Skip to main content

Women's Human Rights In Africa

Women’s Human Rights in Africa. Do they even exist? One would be tempted to ask this very question given the large number of human rights abuse cases in African countries. Well, the answer to this question is…. Silence. Let’s just say that you cannot really qualify it as a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’. There’s no fine line here. What can be said about it though is the fact that there is a greater level of appreciation for women’s human rights in Africa now than before. In recent times, human rights abuse watch organizations such as Amnesty International have succeeded in pushing for the recognition of basic human rights in many African countries. Unfortunately, due to numerous factors, there are millions of African women who have neither the choice nor the chance to so much as speak in the presence of their male counterparts. As you can imagine, the voice of women which is barely above a whisper does nothing to alleviate the problems arising from potentially harmful practices such as female genital mutilation.

Female genital mutilation is the practice of removing the tip of a woman’s clitoris or all of the external genitals. This practice has been part of many African cultures for thousands of years, and has strong social and sometimes religious implications in many societies. Ironically, it is believed that the practice affords women a “respectable” status in society. As is the case, women who have not undertaken the practice are usually ostracized and regarded as promiscuous women. The latter ideology stems from the general notion that women who do not undergo the practice tend to be more sexually active and therefore more prone to marital infidelity. Although some of the reasons behind the practice may seem harmless, the practice itself is not only excruciatingly painful, but in most instances, very unhygienic. Many of the instruments used range from a small pocket knife to a pair or scissors and even a shard of glass. The danger lies in the fact that the same shard of glass will most likely be used to operate on thousands of women. In addition, there is rarely any use of anesthetics during the procedure. As a result of the unhygienic nature of the practice, many women end up being bruised for life – some being rendered incapable of bearing children, while others do not live to see another day.

In recent times, the spate of female genital mutilation, as well as other human rights violations against women, have very serious repercussions. African countries such as Burkino Faso, Central African Republic, Djibouti, Ghana, Guinea, Togo and Senegal are among the list of countries who have outlawed the practice that is estimated to have affected over 130 million women and girls. In Senegal, a prison term of about five years accompanies a violation on the ban. In November 2006, an Ethiopian immigrant to the United States was found guilty of mutilating his two-year old child in 2001. According to the US women’s human rights group Equality Now, the case went down as the first recorded genital mutilation case in the history of United States. Until all fifty-four African countries outlaw the practice, the saga of the spate of female genital mutilation and the violation of women’s human rights in Africa continues.



  1. Interesting analysis of women rights in Africa (WRA) just based on popular stereotypes and dominant western half-truths about WRA. You could dig more Jemila! Given your interesting perspective on other issues you discussed in Circumspect, one expect more from you. Things are often not what they seem...And the mass-media and NGO-sold idea of Africa as the epitome of Women right violation far from the truth for anyone who has eyes to see (without popular blinkers) and know a bit of the distinctive African gender journey from at least 5000 BC to today (origin, outside influence, stereotype-building etc...) You could know more Jemila! And wisdom is the preserve of those of scratch below the surface. Good luck.

  2. Dear Anonymous,

    Thanks for your comment, you're right on many fronts. I actually didn't delve deeply in this piece because it was an article for publication in the college newspaper with a word limit. However, I'll think about doing another one here on Circumspect. Thanks again for the suggestion.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

The Untold Stories of Ghana's Kayayo (Market Girls)

Thought I was done blogging for the day -- until I came across this BBC photo feature on Ghana's market girls or "kayayo". When I was back in Ghana, I would occasionally go to the Madina market in Accra with my mum and I remember seeing them every time. I often wondered why they weren't in school, why they were doing what they do and why they didn't bargain how much money was paid them. My mum would lament about their situations and each time she patronized their service she would ask them how come they were doing what they did. Unlike my mum, most patrons of the Kayayo's services are not as considerate and don't think twice about having them carry things twice their weight! This is a very sensitive topic to me, because the way I see it, a twist of fate, and I could have been one. I've been meaning to blog on this issue, but somehow it escaped me. Not about to let that opportunity slip by again. Alors, voila.

Here's a youtube slideshow (by the sam…

Lifestylz GH Interview: Sangu Delle

As part of Lifestylz GH’s interview series, we bring you our premier interview with Sangu Delle.

Profile: Sangu Delle
Sangu Delle is a senior at Harvard University. He was born and raised in Ghana, and is the youngest of five children in a bi-religious family (his father is Catholic while his mum is Muslim). He attended Christ the King Catholic School (CTK) and went on to study at the Ghana International School (GIS) until his O-Levels when he transferred to the Peddie School (a college preparatory school in NJ) on scholarship. His areas of concentration in academics are Economics and African studies, with a particular focus on development.

AspirationsTo be involved in the development of Ghana and Africa at large in some capacity. In the past, he was more involved in non-profit and development work, but has increasingly become active in entrepreneurial and business ventures; a testament to his belief that there should be “less foundations and more entrepreneurs” in Africa. In his own wor…

The Letter Writing Project: Unplanned (Student AGAIN!)

Ciao people! I'm blogging all the way from Bologna, Italy! Beautiful city, interesting experiences so far. This blog was written a couple of days ago and didn't get posted because I got quite self-conscious about what it was about (definitely NOT my grandest moment). But after some thought I decided to post it. I feel it's important to acknowledge both struggles and triumphs, especially if growth is the bottom line objective, and particularly since life does throw us a curve ball from time to time. Alors...I'd say enjoy...but given the subject matter, maybe "I hope this speaks to you in some way" is more appropriate? Here goes..
-- Unplanned
"It isn't what you did in the past that will affect the present. It's what you do in the present that will redeem the past and thereby change the future." - Aleph (Paulo Coelho)
It’s been a week and a day since I arrived in Bologna land, which coincidentally, is the very reason why we have so many foods “Bo…