It’s Tuesday night, I am still relieving memories of my engagements for the 14th of February. These days, my personal life and my work life seem thick as thieves. I am reading Suey Park’s post sent to me by a friend. Suey says dating can be hard for activists because for people like her “love is not about sacrifice and scarcity but about equality, justice and community.” Hence activist are better dating them self; it is easier for activists to date one another because others would not understand when “you have to attend a street protest at night.” This is arguable but also interesting.
Like her, I spent the day rising with billions of people all over the world for ‘One Billion Rising Campaign’. While women, girls, men and boys can be victims of violence, this campaign focused on women and girls only. With my personal quote ‘Rise up, let’s Silence Violence, not Women’, I talked to friends, using all social media links available to mobilize support for the cause. Rather than ending my day on an ideal candle light dinner table with litters of red roses and wine, I landed in bed tired from the appreciation of my fellow justice seekers and the mockery of my anti-feminist family and friends, one of whom is my brother Godson. Everything about our action seemed to rob off wrongly for my anti-feminist brother who feels as if I am fighting him and other men. Though I realize that the cause I stood for is far beyond me and him, his perspective provoked a food for thought; what are we fighting? who are we really fighting against? Is it the men, the system or is it those who perpetrate violence against women?
It’s a night after the Valentine’s eve and am getting more clarity to my mind’s questions. Am chatting with my Italian friend Maurizio,
‘I hate the Maman,’ he said to me.
‘Who is the Maman,’ I asked.
‘They are African women exploiting and blackmailing other African women to prostitution… they blackmail these women, with voodoo rites, threatening to kill their relatives in Africa if they do not prostitute’ he explained. ‘In Italy, women are migrated in ships for prostitution…Write an article on this please’ he requested.
I have for the past few days pondered and researched on the character of the Maman. Woven around the Maman are stories of young African girls whose minds have been raped by stories of paradise Europe and easily shipped away from family and friends and the otherwise better life they had. Like mannequins in motion, they stand in stiletto heels, their breasts cupped in painful brassière that remind them that their flesh knows no freedom anymore. The Maman’s are their pimps who smear the windshield of the lives of enslaved prostitutes with fear and illusion buried in an oath with a promise to destroy the lives they left back at home.
Jagua Nana by Cyprian Ekwensi, is one literary book that presents us with a psycho-social case in point for prostitution. It links its characters and narratives to the realities of prostitution in our world. Reviewing it here, we had explored the dynamic sentiments around the flesh for cash business, from the legal, health and the economic angle. Bertolt Bretchs work, Der gute Mensch von Sezuan (literally translated the good woman of Setzuan) which we also reviewed here, unveiled the Johns behind the mask of prostitution. I am not going back to these lines of thinking.
What provoked me to write this is that unlike most of us will expect, the Mamans are women, not men. Yes, the Italian Mamans (or Madams as they are also called) are African women exploiting the body of other African women. Mamans blackmail their fellow women, throwing them on the sidewalks of prostitution and sometimes get them killed.
Defining Violence as a violation of human right is not new. Subsequent developments in international law and in interpreting CEDAW (Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women) have recognized violence as constituting a violation of women’s human rights; that is disproportionately directed against a woman because she is a woman or that affects women disproportionately. It includes acts that inflict physical, mental or sexual harm or suffering, threats of such acts, coercion and other deprivations of liberty.
Chatting with Maurizio, I came out thinking that the fight for gender equality and against gender based violence may as well entail women fighting their fellow women for their freedom and well-being. I am trying to be judgmental of the Maman, but again I ask myself, perhaps there is a vicious circle here? Are Maman’s not also one time victim of the oppressive system of violence they uphold?
Whether victim or not, the reality of this story is that women too are emerging as perpetrators of gender based violence. Women and not just men are in different ways supporting the structure and culture of violence.
A profound truth with implication for feminist interventions like ‘one billion rising’ is the realization that sometimes we must fight our self and not another person. We must dance our self off suckling and keeping faith in any system that rapes our mind and violates our well-being.
I believe in the sacredness of every human soul, in the truth that we can all live an inviolate life. This faith drives my support for social causes like the ‘one billion rising’, standing for justice and equality . Rising against violence for me means standing against the systemic structure that promotes violence and persons that support it, it is not about prejudicing and fighting men specifically. As we rise, we must keep our focus on separating the issue from the people.
Am sparing a thought today for that battered woman who lost her soul to violence, remembering she will never come home again. To her Sons and Daughters, to the women and girls who have sustained scars in their heart, souls and flesh, whose bodies have been weakened and mutilated, I hope you dance. Rise, Release and dance to the non-violent rhythm of freedom.
Come February 14th 2015 and every day of my life, I will continue to rise and dance against systems and actions that promote violence and impunity for persons that perpetrate violence, be they men or women.