknesses of these two groups rather than their position. Though at the moment African feminism cannot be able to achieve gender equality between men and women unless if universalism can be encouraged.
Western feminism have to stop at looking down at African women as powerless, hopeless as well as children because women in Africa do other some things as their culture instructs no one enforces them so there is no need to take these as problems to be solved. There also common goals whereby western feminism and African feminism meet though these two groups have two different cultures, beliefs and tradition.
Western feminisms they have to come up with good means of finding out at is happening among Africans to avoid coming up with bad conclusion. African feminists also have to try their best to find out what is happening among western feminism so that they can be aware of what is happening abroad.