Feminism is a Movement of the Group of Women to End Sexism

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Feminism is a movement led by a group of women to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression. Feminism is supported by its theories such as Radical, Liberal, Marxism, and African. These theories are founded on three main principles: Women have valuable contributions to make in every aspect of the world. As an oppressed group, women have been unable to achieve their potential, receive rewards, or gain full participation in society. Lastly, feminist research should do more than just critique, it should work toward social transformation.

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Historically, Western feminists have struggled to overcome certain paradigms of female inferiority that all women experience. The female identity varies according to each culture and their customs, many of which are based on a patriarchal past where men wield more power than women. Women worldwide experience subjugation in the form of jobs, education, sexuality, and reproductive choice. American women, however, have striven to overcome these stereotypes and achieved a position of near equality in many societal constructs. In the United States today, men and women enjoy almost equal social standing. This paper will briefly explain how Western feminism overlooks African feminism. African feminism should not stereotype African women as ‘problems to be solved’, but should portray them as people capable of setting their own priorities and agenda. A distinctly African feminism will portray women as strong, innovative agents and decision-makers in their specific contexts, empowering them and working for them in ways they want it to.

Has any consideration been given to the comparisons and disparities between women’s challenges in the west — which some articles have addressed — and the struggles and burdens of women in Africa? Western feminism has often been accused of bias in that it fails to recognize the different historical experiences of African women compared to those espoused by Western feminism. This bias is destructive to their cultural values and struggles for freedom as black women.

Perceptions of Western Feminism need to change radically. African women should not be regarded as children – powerless and helpless. Like any other group, African women have the ability to articulate their needs, evaluate alternative courses of action, and mobilize for collective action where necessary.

History & Overview of Feminism Issues

The United Nations has laid the foundation for an international women’s law of human rights that transcends the borders of national, religious, and customary laws. On the basis of a predominantly nondiscriminatory approach to education, work, political participation, credit facilities, the right to marry, found a family, and divorce on an equal basis with men (Hellum, 1917:13). The overall aim of the Women’s Convention is to improve the position of women as a group in the long-term perspective. The Eurocentric character of the convention has been pointed out by several African scholars within family and women’s law. This is called the Eurocentric convention because most of the policies which are made are based on Western culture, which is contrary to African culture. That’s why it does not empower African women and support them in ways that respect their culture and tradition. The Maputo Protocol categorically rejects harmful cultural traditions. At the same time, Article 17 of the Protocol states: “Women shall have the right to live in a positive cultural context and to participate at all levels in the determination of cultural policies.”

Why should questions about the West be brought in to discuss entangled clusters such as abortion, female genital mutilation, virginity, women’s rights, gender equality, the use of traditional medicine among African women, equal distribution of resources, and personal problems that are undeniably ‘ours’? Western feminism seems to have missed its essential aspects. For instance, they come to Africa and start criticizing what women in Africa are facing without considering their culture. As a result, African culture is too tightly bound with its western origins from where universal agendas emanate but are inapplicable elsewhere. Western feminists often suffer from being too Western-identified when they should be more focused on analyzing local women’s issues ‘on their own terms,’ (John.M:2).

Female genital mutilation, also known as female circumcision – the partial or total cutting away of the external female genitalia – has been practiced for centuries in parts of Africa, generally as an element of a rites-of-passage, preparing young girls for womanhood and marriage. This is an important part of culture in African countries like Nigeria, Tanzania, Kenya, Guinea, and others. Some perceive Female Genital Mutilation as a religious obligation. One of the countries which have a large number of women who undertake female circumcision is Guinea. FGM is unlawful in Guinea under Article 265 of the Penal Code. The law sentences the perpetrator to death if the girl dies within 40 days after the FGM. Article 6 of the Guinean Constitution, which outlaws cruel and inhumane treatment, could be interpreted to include these practices, should a case be brought to the Supreme Court. Guinea signed the Maputo Protocol in 2003 but has not endorsed it. Article 305 of Guinea’s penal code also prohibits FGM, but no one has yet been sentenced under any of Guinea’s FGM-related laws. In Guinea, as an alternative to ending FGM, there is a trend towards the medicalization of FGM, where the mutilation is performed under hygienic conditions by medically trained staff, who view the FGM practice as an additional source of income.

Western feminism criticizes female genital mutilation, stating that it is not only extremely detrimental to the health and well-being of women and girls, but also an atrocious act of violence. There is no possible justification for this practice – no cultural, religious, or medical reason whatsoever. Western feminists oppose female circumcision, asserting that the practice is harmful to women’s health and well-being. It is considered by some as a ritualized form of child abuse and violence against women – a violation of human rights.

Article 5 of CEDAW stipulates that the public parties shall take all suitable actions to modify the social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women with a view of eliminating prejudices and customs and all other practices. Women have the right to participate in recreational activities and sports.

Traditional Medicine Practice in Contemporary Africa. By advocating for the protection of traditional medical practices in Africa, this point offers a pragmatic analysis based on local knowledge within the context of culture and environment. Considering the health services climate within Africa, there are good reasons for the continued presence of traditional healers. With greater access compared to Western-trained medical physicians, this research highlights the importance of healers, stating that they are an integral part of the culture that a certain population of African people, especially in rural areas, relies on. Moreover, the foreign practices of Western medicine are not widely recognized by many members of these communities due to beliefs, specifically in terms of diseases thought to be caused by ancestral spirits. This approach benefits women by ensuring that they do not rely solely on external medicine and services for health care (Ical, Est, & Hts, n.d.).

This has prompted Western feminism to strongly dispute the notion that African medicine is not scientifically proven. Several arguments have been presented, often without fully understanding the implications of using these traditional medicines (Ical et al., n.d.).

Polygamy in Africa

One example of a cultural practice that conflicts with progressive international norms is the observance of polygamy. Although it occurs throughout the world, African males, particularly traditionalists, maintain multiple partnerships, especially in areas with scarce environmental resources. Polygamy is believed to increase productivity and survival among children, provide economic security to women, and maintain strong religious values, especially in Islamic religion and the churches of the Apostolic Faith Mission. Thus, for some African women, the practice of polygamy is not seen as a crime. It, however, represents a highly contested debate between those who uphold the societal norms of traditional African communities, and feminists who call for the implementation of human rights norms among women. Polygamy is legally recognized in some parts of African countries, for example, Senegal, which has the highest rate of polygamy (Ical et al., n.d.).

Polygamy directly clashes with Western feminisms which consider bigamy a crime. Several countries have prohibited polygamous lifestyles, and some states condemn it through criminalization. Western feminism argues that polygamy creates societal problems responsible for the continuance of gender inequality, the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, marital strife, family discord, and the transmission of AIDS. Numerous organizations, such as the Campaign Against Polygamy and Women Oppression International (CAPWOI), actively discourage polygamy through education, advocacy, and support. To such advocates, polygamy represents a highly emotional issue that perpetuates the inferiority of women. Yet many African men maintain that multiple-partnership is a “tradition,” suggesting deeply interwoven principles of power and priority that are not easily broken. Instead of condemning the practice, some African states have opted to provide legal protection to polygamous marriages by enforcing legal responsibilities that ensure the rights of women and children, even though Western feminism discourages this practice. In Namibia, for example, the constitution holds men accountable for a multitude of legal obligations favoring proper treatment of family members. While this does not eradicate polygamy, many see it as a step towards recognizing, and perhaps one day changing, the deeply ingrained traditional role polygamy plays in many African societies.

Both Western and African feminism should involve themselves in politics. This involvement can further women’s continuing mission for achieving equality, commercial opportunity, and civil rights. It can also promote debates over women’s rights to drive, to express themselves openly, their fertility, and even their evaluations of harmful forms of male sexual behavior (Offen, 2011). There is fairness in politics, which includes public conversations on shared challenges, not just a silent enumeration of specific issues. Participatory debates can provoke participants to consider broader societal interests, making political involvement beneficial for both women and men (Mansbridge, 1990). Article 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights also provides for fairness before the law and equal protection of the law. Historically, women have been excluded from political life and decision-making processes. Women’s campaigns for participation in the public and political arena date back to the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and continue today. During the First World War, few legislative democracies recognized women’s right to vote (Salaam, 1979).

Women’s Human Rights

The Commission on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women has clarified that, to achieve genuine equality, the root causes of women’s discrimination must be addressed. It’s not sufficient to promise equal treatment with men. The Committee’s perspective is that the Convention implies women should be given an equal start, and the Government must create an empowering environment to facilitate the empowerment of women and achieve equality of outcomes. Through specific measures, past injustices and inequities can be redressed by temporarily giving women advantages and access to opportunities typically beyond their reach. Achieving real equality necessitates a change in attitudes, gender roles, and stereotypes, a significant societal shift leading to a transformation in women’s lived experiences (Salaam, 1979). The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women ensures women equal rights to decide “freely and responsibly on the number and spacing of their children and to have access to the information, education, and means to enable them to exercise these rights” (article 16). It also stipulates women’s right to education includes “access to specific educational information to help ensure the health and well-being of families, including information and advice on family planning” (article 10).

Sexual and Reproductive Health

Both Western feminism and African feminism have to be considered in sexual and reproductive health and family planning issues. Reproductive health rights should be a freedom to uphold. Women should have a say when it comes to the provision of health services. They should also be able to talk about Sexually Transmitted Infections without restrictions. Women’s childbearing role can also have an impact on their enjoyment of other rights, such as the rights to education and to work. In the past, human rights had been conceptualized in a way that did not take into account women’s lives and the fact that women routinely faced violence, discrimination, and oppression. Consequently, women’s experiences were, until relatively recently, not adequately addressed by the human rights framework. The work of activists, human rights mechanisms, and States has been critical in ensuring that the human rights framework has grown and adjusted to encapsulate the gender-specific dimensions of human rights violations in order to better protect women (Salaam, 1979).

Culture and Tradition

These are common aspects in all aspects of societies, whether in Western or African countries. Though culture and tradition are interchangeably used because of their similar meanings, they have differences between them. In some societies, these concepts are very empowering, while in others, they can be restrictive and exploitative. Culture is a set of behaviors and norms in a society.

Notably, to ensure greater cooperation between Western and African feminists, there is a need to encourage the use of online networks between women to draw people together, hence bridging the divide into a mutual virtual space. This can push for a global feminism where women will address the same issues. This can help in creating ways to support women’s groups based on their actual needs and concerns, without imposition and dominance from other groups.”

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Feminism Is a Movement of the Group of Women to End Sexism. (2021, May 24). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/feminism-is-a-movement-of-the-group-of-women-to-end-sexism/