A Feminist Perspective On The Dilemma Of The Girl Child In African Culture
This research examines the dilemma of the girl child in African culture and the fundamental problems confronting her existential being. It explores the unfair treatment the girl-child receives in a male chauvinistic and particular society like Africa and the negative effects of such to her femininity. As a way of redeeming the dignity of the girl child and positioning her for a better life, emphasis is placed on the feminist approach and how such could be used to combat the various exploitative and unjust treatment most African societies subject the girl child to in the name of custom and tradition. Since, the discourse of feminism flows well with the objective of this research, efforts will therefore be made to extract some of their rational ideologies and principle that gives premium to fair treatment of the girl-child. To achieve this task, the study shall use the analytic and critical methodology to evaluate the feminist perspectives in addressing the dilemma of the girl child in African culture.
Key words: girl-child, abuse, culture, Africa, values and feminism
Being born and growing up as a girl in a developing society like Nigeria is almost like a curse due to the contempt and ignominious treatment, most girls receive from the family, the school and the society at large. The cumulative effects of these discriminatory, exploitative and unjust treatments have had profound negative impacts on the psychological and social life of the girl child. In fact, the patriarchal nature of most African societies has worsened the situation and as well reduced the essence of feminine gender to domestic dimension alone. It is therefore imperative to philosophically examine the real ontological basis of the feminine gender and its place in the scheme of things. Of course, feminism as a movement champions the cause of women and girls and the various issues that affect womanhood. The feminist position on the dignity of the girl child is significant, in this regard.
It is worth noting that the term ‘feminism’ has many different uses and its meanings are often contested. For example, some writers use the term ‘feminism’ to refer to a historically specific political movement in the US and Europe; other writers use it to refer to the belief that there are injustices against women, though there is no consensus on the exact list of these injustices. Albeit, feminism is both an intellectual commitment and a political movement that seeks justice for women and the end of sexism in all forms. Motivated by the quest for social justice, feminist inquiry provides a wide range of perspectives on social, cultural, economic, and political phenomena.
That said, the discrimination against the girl-child has remained a perennial unresolved issue in the society and a major concern in the field of philosophy. In every civilized society and especially in the African context, children are regarded as the pride of the parents and the greatest value the society possess. Because of these reasons, children are mostly cherished and consciously protected from all forms of hazards and abuse. However, female children have not been so lucky to be cherished, protected and loved in our society due to certain traditional practices, stereotyping, cultural and religious beliefs which put them at the risk of abuse and neglect.
Against this background, this research posits that for a girl child to become a proper and useful adult, she needs both informal and qualitative formal educations and, more importantly, a favourable and humane society to exploit her innate potentials. This will enable her to develop her mind, intellects and skills to be able to contribute meaningfully back to her society. Thus, our recourse to the radical feminists approach in addressing the dilemma of girl child in African culture is a rational step to redeem the dignity of women.
Statement of the Problem
The problem that gave rise to this study is the age long religious and cultural beliefs in African society which impede the girl-child from living a purposeful life. These beliefs have had very serious implications on how many families especially in rural areas perceive female children. Suffice to say that most of these beliefs are grounded on misconceptions and prejudice. Also, the girl-child problem around the world has many dimensions but the root of all kinds of discriminations and bias against the girl-child lies in the customs, traditions and typical mindset of the society which considers the girl-child and women as inferior beings. In fact, women and girls have been treated in the most inhuman ways from the inception of human civilization. This legacy of injustice against the girl child that is more pronounced in most African cultures shall be philosophically addressed in this research.
Objectives of the Study
This long essay is an attempt to critically evaluate the dilemma of girl child within the purview of African societies. It seeks to identify the major problems bedeviling girl-child. The past experience of my friend in the northern part of Nigeria prompted me to research on this topic and to suggest ways of addressing the menace. The objectives of this research her
- To examine the factors that facilitate the unfair treatment girl-child and women receive generally in the society.
- To evaluate those indigenous cultural beliefs and traditional practices that fuels the abuse of women.
- To address holistically the challenges the girl-child face in our immediate Nigeria society.
- To demonstrate how the feminist view constitute the basis for the campaign of girl-child right.
This study aims at providing answers to the following questions:
- To what extent do girl-children enjoy fundamental human rights?
- To what extent do the indigenous African cultures degrade the dignity of the girl-children dignity?
- What are the pragmatic measures in feminism that can address the challenges of the girl child in African society?
- 1.0 Abstract
- 1.1 Introduction
- 1.2 Statement of Problem
- 1.3 Purpose of Research
- 1.4 Research Questions
- 1.5 Methodology
- 1.6 Theoretical Framework
- 1.7 Contribution to Knowledge
African Moral Values (The Igbo Cultural Paradigm)
- 1.0 Introduction
- 1.1 Traditional Igbo Culture (Omenala)
- 1.2 Moral Conception of Traditional Igbo
- 1.3 Summary
Ethical Issues in Feminism
- 2.0 Introduction
- 2.1 Notion of Feminist Ethics
- 2.2 Feminism and Prostitution
- 2.3 Feminism and Abortion
- 2.4 Feminism and Pornography
Feminism and the Dilemma of the Girl Child in African Culture
- 3.0 Introduction
- 3.1 Kant’s on Human Dignity
- 3.2 Feminist Conception of the Dignity of the Girl-child
- 3.3 Peculiar Challenges of Girl Child in Africa
- 3.4 Feminism and the Dilemma of the Girl Child in African Culture
Feminist Contributions to the Dignity of Girl Child in Africa
- 4.0 Introduction
- 4.1 Feminism and the Question of Relevance to Girl-child Treatment
- 4.2 Critique / Appraisal / Evaluation
- 4.3 Recommendations
- 4.4 Conclusion
African Moral Values (The Igbo Cultural Paradigm)
In our day-to-day interactions as human beings, we expect people to conduct themselves in a morally good way. Similarly, we also expect a person to do that which is ethically propitious or good while avoiding that which is evil. When, for instance, we judge the actions and characters of people to be right or wrong, good or bad, just or unjust, etc., we have an idea of the best way we think they can live. While we may define moral behaviour as behaviour in accordance with the recommended patterns of a community, the morality of a community on the other hand consists of those ways of behaviour which each member of the community is taught, bidden and encouraged to adopt by other members.
It is against this background that this chapter seeks to explore African notion of moral values. The Igbo cultural paradigm shall be presented here to avoid over generalization of African thoughts, and also to situate our discourse within a certain cultural milieu. In same vein, the traditional Igbo culture (omenala) shall be considered in this chapter and we shall examine how some practices in this culture create room for the abuse of girl-child. Our expositions in this chapter shall help greatly in appraising Dilemma of the girl-child in African culture.
1.1 Traditional Igbo Culture (Omenala)
Culture (omenala) understood as the entire way of Life of the people (past present and future), is the traditional law in African societies, a central thread guaranteeing the protection of life and property, the harmony of members of society among themselves and with nature, their linkage to the divine through the ancestors and the deities. It is said that every people have a culture, a way of life that links their past to the present and the future. Even though culture is not static but steadily dynamic, some of the elements that provided rationality for cultural, practices in the past may have disappeared in the face of modern realities of migrations, new technologies, scientific discoveries, wars to mention but a few ingredients.– Nonetheless, there is need to enhance the linkage and sustainability of cultural developments and its interpretation at least on the levels of principles that identify these societies even in the face of a modern age.
In the African milieu, whether amongst an agricultural people or nomadic tribes, Culture (Omenala) provided a proper foundation for a sustainable economy where the preservation of the environment, the enhancement of principles of equity and fair play and the promotion of an economy that recognizes both individual interests and communal protection existed alongside.
This African culture (Omenala) is transferred from one generation to the next by oral tradition, through symbols and rituals, in fables and dances and in the moral formation and religious traditions of the peoples of Africa: Olisa noted that,
as soon as a child is born into the community of ‘Umunna’ (brethren), life is affected by the intricate network of restrictions and all that they represent. Immediately a child is able to speak and understand issues, …it is exposed daily to the do’s and don’ts of the society and parents drum it into its ears, through fables told in the night around the fireside and exposure to the various forms of rituals and other observances, the gravity of committing abominable acts” .
There emerges an inter-woven-ness between religious beliefs and cultural practices, the attempt of which to de-link them during the Islamic and Christian religious missions have proved impossible as mistakes are currently being corrected under a so-called agenda of inculturation. Win-win scenarios emerged from this world outlook and practice, thus, making it possible to evolve out of the Omenala (traditions) unique principles that gave an integral understanding to economy, society, culture and environment. Thereby, traditional African religious values, philosophies and cultural practices are being unearthed and re-branded into the new and emerging religious space on the continent.
The point being made here is that African traditional religion is essentially a philosophy and a spiritual way of life, which permeates, pervades and animates the traditional social institutions, norms and celebrations. Every Igbo ritual act of the peoples of southeastern Nigeria, including sacrifice, dance and festival had a philosophy or idea behind it. In other words, action was motivated based on values which involved a basic belief, a philosophy, an underlying principle or an idea. These values thus generated actions and behavior, which in turn influenced individuals and groups.
A discussion however of ethics within the African ambient must necessarily involve a discussion of both the African philosophies, cultures and their moral and overall ethical practices. That point of linkage between religion, morality, law, social and economic realities is the domain where the African locates tradition, the “Omenala” (culture) which is the foundation for ethics, therefore the rational background for living together. In summary, this contribution from the African point of view achieves the promotion of stakeholder participation which enhances communal living and values based on principles of “onye anwuna ma ibe ya efula” which is “live and let live” implying the age-old social ethical principles of justice, fairness, solidarity and subsidiarity.
It is worth nothing that, the integral nature of African cultural and religious values as ethical values begins with an understanding of life which is considered sacred and had to be preserved, protected, promoted and generated. In this sense, homicide, murder, suicide and other unnatural forms of death inflicted on another was considered a crime against the earth and breach of the bond between humans and the deities and the earth itself. It was a destruction of the communal foundations upon which society existed and had to be pacified by all means by the entire community even where the culprit and his family had to undergo expulsion from that environment. In serving Life, the Omenala in its ethical dimension sought to serve communal harmony; respect the past heritage of ancestors and the laws of the land founded also on religious beliefs; progress the economy by protecting the earth and making laws that discipline erring persons that thwart the laws of the land.
The Omenala, (culture) which was and is the link between the ethical, religious and secular realities as well as the basis for the legal system and morality in general does exist even as strongly today as it was yesterday. Africa’s beliefs in traditional religious practices, cultural practices and even the lifestyles of the present are still found in the many big cities of the Continent. Consequently, a broad understanding of culture(Omenala) which encompasses the entire way of life of a people, has the potential to assist and guide modernization processes in a sustainable manner, founded on cultural rationality (derived from the past) and projecting into the future.
In the face of radical and fast changes worldwide, also in Africa, occasioned by globalization, migrations, technological advances, the danger of losing original sources including cultural integrity remains a threat. There is need to look into the primary sources of traditional cultural rationality to enable a significant yet sustainable development by promoting an intercultural dialogue that looks into Africa’s past history in order to retain and reclaim elements with relevance and applicability in a modern economy.
Unfortunately, this omenala is not as glorious and impeccable as we have presented thus far in this section, of course, there are some practices inherent in it that violate the principle of human rights in contemporary period. As we shall reveal later in this study, the nature of Omenala provides fertile ground for the abuse of feminine gender and the degradation of womanhood in general. For instance, the barbaric and unpleasant treatment a widow receives in the hands of unscrupulous in-laws under the guise of culture is questionable. There are numerous cases of domestic abuses that seem permissible simply because the omenala favours a patriarchy system, not to mention the abuse of girl-child which is more rampant in other African societies. We shall however look at all of this critically in the subsequent chapter. Now, let’s consider the moral conception of traditional Igbo.
1.2 Moral Conception of Traditional Igbo
Essentially, moral thinking is concerned with the issue of good conduct among those who make up the human community. It is also concerned with the creation of a humane social environment without which those who live in society would hardly realize their goals and aspirations in life. It is for this reason that people are constantly exhorted to lead morally emulous lives because, as the argument goes, it is in living virtuously that human beings can give meaning to their social life and existence. With particular reference to traditional African life, it was the opinion that a life of rectitude help build up society and guaranteed the individual a good place in the preternatural or chthonic world. The logic of the belief in the existence of an extra-terrestrial world notwithstanding, the important issue that bears relevance to the present discussion is that the human community can only function properly if it is built on a good moral foundation.
But then, what exactly do we have in mind when we talk about morals? And in relation to African life, what was the nature of moral thinking among traditional Africans in the pre-European African world? These are some of the issues we shall address here. But first, we need to make the following explanation.
Let’s start by noting that, the Igbo form one of the three major ethnic nationalities in Nigeria. The other two are the Yoruba and the Hausa-Fulani. The Igbo like most African society had many of its able-bodied youths exported to Europe and the Americas through the Trans Saharan trade in slaves. Through British colonialism, the people also had an early contact with Christianity and Western education. However, our reference to Igbo past here is merely incidental and perfunctory, as this is not meant to be a treatise on Igbo history or colonial experience. The Igbo experience with colonialism is well documented in the literature that it needs no repeating in the present essay. Our choice of the Igbo culture here is, as we said earlier, to serve as an example or metaphor for our discussion on the nature of moral thinking in the traditional African society.
A debate concerning the nature of moral thinking in traditional societies has long dominated the scholarship of ethical thinkers and social anthropologists alike. There are moral thinkers who deny that traditional societies had value systems that could truly be characterized as ‘moral’. But this type of argument of course is vitiated by the fact that morality is a universal feature of all human societies. Besides, the argument itself cannot be sustained by evidence or by any rational proof.
Among the traditional Igbo, for example, the level of moral thinking was very high. The Igbo language contains a variety of words to express approval and disapproval, good and bad, pleasant and unpleasant, and so on. All embody moral connotations. Take, for instance, the words, ‘aru’ (pollution) and ‘nma’ (good); to commit ‘aru’ (ime aru, in the Igbo language) is to do that which is evil while to do ‘nma’( ime nma, also in Igbo) is to conduct oneself in a morally worthy manner. A person is described as ‘onye aru-rala’, literally ‘one who pollutes or abominates the land’, if his or her ethical conduct is contrary to ethically approved behaviour. ‘Ajo mmadu’ is a phrase used to describe a bad man (or woman), where the ‘ajo’ means bad, i.e., the opposite of good. Furthermore, when a thing or an act is spoken of in terms of ‘iru-ala’ (desecration of the land), ‘ime aru’ or ‘ime nso-ala’ (doing that which is abominable or acting in pollution of the earth), all these are seen as morally bad actions. Among the Igbo, ‘ala’ (that is, the land or earth) is believed to possess some form of divine sanctity or sacrality such that one can either please or offend the preternatural forces that indwell it. The close link the Igbo have to their land is largely due to the belief that it is the abode of the departed ancestors.42 Similarly, the fertility of the soil, the progress of human life as well as the health of the animals is only assured as long as the earth is not desecrated and the ancestors are duly honoured.
The Igbo word ‘nma’, as we have said earlier, conveys the idea of goodness or the idea of acting in an ethically appropriate way. In all things, the Igbo expect that individuals will act and conducting themselves in morally good ways while avoiding that which is evil and obnoxious. In this way, social harmony is ensured. The good life for the Igbo is known as ‘ezi-ndu’ (i.e., the virtuous life), the life of rectitude and approbation. But the question may be asked, on what makes some actions good and others bad? Put differently, what is the standard of judgment among the traditional Igbo?
C.C. Okorocha answers that traditional Igbo moral code is based on the concept of ‘omenala’ or social custom. ‘Omenala’ derives from three Igbo words, namely, ‘ome’ (that which obtains); ‘na’ (in); ‘ala’ (land or society). In the words of Okorocha, “the moral code of Iboland commonly spoken of as ‘omenala’ defines the various aspects of behaviour and social activities that are approved while at the same time indicating those aspects that are prohibited.”
Generally, in Africa, the norm of right or wrong is said to be social custom. As with most other societies of the world, in Africa, the good is usually that which receives the community’s approval while the bad is that which the community prohibits or frowns at. While the good actions build up society, the bad ones tear it down. One is social, the other anti-social. With the Igbo in particular, ‘omenala’ or social custom is the means by which society enforces conformity to its rules. ‘Omenala’ then, is the means by which “the social ethos is measured, and the values of the society… controlled from one generation to another and the processes of socialization through which the education of the young ones are facilitated”.
Traditional Igbo morality, like those of other African societies, was communalistic in nature. In communalistic societies, virtue and goodness are often seen as a means of realizing the social harmony of the group. They function to promote order, peace and a camaraderie feeling among the individuals who make up society. It for the reason of this type of opinion that some writers claim that group-related morality detracts from the ‘essential’ nature of morality. Group-related morality, we are told, removes from the moral life the joy of its inner motivation which, it is argued, results from choice, personal decision and responsibility. This is the type of argument, which Paul Roubiczek makes in his book, Ethical Values in the Age of Science. In the book, Roubiczek argues that “to subordinate the good to another purpose, such as usefulness for society, falsifies its nature and thus falsifies morality”.
However, there is no good reason to suppose that Roubiczek’s opinion is necessarily correct. For as Gerhart Piers and M.B. Singer have suggested, there is no scientifically demonstrable reason why in group related morality, “heavily influenced by the community’s rigorous enforcement mechanism including shame and taunting improvised songs, members of such group could not develop inner remorse or guilt”. Some elements in traditional Igbo cultural practice could be a helpful illustration in this regard. They will also help lend support to opinion expressed above by Piers and Singer. It was (and still is) the practice among the Igbo that when a man and a woman were caught in any uncomely relationship like adultery, they were made to go round the village half naked, with children singing taunting songs on their heels. If any member of the community committed a heinous crime or sacrilege, he was made to suffer public shame or dishonour. Such taunting songs, like the ones by the children, apart from bringing the offenders to public opprobrium, were also meant to deter others from committing the same type of offence in the future. Such immoral acts as adultery and incest were described as ‘nso ala’ (i.e., pollutions against ‘Ala’, the earth goddess). ‘Ala’, the goddess of the land and custodian of Igbo morality, imposed numerous laws and taboos which were meant to guide conduct between the individual and his neighbours, the individual and the forces of nature and, the individual and ‘Ala’ itself.
In the words of A.E. Afigbo: the transgression of any of these rules known as ‘omenala’ (conduct sanctioned by ‘Ala’) was promptly punished. In this way ‘omenala’ came to mean the highest law. It was distinguished from, and superior to ‘iwu’ which is any enactment made by man, the transgression of which would not involve offence to ‘Ala’ and the ancestors, and did not imply moral lapse. ‘Ala’ was the guardian of Igbo morality.
To conclude, we can deduce from the above expositions that African moral values are the central concern management of life and maintenance of well-being within society. Individual ethical choices are made within the context of the community. Here, individual actions are evaluated and judged based on the effect those actions have on the life of the community. So the aim African ethical values boarder on the extent to which an individual’s action or conduct can advance human decency and the common good or viability of the community. We have been able to establish that Igbo moral values, is founded on the collective wisdom of the ancestors and elders that become the basis or point of reference for moral decisions or choices that the individual or community makes. It is a morality which is the creation of the community and emerges from the social institutions; it is lived within the community. For this reason, what an individual does directly or indirectly affects the whole society. Thus, individuals in the society must strive to live a moral life. Since the feminist position constitutes the theoretical frame-work of this study, we shall examine some ethical issues in feminism that borders around the female gender in the next chapter.
Feminist Contributions to the Dignity of Girl Child in Africa
The patriarchal nature of the African society has shaped and perpetuated gender inequality to the extent of allowing male domination and female subordination. This sad state of affairs has been fueled by the socialization process, therefore to amend the situation feminist need to tackle it with resocialization. This section will examine the feminist contributions to the dignity of an African girl child. The general conclusion and recommendation will also be contained in this chapter.
4.1 Feminism and the Question of Relevance to Girl Child Treatment
Feminism has been very relevant and contributed to the well-being of a girl child by enabling women as owners of properties and conferring equal rights for male and female. Feminism holds that women and men are capable of acquiring property rights over things. As such women and men, equally, have the right to freedom from coercive interference with their person and property. This right to freedom from coercive interference consists in, at least, rights to freedom of conscience and expression, freedom to control what happens to one’s body, freedom of association, freedom to acquire, control and transfer property, freedom of contract, as well as the right to compensation when rights are violated. The state’s role is, exclusively, to protect citizens from coercive interference by protecting their rights.
Also, feminists has contributed to the dignity of an African girl by with the right to freedom from coercive interference which has powerful implications for women’s lives. It implies that women have the right to freedom in intimate, sexual and reproductive matters. This includes sexual autonomy (the right to engage in sexual activity of one’s choosing including the buying and selling of sex) and the right to defend oneself against sexual aggression, including the use of firearms; freedom of expression (the right to appear in, publish, and consume pornography free of censorship); freedom of intimate association (the right to partner or enter into a private marriage contract; and reproductive freedom (the right to use birth control, have an abortion (on the minority of pro-life feminists, and buy and sell bodily reproductive services, for example, as in surrogate motherhood. Freedom from interference with person and property also means that women have the right to engage in economic activity in a free market, entering contracts, and acquiring, controlling and transferring property free of sexist state limits. All these rights that are contained in the Nigerian constitution are brought about by feminism. One way to characterize the wrong involved when states fail to recognize these rights of women is as a failure to respect women’s right to be treated as men’s equal, or the right to equal treatment under the law. To be sure, feminists hold that the law should not treat women and men differently. But this is because they believe everyone has the same rights, not because they believe women have a right to be treated the same as men. This is clear when we note that, for feminism, equal treatment under unjust law is not justice.Same treatment under the law does not guarantee same outcomes. Feminists hold that women’s rights are not violated when citizens exercise their rights in ways that create unequal outcomes. A woman’s rights are violated only when she is interfered with coercively, that is, when there is, or is a threat of, forced loss of freedom, property or life (which does not serve as just restraint or compensation).
Furthermore, the role of feminism in politics is simply to ensure that everyone’s, including women’s, right against coercive interference is respected. Wendy McElroy, an equity feminist writes: “I’ve always maintained that the only reason I call myself a feminist is because of the government. By which I mean, if the government (or an anarchist defense association) acknowledged the full equal rights of women without paternalistic protection or oppression, I would stop writing about women’s issues”.
Feminism has been relevant through its political role which involves assuring that women’s right against coercive interference by private individuals is recognized and protected by the state (for example women’s right against groping on the street or rape within marriage, and that women’s right against coercive interference by the state itself is respected. Therefore feminists should object to laws that restrict women’s liberty in particular (for example laws that limit women’s employment options, and laws that protect women in particular (for example laws granting preferential treatment to women.
On the feminist view, the feminist slogan “the personal is political” is accurate when the state fails to recognize women’s right against coercive interference, especially in women’s personal lives. So, for example, in some countries husbands have legal control over their wives’ persons and property. (Some feminists argue that the women’s movement in Western countries should not hesitate to criticize countries in which this occurs.
If an individual or group of individuals suffers sustained and systematic denial of their rights, on the feminist view, we may call them oppressed. Women were oppressed in the United States during most of its first two centuries; people of African descent were oppressed before the dismantling of Jim Crow laws. While the culture of the United States supported this denial of rights, feminists hold that the oppressor was the state, which refused to recognize and protect the right of women and people of African descent to treatment as self-owners. When the state recognizes and protects this right of women and African descent, they are no longer oppressed, even if the culture disadvantages them.
4.2 Critical Appraisal
Following Ashlie Warnick, we can distinguish the claim that particular liberty-restricting policies are bad for women (and that some liberty-enhancing policies are good for women) from the claim that all liberty-restricting policies harm women, or that a minimal state (or no state) would be better for women overall. It is surely possible to cite liberty-restricting policies that are bad for women—laws limiting women’s employment options—and thus to cite liberty-enhancing policies that are good for women—not having such laws. But it is also possible to cite liberty-restricting policies that are good for women—for example the legal prohibition against sex discrimination in employment, education, and public accommodations (which feminists recommend dismantling). Of course, if sex discrimination is rare, as some feminists contend, laws prohibiting it will not produce much benefit. But, as feminists Deborah Rhode and Ann Cudd argue sex discrimination is all too common. Think also of the feminist recommendation that women and men be treated exactly the same by the state. While different treatment can stigmatize and entrench stereotypes, same treatment can disadvantage women if they are not similarly situated to men—which, arguably, is the case. So the larger case—that all liberty-restricting policies harm women, or that a minimal state (or no state) would be better for women overall—has not been made convincingly. Another concern about the larger case is that much of the support offered is speculative, for example Roderick Long’s assertion that “the explosion of prosperity that a libertarian society would see would go a long way toward providing women with an economic safety net more effective than any government welfare program”.
In addition to the consequentialist argument, feminists offer an argument from principle. According to this argument, regardless of the consequences, women and men should be treated as self-owners with rights to property justly acquired and to freedom from coercive interference because this is what they deserve as ends in themselves, or because this is what moral insight teaches, or because this is what their perfection requires. In short, the claim is that the dignity of women and men depends on their being treated as self-owners.
Critics urge us to consider that all human beings are utterly dependent on the care of others for many years at the start of life; many come to need the care of others due to temporary or permanent disability later in life; and many require care as they become infirm at the end of life. Those who provide care for those who cannot care for themselves will also find themselves dependent on others for material support. These are enduring features of any human community. Thus all individuals have a high priority interest in receiving care when it is needed. As feminist Susan Okin argues, a theory that ignores this interest must assume that there is a “realm of private life in which the reproductive and nurturant needs of human beings are taken care of”. This assumption hides the fact that it is women who typically satisfy this interest, and do so often without pay and at great sacrifice to themselves. This renders its feminist versions, blind to the nature of obligations to, and entitlements of, children and others who require care. In addition, because caring labor is hidden from view, it becomes impossible to evaluate the justice of the arrangements under which the interest in receiving care is commonly satisfied. This suggests that freedom from coercive interference fails to capture what human dignity requires. At the very least, that dignity requires the right to care when one is unable to care for oneself and the right to a share of resources if one is charged with providing care for those who require it.
In a related criticism, Okin argues that feminist’s views are self-refuting. If individuals have a right to control their bodies and own the fruits of their labor, then women—who presumably make children from resources that have been given to them freely or were bought by them—own their children. But if women own their children, and everyone begins as a child, then no one owns herself.
Jennifer Roback Morse, herself a feminist, concedes: “I think it is well to admit… that our inattention to family life and community responsibility has left libertarians open to the charge that we do not care very much about these matters”.
Feminist criticism of the argument from principle begins by noting that the liberties championed by classical-liberals and libertarians are valuable because of what they make it possible for individuals to be and do. But it is not liberties alone which facilitate our being and doing what we value. We require also, at least, adequate material resources, genuine opportunities, and standing as an equal in society. What is needed is a basic structure of society, including property rules, that secures these. Thus freedom from coercive interference fails to capture what human dignity requires.
Critics have also taken aim at the treatment of oppression in classical-liberal or libertarian feminism. Recall that equity feminism holds that women are oppressed when the state fails to protect them, as a group, from sustained and systematic rights violations. Recall also that for equity feminists the only rights that create coercible duties are the rights to justly acquired property and freedom from coercive interference. Equity feminists argue that, in western countries like the United States, women are not oppressed because the state protects these rights of women. It should be conceded that much violence against women which was, in the past, tolerated or condoned is now unambiguously prohibited. But, critics contend, violence against women remains all too common in western countries, and thus it is premature to suggest that women are not oppressed, that is, are not effectively protected against sustained and systematic rights violations.
From the examination of the feminist perspective on the dilemma of the girl child in African culture, the researcher however recommends that:
- The young should be socialized that men and women are equal, and the biological differences do not mean that the other sex is inferior. The family is a major social institution and if this re-socialization starts in the family it will permeate into the other social institutions.
- Laws should be made and policies amended so as to accommodate women, to grant them the same sexual freedom that their male counterparts enjoy.
- There is need for determination and commitment of everybody in society, man or woman. These will indicate that the feminist perspective are not considered as total extremism in the society.
In conclusion, the findings revealed that that feminism is gradually eroding the unfair, unequal treatment and discrimination against the female gender in Africa. This indicates that African are gradually embracing some feministic ideologies despite the strong influence of culture in the societies. The blend of some decent African culture and reasonable feministic practices will bring about a better society in Nigeria and Africa as a whole. This study has identified the major problems bedeviling girl-child in Africa with focus on culture. Among the factors that facilitate the unfair treatment and abuse of girl-child and women in the Igbo society (like right to inherit landed property) is gradually eroding with education and globalization, which are the tools that has promoted feminism. Finally, this study has also demonstrated that the feminist view constitute the basis for the campaign of girl-child right in Africa, these has been able to allay some of the dilemma of the girl child in Africa.
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- TOPIC: A Feminist Perspective On The Dilemma Of The Girl Child In African Culture
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