I was listening to a Ghanaian radio programme [as an aside.. more and more of my posts seem to include things I hear on this infamous radio programme], and there was commentary on the police commitment to clamp down on crime. Specifically there was a focus on prostitution, and the arrest and prosecution of prostitutes.
I heard a statement which almost had me checking if it was indeed the year 2006 ( and not perhaps 1906). I would have not have believed that a public official could have uttered such statements if I had not heard him myself. According to the Greater Accra regional police chief, women going to bars and hotels etc. by themselves at night may be asked to produce their husbands or boyfriends who they are there with, to prove that they are not prostitutes soliciting customers. ( as these alleged prostitutes would then face arrest). In Ghana??? A country with 'freedom and justice' as its motto, and a place where citizens supposedly have freedom of movement?? This is obviously not something that is being enforced, but I find the fact that the police chief in the capital city could say this scary, and scarier still the fact that he considers it perfectly legitimate to target any woman by herself at a bar or restaurant by herself as a prostitute.
The presenter went on to ask him whether there might not perhaps be single women who could be out for a drink with friends, or even by themselves, an innocent enough situation. His response?? "the timing is very important...if you are a decent woman, you should be able to go there early and move out. If you stay there till 1am, you know it is dangerous" At 1am?? Without a man to show I cannot be out by myself in Accra?
I comment less frequently than I used to on issues related to women's rights, and certainly never have on this blog. It is not to say that I don't have opinions, but I find that too often statements are taken out of context and taken as representative of all the other actions or positions a person takes. It is also possibly as Sefi Atta might say for fear of being labelled a feminist. This time though, I had to say something. What is it about our society that is so skewed towards certain 'traditional' roles for women, and the quick labelling of women as 'good' or 'bad' based on a set of criteria in which they have no say. It comes out in this issue, but also goes back to the now oft-heard argument over how much a woman might be to blame for a situation in which she is raped. And whether perhaps what she was wearing had anything to do with it, or where she was at the time. I'm all for people taking responsibility for their actions,but really should a man's lack of self control be overlooked at the expense of a woman's ability to dress as she pleases?
Then there's the issue of the Ghanaian domestic violence bill, which has been welcomed by both men and women all over the country. Oh - apart from the clause about marital rape that is. For most men ( and some women) there should be no mention of rape in a marriage. When a woman agrees to marry a man, she gives up her right to say no to him.
How can people be so gifted in so many different areas, make extraordinary strides in science, politics, business, sports - be capable of sophisticated analysis on a range of issues, and yet still be stuck in the stone ages on certain issues?
When will a single woman be able to hold her place in society, without needing a man as some sort of validation?