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TRIGGERS AND ENABLERS OF MARITAL ABUSE IN GHANA - MY RANT

The recent news item carried out by various news portals in Ghana about the alleged murder of a woman by her husband, who is a CEO of a company, brings to the fore the abusive and toxic marital circumstances of a lot of Ghanaian couples. While the Ghanaian social media space is buzzing with angst and rage over the incidence, a lot of the triggers and enablers of these marital horrors are either not being addressed, or they are not being taken seriously by those with the power to do so.


In this post, I will attempt a multidimensional look at some selected triggers or enablers perpetuating these act of unspeakable horror women, in most instances, are subjected to. Nothing academic; just pure rant. Nonetheless, I will try to be coherent enough not to let my emotions blur any learnings in this. Abuse matters to me, regardless of how it manifests, as a brother to a woman and a father to two girls. If I do not stand up and talk about it, I tacitly condemn my own kin to this plebeian life of savagery, misogyny and insufferable patriarchy, predicated on the faulty, and preposterous belief that a woman is an extension of a man's properties, and as he would do with inanimate things, he can do so with his wife as and when he desires, whether he is in control of himself, or has lost it.


Let’s consider a few of these triggers and enablers, shall we?


FOR BETTER FOR WORSE





As a Predominantly Christian Population, a lot of marriages are contracted in various settings where the Christian influence is felt. A Key feature in many of these marriage ceremonies, even customary ceremonies, is the vow, which we have adopted from the Standard English Wedding Wows. Depending on the denomination of the couple and the extent to which they are at liberty to infuse their own words, you find various versions of a curious Phrase in this English Wedding Vows culled from the Anglican Alternative Service Book (1980) or the older version, Book OF Common Prayer. That in itself was in part taken from the Catholic vows and from there, different Christian bodies have revised it to suit their faith needs.


I, ____, take you, ____, to be my wife (or husband), to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part, according to God's holy law, and this is my solemn vow


This Curious phrase is For Better For Worse.

This undeniably has been a leash that has tied many a woman to toxic stables, unable to leave or find respite, but most importantly, legitimized the extraordinary abuse doled out on these women. From Legal practitioners to those who are tasked to lead the flocks of the Lord, some women have been made to understand that For better for worse means you don’t need to jump ship because your husband got a little mad and poured a little acid on you that disfigured you for life a little bit. Oh but you need to understand that men have their own demons, at least he apologized. Black eyes are not a lifetime thing. Actually, in insurance disability claim, it is called Temporary Disablement. They don’t pay permanent disfigurement claims on it. Wear sun-glasses, cover your face with a scarf…..or your hair… there… new look, new day, nothing lost. He is generally a good man, so sit your behind down and play the part. You can’t even begin to imagine The Worse in other homes. Girl your Worse is a stroll in the park, besides, it is part of marriage. We endure, we shake it off, we move. Girl magic. You will be fine. We’ve been there and done that, see us? we don’t look like our wahala. Give him what he wants, modify your lifestyle and routines to placate him; who knows if you took him seriously, the abuse will all go away. Shuu Shuu. Gone. Brighter days are coming, baby. Oh before the sunshine is the darkest moment. Dig in baby, dig in. I see you blossom. He will change. It is a matter of time. Men always come around.


These and many other carefully selected potpourri of herbal crap, further decocted into steamy, tasteless and repugnant concoction, is fed these women, whether through manipulation backed by Premium Smile or with a frown and a tube down their throat, but girl, you are staying in that marriage….for better for worse.



It’s been quoted on the pulpit, and Security agents who have had abused women come to them, have quoted it. Legal practitioners have cited it to calm women down, so they can go back to being punching bags. From the ordinary Joe who can’t tell the difference between where number one and number two come from if a woman doesn’t literally hold his finger, to the most educated medical practitioner, we have heard this told women, so they can keep on keeping on being characters in a Live streamed Reality James Wan directed horror movie produced by Blumhouse and Legendary pictures.


Well, the beauty of the extent of illiteracy in this country is found in how we are quick to take things out of context and project what suits our whims and caprices. From scriptures on Submission to Giving at church, oh how we quickly take things out of context.


Now do me a favour and go back to read the entire vows again. The more perceptive ones will realize quickly that all the things cited in the vows are occurrences that the couple did not have control over. A rich person may not necessarily be the most hard-working person in the world, and a poor person may not be the laziest person around. From Natural disasters to wars, to economic decisions by powers that be, to Family situations among others, a person can go to sleep and wake up poor or rich. A person may work hard and ger rich, or a person may work hard and still die poor. The vows say that regardless, I will stand by you, because this, on many levels, is not your doing.


For better for worse means, we are getting married in hope that we will be great together, have the children we want, acquire properties and have a life of good health. That is the Better part of the vows. But if we start our lives together and the children are not coming, or they come but are not in good health, If in our lifetime we bury all the children that have come from our loins, we will still stay together. That is The Worse part.


The worse part is when things beyond you happen and your spouse pledges to stay with you. From the loss of your job to a disfiguring injury, things happen but we pledge to stay. When things that were poorly conceived (not with malicious intent), backfires and it cost you something (think about the banking crisis and those who lost fortunes after investing in instruments they believed were genuine), I will stay with you.


For better for worse, that is the worse part. Malicious acts are inconsistent with love, hence could not have been construed to be a part of the worse being referred to in the vows. Premeditated acts of unspeakable cruelty were not envisioned as part of the worse. Acts of omission and commission predicated on callous and fraudulent intent was not considered as a part of this. Intentional misrepresentation of material facts key to helping a person make a fair and right decision as to whether they want to marry a particular person or not, was not considered as part of the worse.


The list is endless. But the worse did not consider any form of ill intent, premised on the need to look good, have control over another person’s body, thoughts or spirit and keep them in a relationship which, probably unbeknown to them is a classic Stockholm Syndrome situation. So the next time you are told or are tempted to tell someone to choke on it and stay, for better for worse, remember this Nietzsche moment…or Paulian Moment? Maybe Voltaire. But you are clearly spoilt for choice.


TOXIC SOCIO-CULTURAL NARRATIVE


Now culture, in its basic sociological definition is a way of life of a people. So, for a culture to persist there should be a society, (A dyad or bigger) wherein this culture reigns. It could be a culture that exists within a specific family (eg First-name-basis relationship for all generations in the family) or a cultural universal where you find the same thing in different and sometimes unrelated cultures, like Respect. There is no culture where Respect is an Aberration – not one I know of.





In this culture, there are values, norms, mores, codes of conduct, ethics etc. Then there is Religion.


The Biological Clock And The Pain Of Family Pressure

In our culture, in most parts, a woman is not good enough if she is not married. Booommmm! So to be good enough, a woman needs her a man.


When she is budding and the breasts are pointy, there is an unspoken expectation that she soon walks to the Boulevard of Hunks and pluck home a guy of her choice. But it is unspoken. By year 27, one person accidentally coughs but what comes out is, ‘When’. By the time she is 30 it is no longer random coughs with inaudible words, but whispers…


Ghost whispers. Won’t you get married? Biological clocks, tick-tock…like Coldplay’s Song, ‘Clocks’

By year 35, members of her family of orientation, are as bold as a 19th Century dictator in his glory, knowing they can say what they want and go scot-free. Stop the galivanting and settle. This is not what is important; marry. Humble yourself and be taken. Your standards are through the roof, you will wake up one day and your vagina has 579,976 km in mileage on it, and no man owns it. By 40, she either has to avoid family gatherings, relocate, get a fake ring, or…succumb and settle to anything that can nurse an erection.


That is when we start SE01 of the horror movie.


You are not accorded the full complement of your womanhood if there is no man in the picture in these parts. A black eye, a broken spirit and truncated dreams just to be good enough for a man, so you can have a seat at the table, is always better than the cold dreary night of duvets, dildos, wine, and chatting with men at midnight, none of whom is yours.


They tell her. Sister to sister. Settle the heck down!


So, she settles.



The Religious Taboo Of Divorce.

While I would like to consider Ghana as progressive and generally cosmopolitan, especially in our cities., conservatism runs deep. So yes, many people are frequenting the divorce courts. Kudos to the Women with guts.


But it is not a huddle easily jumped. You will have your religious leaders to deal with. You will have your extended families to contend with. And the nameless, faceless, voiceless, yet constantly gnawing and scratching voices like a demon behind a door. That is the bit harder to deal with; years of conditioning that divorce is wrong on all levels. None makes it easier for women to walk out when the toxicity at home reaches the Heavens like the sins of Gomorrah.

The pastor who is telling you to go home, stay, and die in that marriage because God hates divorce, and as a woman, it is written that you should submit, didn’t see the part about adultery, hence his wanton philandering with every church worker in the name of the Lord.


Again, if he allows you to leave your husband, and uncovers his shame, your husband will be a laughing stock. That will make him upset (bad for business), he will stop the church and he will stop paying the 2k a month tithe (Lost client). Who will be the harvest committee chairman? Who will volunteer to build the Sacristy for the parish? Beesh, sit your stupid behind down and endure; there is a cow to milk, don’t crumple my style. But he will tell her nicely with strange, unrelated, and incoherent scriptures, a sorcerous spirituality and narcissistic posture.


Sofo Maame needs to keep up the glam and the glitz and your man is paying for it. On the back of your tears, we will build this church and drive the latest cars and own properties, and the gate of hell, which you are clearly trying to represent, will not stand in its way. The Devil want to destroy your destiny, your marriage is a purpose, it is a battlefield, lemme PREY on you. Sorry, Pray for you. Let me give you Direction. But first, 14 days of Fasting and anointing.


So she stays. Stays in all the toxicity, with not so much as a word admonishment uttered to the man. He is always right….like the customer he is.


Pregnancy Out of wedlock.

A lot of us are having sex. The memo is on the notice board; go read it. From the Prayer warrior to the Hard-nosed business executive, panties and boxers are going down and up by the second. But we are all holy…the façade we all keep. We are too holy that if the Holy Spirit is to manifest physically anywhere on the globe, they will fly us over to be His personal workforce. From Drivers to Chefs, to Armor bearers.

That holy.


So you see why we can’t be pregnant out of wedlock? Therein comes the next big trap; having to settle with a person you were just whiling away time with.


All of a sudden, the guy who was planning on dumping you in June, oooh by June di3 na w’gyae wo, is now facing the haunting spectre of marrying you. What the hell? How did this happen? Nooor this girl shedaa.


Tell me how that marriage will look like.


From a feeling of entrapment, to suspicion of ownership, to pure palpable loathe, a woman unwittingly walks right into a Medieval torture chamber where 99 different kinds of weapons of affliction exist for her to choose from.



So from day one, she walks into her pain. Only if we will understand that Pregnancy in the 21st Century does not mean a girl should put her life on hold and get into marriage; that a young man who is not ready should be thrown into the fore of life, leading a family he has no clue about, we will find alternative ways of helping them make the best of the predicament they are in….that is if you see bringing a bundle of joy into the world as a predicament, regardless of the circumstances leading to it.


Why is abortion not a free and safe option? Thou shall not kill. We say, forgetting that that is not the only commandment in that page of the Bible, but a ton more that we conveniently break. But I no bore.


Why are family planning and basic contraception hard to access for young adults? I will like to admit the government is trying, but why do we still have taboos around a young person walking into a pharmacy shop to buy a pack of condom, emergency contraception, or start proper family planning once the humping begins.


Maybe they get on heat like rabbits and may not think straight… Happens…we all did. Don't...just don't look at me like that.


How about parents having honest conversations with their kids about sex once they get into puberty, so that there can be a free flow of information regarding what is happening in their lives, so there is a proper parental intervention before the humping starts…or you know…a worm gets stuck in there for 9 months?


Taboos, taboos, taboos.