Africa is a continent infused with varieties of traditions and a very rich culture. Africa is also one of the largest and heavily populated continents in the world. Africa has many religions, but the three major religions that is evident in their culture are the Traditional African Religions, Christianity and Islam. I will be researching on the Christian religion and its impacts in the lives of Nigerian and Ghanaian women.
Christianity was first brought into Africa by the European missionaries. Slowly, Christianity became one of Africa’s major religion and gradually influenced and changed the lives of the African people but in my opinion, Christianity drastically changed the course on the role’s women played in their communities. Patriarchy was one of the politics that came into Africa due to colonisation. The Europeans using colonialism and Christianity entrenched the ideology of patriarchy in the minds and hearts of the African men.
I am focusing on Nigerian and Ghanaian women. I am from Nigeria and as a woman, I am interested in the different ways Christianity has impacted the lives of women and how big or little those impacts are, both in the positive and the negative way.
Literature in context
The term ‘intersectionality’ was first deployed by Kimberlé Crenshaw. She used the term intersectionality to ‘denote the various ways in which race and gender interact’ (Crenshaw, 1991). Intersectionality theory advocates that people are frequently disadvantaged or oppressed by different source of oppression like their gender identity, race, class, sexual identity and orientation, religion and so on (Intersectionality, 2020). Intersectionality theory agrees that the identity marker of being female and being black should not be seen as independent, but they overlap themselves to create oppression. For this paper, I will be looking at the intersectionality between women and religion, specifically Christianity.
In Purkayastha article, she talks about transnational spaces and intersectionality. She explains that “transnational spaces are composed of tangible geographic spaces that exist across multiple nation-states and virtual spaces”. Since I will be interviewing women of African descent, I will be looking into how transnationalism and intersectionality plays a role in their various lives having to carry their traditions and religious practices over to Canada.
Violence against women
“Violence was not just one topic of feminist liberation theology but a core topic of feminist liberation theologies, because women on the margin and all women in a patriarchal society suffer violence of many kinds that is legitimised both by religion and by the societies of which we are part” (Pemberton, 2003, pg. 126). African women over the years have been imaginatively constructed and manipulated by others (Pemberton, 2003). In Nigeria, the Maliki law “stipulates that pregnancy outside marriage is in itself evidence of zina. Zina is an Islamic legal term used when referring to unlawful sexual intercourse (Pereira, & Ibrahim 2010). What they mean by unlawful, is an action that is frowned against by religion. The way in which the law constructs a key source of ‘evidence’ is in form of pregnancy which if you think about it, is marked publicly on women’s bodies, making it more likely that more women than men will be charged with zina (Pereira, & Ibrahim 2010).
They make laws and enforcements in a way that whatever a woman does, she still gets blamed and then persecuted. This is evident in the law against rape. The Shari’a penalty codes’ treatment of rape is a very clear example when looking at gender and sexual inequalities against women when implementing the laws (Pereira, & Ibrahim 2010). “Rape is treated as a form of zina; reporting rape is thus equivalent to confession of zina” (Pereira, & Ibrahim 2010). When a rape charge is put in the system, the Shari’a penal codes require that there be a confession from either the rapist or two witnesses of the rape, but we know that that is very unlikely to happen. This just leaves women who brings a charge of rape to the courts are not only subjected to zina and its punishments, but they are also liable of being called false witness leading them (who are the real victims) to be punished (Pereira, & Ibrahim 2010).
From the chapter titled “Violence against women: Circle women respond”, from the book Circle thinking African women theologians in dialogue with the West, circle women were advocating for women to be written back into history as agents. This is to allow women to be seen undertaking in cultural changes fir systems in which they have not only been co-opted but have also co-operated (Pemberton, 2003, pg. 129). The Circle women also suggested that a good way to fight against violence against women is the women speaking out, “Speaking out has been clear in the refusal of violence against women’s bodies in marriage, and beyond it in rape and prostitution” (Pemberton, 2003, pg. 157).
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is also a form of violence against the woman’s body. Although women see FGM as a means by which millions of women affirm their cultural heritage and is seen as forms of their dignity. FGM is gladly embraced by women although it is harmful to the health and wellbeing of women (Pemberton, 2003, pg. 129). “Cutting of genitals in Africa, reveals the global arena for this discussion of identity and men’s power over women’s bodies” (Pemberton, 2003, pg. 158).
Female theologies go through hardship when they go ahead and fight for the rights of women especially in a world that is rules by patriarchy. Isabel Phiri was given as an example. Her commitment in looking into the issues of violence in the University of Malawi cost her the renewal of her contact because she pursued a research that would highlight the sexual intimidations of women students on campus. Isabel Phiri in Pemberton book, chapter 5 argues that violence “is a very sensitive subject that touches the hearts of the male ego” (Pemberton, 2003, pg. 158).