It’s nearly 45 years since Lesotho became independent but the country is far from winning the battle against gender biases or sexism.
Some Basotho men are still caught up in the mentality that women are nothing but their subordinates.
While a lot has been done by the government of Lesotho to tackle gender inequality and biases what is clear is that we still haven’t done enough.
As a country we are nowhere near achieving gender equality.
True more than half of the councillors whose terms expired last April were women.
Nine of our 24-member cabinet are women.
Nearly 25 percent of our MPs are women.
Yet these statistics, decent as they might look, should not be read to mean that Lesotho has become a better place for women over the years. Political representation is just one of many strides towards the emancipation of women.
Although urban women can be said to be a bit enlightened about their rights they are still very much oppressed.
They are victims of a society that has entrenched the notion that men are a superior kind.
Violence against women is still rampant.
Women are still being abused emotionally. They are deprived economically and socially.
I have no doubt that there are still women who have been sexually violated but have remained silent because they fear the repercussions from society.
But nowhere is this suppression of women more prevalent than in rural areas.
This is because rural women do not know their rights. Away from the newspapers, radios, books and social workers, information about their rights reaches them last, if at all it does get to them.
The results are communities insulated from the changes around the world by collective ignorance. Such societies cling on to their old ways.
It’s not entirely that they are hostile to change. No.
In most cases they just have not been made to see the light.
They have not been taught the goodness of doing things differently and appreciate that the role of women in today’s world has changed.
Generally women find it normal for men to dominate them because of their sex.
Only women who were fortunate enough to attend school are the most vocal about any kind of gender bias and sexism.
In Sesotho culture, women are deprived of some rights merely because they are women. This connotes that a woman is regarded as an incidental being.
There is a perception that female is a female by virtue of a certain lack of qualities, therefore female nature should be regarded as afflicted with natural defectiveness.
This mentality is infused in the minds of children in their early stages of life by the society.
It appears that many of the behavioural differences between males and females are a result of socialisation — the process by which an individual becomes integrated into a social group by adopting its values and attitudes.
Socialisation mainly occurs early in life, when a child learns the values of society by responding to parental approval or discipline, and by imitating parents’ behaviour.
A woman is regarded essentially to the male as a sexual being, for him she is sex, absolute sex, no less! In this regard a woman is considered as a mere object, a woman takes an identity of a sexual object not “femaleness”. The truth however is that men and women need each other, and they complement each other.
Men are failing to recognise or acknowledge women as individuals endowed with an identity.
Subjectivity of females is not respected nor are their views and emotions regarded as essential. It is unfortunate that most men as well as women are not aware that “one is not born a woman, one becomes a woman”. This shows that “womaness” is a mere social construct.
Ontologically men and women are the same and equal, their essence is the same, that of humanity. On what grounds are men claiming superiority over women? On what grounds are men claiming to be heads of families and subordinate women?
Are their claims justified?
In responding to aforementioned questions, there are some who will hasten to appeal to the Holy Bible, Qur’an (in case of Muslims) or traditions as their point of reference in justifying dominance of men.
Then another question will arise, how accurate and precise are traditions and the interpretation of the Bible or Qur’an? Traditions are based on cultures which are liable of changing with times since unchanging culture is a dead culture; this is a fact of anthropology. We have to ask ourselves if our interpretations of these holy books are correct.
I now have a clue why in the 1960s feminism had become both vocal and stridently aggressive, with the “burn-the-bra” brigade and other controversial movements.
They were fighting against all these unsubstantiated claims made by men to be superior to women. It is about time we “decolonise” our minds about women. Even women should assert themselves actively and fight against inhumane conceptions towards them.
We cannot be conservatives to a point of using ancient, medieval or modern conceptions of women and apply them in our postmodern world, such conceptions are obsolete! It is time to appreciate our similarities as men and women, on the level of being we are all the same. We share the essence of humanity, and no one should be superior to the other.
On the other hand, we should also be aware of our differences as men and women.
Societies that have accepted that women have equal rights to men have grown faster both economically and socially than those who have refused to accept this wisdom.