Celebrating East African Writing!
They had a point to make but many onlookers questioned their honesty –and whether it was not one of those protests with a hidden agenda. A new style of lobbying had emerged recently where money power were used to influence crucial decision makers in a bid to support these pressure groups. And often hired—protestors marched—the loudness of their protesting voices reciprocal to the amount of cash dispensed.
Being on the streets once again—it was just a few weeks back when they had had another successful ‘Sexual Boycott’— it brought in the question of ethics governing these powerful lobby groups, which was overstepping their bounds in influencing bills pending in and outside the parliament. Affirmative Action Bill had already been passed but these ‘women’ felt that the government was slow in implementing it because men and boy-child still had an undue advantage over the women and the girl-child.
They nagged that women were still vulnerable to stigma, sexual abuse, rights violations such as inheritance of land, domestic violence and too, that ‘SHE’ was stigmatised and haunted in every path-pregnancies, incest and rapes which stalked her all the time.
In their keynote address before those gathered for the demonstration, the organisers had a very vocal message to speak out over these gender issues.
‘We need to do away with the double standards and discriminatory legislation that confine our freedom and personal rights. Until these thought processes are eliminated, we will never be truly liberated as a society.
‘When we highlight the positive, we not only salute the efforts of the woman achiever, but also inspire even more women to achieve similar, if not greater, success.
‘Our work never seems to end: through motherhood, we raise, nurture, comfort, and educate the leaders of tomorrow. This is not a nine-to-five job. We have no annual or any other kind of leave. It is a job for life. Incredibly, we still have time and energy to hold down the more ‘convectional’ job. We are innovative scientists looking for a cure for AIDS and cancer; We are politicians and leaders; We are the artists who brighten up and excite our lives with song and dance. We are the flesh and blood of family life and society. Without us, all we’d have is a bare skeleton.’
Speaker after speaker followed with the same song.
‘We have to appreciate ‘us’ in all our totality; strength, beauty, intelligence, creativity, innovation, and infinite patience in bringing life into this world and nurturing it. Let’s have once big party around the world and appreciate ‘us’.’
This was followed by the grand march along the streets, paralyzing traffic in the busy highways, chanting! Shouting! Daring! Exercising their basic rights and proud at that. There had been recent spate of stripping women in Eastlands, especially those putting on ‘indecent’ clothes. A group of young girls had tight trousers minus blouses – just the thin bra. Others had micro –miniskirts with slits reaching up their grey areas, exposing what turned the heads of the many men’s staring eyes.
The ones on trousers were chanting; ‘As African women, we can celebrate the fact that we will wear trousers forever. We need a progressive mindset. There were hardships upon our grandmothers and mothers who endured to raise us. This is a chance for everywoman everywhere to pledge their support our current and future generations.’
The Eastland ‘stripping incident’ was condemned in the strongest adjectives possible. ‘Hail Civilization! Hail Miniskirts! Hail Trousers!’ they shouted as they marched. A poem composed for the same was recited in the placards- that demanded to have perpetrators brought to book.
Next followed ‘BULLSHIT FGM – ILLEGALL OPERATION’ placards waving women and girls. From the loudspeaker, one little girl was showing for all and sundry to see; ‘Ganjaweed are FGM! Awyei wid dem Shashamane! Never talk or glance at a member of male species for five minutes!’
Other champion placards declared; ‘THE F****G?! CUT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH PROMISCUITY!’ This was followed by dozens of ‘PELVIC PURITY COMES FROM GOOD MORALS! NOT FEMALE CIRCUMCISION.’
During the crusade later at the Heroes Corner, many speakers denounced the practise whose origins, as the prominent activists explained to the youths, was African and whose roots were deeply embedded in an obsolete cultural belief system that necessitated purity.
Another fiery feminist speaker bitterly condemned the practice; ‘One need not be female to discredit this ‘masculine’ crap for its deep cultural and ethnic entanglements. A bullshit practice that some goons and fools ashamedly regard as a rite of passage, but it violates basic woman right.
‘At a time when we are advocating against abusive practices, at a time we are against degrading practice, why are we continuing to patronize customs that treat matriarchs like commodities? Why should a woman be worth more dowries if she is circumcised? Purity…! You say? I say bullcrap!’ and she spat to demonstrate her distaste and heighten her dramatis personae as a public speaker.
‘Tell dem say!’ shouted some youths.
‘Toboa!’ others yelled.
‘Biss-millah!’ yet others sighed.
‘You are wrong!’ She persisted. ‘Heads over heels – you are deader than dodo wrong!’ Circumcised girls feel more adult and engage in sexual relations than uncircumcised ones. If you doubt me, just visit the areas where girls are ‘cut’ and you will see like I saw. There’s a higher rate of teenage pregnancy and school drop outs.’ They clapped and chanted at this.
A prominent feminist gave a hate-speech, which carried away the listeners with her extraordinary feminist backlash sentiments.
‘V!” She greeted. ‘Amandla Vee!’ She was one who had tasted the fruits of women movement through her involvement with the Vagina Monologue Activism.
‘V Day Every Day, O Daughters of Eve!’
Many women and girls were ignorant as to what she was talking about, so she explained.
‘When I say V sisters, shout Vagina, shout Victory, shout Violence.’ She informed. ‘This is what we should say when we declare total Victory over Violence to the Vagina! This is our anthem.’ She pressed on.
A few daring girls shouted back. This infuriated her.
‘Daughters of Eve, are you ashamed of your God-given organ? The V-cut is harmful to our female psyche, inimical to our reproductive health, potentially fatal and illegal. So why are girls still dying from it and their practitioners still largely untouched? Should we not be seeing truckloads of the razor-welding surgeons being incarcerated for performing the illegal act? Shouldn’t we be seeing our prison overflowing with the hospital nurses who abet this violence against the vagina?’
She was cheered and lifted shoulders high and became an instant heroine.
‘V! Sisters!’ She dared.
‘Vagina! They thundered back.
‘Vee… for what?’
‘Va – gi-y- na!’ They chanted resolutely.
A ‘Virgins Only’ Pressure Group – First and Second Virgins-the former never had sex while the latter vowed to abstinence after having ‘forced’ to have sex – marched along too, waving twigs protesting against sexual abuse – that virgins were becoming an endangered species and they would soon come to extinction. They dressed on white bridal gowns and veils covered their faces.
The Widows of Veterans followed the demonstrations from their corner. These were trying to pressure the government to compensate them for their contribution in the struggle for independence.
HIV/AIDS Pressure Groups, wearing red skirts signifying the deaths wiping out the vulnerable women and black blouses representing dark misery to mothers and orphans and girls hiding because of stigma, protested in their corner too. Tomato-sauce dripping placards expressing their concerns were waved.
It stated: ‘ABC discriminates against women. Women cannot abstain when rape and violence is rife in society. Women are faithful-men are not. Men are not straight-no matter how well you feed a dog, it will always scavenge in the rubbish dump. Yes, ABC is men-friendly. Look at condoms-it is men only affair-some even use it twice especially in the rural areas.’
The Heroes Corner in Uhuru Garden became a parade for the rights of women. Poems were recited. Songs and dances performed and theatrical performance was acted. Moving speeches were made.
‘Brutality against women and girls every single day-carried even in the press-must stop. We are in the midst of worst crisis of morality in our history. We are being preyed on, raped, and murdered on daily basis across the land. Broken violated bodies are being discovered in the bush every time. If you are a woman who is carjacked, may the Good Lord be your Shepherd. The shadow of rape and the phantom of violence hang over the head and shoulders of each and every woman and bar none.’
Speaker after speaker drummed.
‘Where you are men folk of Africa, as your sisters, mothers and daughters are ruined by your brothers? Are you silent because rape happens to other people? Are you quiet because it has never affected anyone in your closest circle of friends yet? Or are you mute because in your heart of hearts, you are a rapist yourself?
‘The women of Africa cannot find their way out of this jungle by themselves. They are not adequately represented in the police force to track down the criminals on their own. They are not present in the judiciary in enough numbers, to send the few beasts that are caught away for very long time. They have no say in the parliament and no way in changing our laws. And they don’t have the physical strength to protect themselves when the demon attacks.’
‘Until all of us in this country wake up, this problem will not end. We are in a midst of an epidemic. Even those men, who sneer at the concept of rape while sitting in bars ogling women around them with lust they can barely conceal, should flinch at the rape of little ones-who are still immersed in the bliss of innocence, are being subjected to the worst form of adult carnality.
‘The bell is tolling for every woman in Africa to stand up and be counted. Let the politicians take their eyes off political pastimes for just a moment and make loud statements in the most forthright terms possible condemning rape as unacceptable.
‘The police commissioner must reveal to us very clearly, what his plan of action is -and what he is doing to contain the predators in his own force. Women-only Police Stations and ‘Spider Squads’ are very good start but, not enough.
‘Those who control the public coffers need to realize that there is no more pressing use of taxpayer’s money than the protection of the bodies, the honour and the dignity of our women folk.’
The local chapter of ‘Violence against Women speaker then turned to address the dummies and effigies of naked men bragging of larger-than-life semi-erect organs.
‘And what of you my testosterone filled friends? You should hang your heads together in abject shame (which their holders put their heads to touch down). You have created the society that does violations that shames the nation.
‘You have stood by and watched as social values deteriorate before your own eyes. You have cracked the jokes that reduce us to mere chattels. You have harboured illicit lust in your hearts that find its ugliest expression in the acts of a rapist. You must now place feminity and motherhood close to divinity again, as ‘We Were Once, Queens.’
‘We-want-justice-not – poli-trics! End Sex-ploitation!’ chants raved in the air. They were announcing their boycott of sex until the patriarchs gave in to their demands and recognized their fight for equal society. They vowed to starve the machoistic tradition of romance until they were on familiar and equal terms with them.
‘Yes! Boycott sex until these predators starve! No reforms! No sex!’ they chanted deliriously in unison.
The climax was the cutting and burning of male penis effigies and dummies—animated cartoons of public figures—of naked men were displayed. Then the leaders led the demonstrators in cutting their organs, gorging and mutilating out their testicles, castrating sex organs which ‘had caused so much trouble to women more the all the wars combined’ as one placard proudly announced. Burning of these thousand – plus organs followed.
Anti-riot police watched with hawk–eyes at these women now chanting; ‘We want peace! We’ve suffered so much! No more sex-ploitation!’
Another T-shirt announced for all who cared to see; “All our problems have to do with MEN; MENtal distress, MENstruation, MENopause!’
Two enterprising hawkers who ventured to sell their ‘Play-Safe’ condoms and lollipops to these angry women had their goods confiscated and stripped naked.
The police cut short their demonstration. One policeman was pelted with stones and other missiles as he came to announce the meeting illegal. Drama followed as another policeman was stripped naked. Tear gas canisters were thrown to disperse these stark raving and mad Daughters of Eve. Rubber bullets were also used to quell these violent ladies, and running battle took to the streets.
Only the international press covered this ‘breaking news’ and announced to the outside world of the ‘barbaric’ cutting of five men’s sexual organs during the skirmishes – two belonging to the police officers and three, their ‘innocent owners’ caught up in the scuffle.
These attacks were described by the few men interviewed as ‘primitive and savage in this age of enlightenment.’
The other scenes that caught the attention of viewers were those of an old lady who lifted up her skirt and was exposing her back side to the police and shouting abuses to them, as she roundly shifted her bottoms—up and down—left to right, shouting: ‘This one is for the Police Commissioner.’ She cursed as she directed her immense fat bottoms—like two stale bread—in the police direction.
‘This one is for the men folk – and it’s clean by half!’
She turned her backside to this press and dramatically swung it sideways; ‘And this is for the press.’ She amusingly displayed, but was roughly caught and bundled in the waiting police Land Rover.
Apparently, there was no mention of these women in the local newspapers the next day save for the catching news of another item now popular with lawyers.
LAWYER CAUSES STIR
A mentally disturbed lawyer who ripped off a minister’s car yesterday stunned the court again when she recited the Loyalty Pledge and chanted the National Anthem instead of answering the charges. Mrs.Mkati Aji, described by colleagues as a brilliant advocate and scholar, began singing immediately after the judge finished reading the charge sheet. The woman recited the three stanzas in Kiswahili holding her right hand fist to the chest and then stretching it up in the air, gesturing to the stunned public to join her.
The judge then ordered the lawyer to be taken for mental check-up. The incident attracted a large crowd into the courtroom before orderlies took away the accused to the basement cells. Mrs.Mkati Aji was accused of removing a pendant from a minister’s Mercedes Benz 700 series car at the parliament buildings on Tuesday. The second charge stated that she threatened to ‘castrate’ the minister for culture and his driver, Mr. Azali Mapesa.
Earlier on, there was anxiety at the courts when lawyers, having learnt that the accused was one of their own, denied that she had mental problem, saying that she was only expressing what many people would wish to state. Former classmates and professional colleagues described her as an intelligent and sensitive woman-a graduate of Harvard, who mastered from Oxford and having worked in South Africa. She was also a political writer for one of the local dailies.
However, the judge warned them that it had become a common trait with lawyers behaving in a manner likely to cause a breach of peace following a similar incident inside the precepts of parliament when apparently another lawyer caused a ‘stir’ etc, etc…
If you would like this piece to be the Story of the Week, please vote below on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being weak, and 10 being excellent. The numbers will be tallied on Friday and the story with the highest figure shall be Crowned Story of the Week. Be sure to fill in your name and verifiable email. You can include your critique/comment after the vote.