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Opinions of Saturday, 20 January 2007

Columnist: Allotey, Henry Kpakpo

The Myth Of The Weaker Sex

(THE SWORD CUTS BOTH WAYS) In our culture in particular and most cultures in general, a man is never supposed to cry. He is brought up to be brave and impervious to any physical, emotional or psychological abuse by his spouse. In a nutshell a man is supposed to be strong. The admission of pain on his part is considered a sign of weakness.

A man should take pain with a smile no matter how wry that smile is. An 'honorable' man will rather face an obvious life- terminating situation- and get it over with quickly- instead of fleeing for fear of being called a coward. In this culture it seems a woman will rather be the widow of a brave man than remain the wife of a living coward.

The nature of the Ghanaian culture makes it very difficult for us to see that when it comes to domestic violence the coin still has two sides. Feminists only end up seeing the side that they choose to see thereby ignoring the other side completely. The fact that they do not acknowledge the existence of the other side does not push it into oblivion; it has only made some men silent and helpless victims of domestic violence.

In a culture of widespread unemployment, mostly among men, the economic power seemed to be shifting towards the feminine side. The idea of a weaker sex is slowly becoming a myth.

One Easter morning, a few years ago, a good friend of mine called me and asked if he could come over to my house for an urgent discussion. I could feel the sense of urgency in his voice so I asked him to come down immediately. When he arrived I noticed that his left eye was swollen. I jokingly asked him why he was still using the makeup from the movie we shot the previous year. He explained that it was no makeup- it was the real thing. The next thing I thought of was whether he had been beaten by angry armed robbers because they found no money on him. ' You see, I told you to keep some money in your pocket, just in case you are robbed... robbers hate it when they waste their time and and do not even find iced water money'

I joked again. I decided to call the police at once.

He grabbed my hands as I reached for my cell phone.

"Do you want her to kill me, don't call the police.

How can I put this without avoiding a humiliating hea dline in those tabloids." I looked straight into his only fully visible left eye and said, " My good friend, you truly overestimate your popularity." He spoke with some difficulty thus:

"Prof. what I am about to tell should be kept secret. I am only telling you this because it will be good material for a future script. You are allowed to write about it but please do not mention my name. I don't want people to point fingers at me on the streets of Accra. Whenever she gets angry she hits me." 'Who are you talking about?' I asked. 'You are too big to be beaten by your mum. Have you started having those nightmares again?' "Look my friend this is not a joke. My wife is crazy. When I married her I thought she'll use her size to protect me and not beat me. You know as a man I can neither hit her back or take her to the police. Her parents will never understand that and our kids will hate me forever. No law can address this dilemma." At this point I kept quiet because I did not know what to say. I could not even think clearly enough to speak. This are some of the rare situations that silence and facial expressions speak louder than words. Any ill advice could end a marriage and make an unemployed man lose his only source of support and mother of his children.

This looks like an isolated case because how many men can have the courage to confide in their friends when their spouses hit them let alone take a legal recourse. Such an act in this culture will be considered next to madness. I dare you to make any law that can fix this!

A few years ago I took a taxi from Kaneshie to Madina. The taxi driver told me a story that completely knocked me out of my wits. As soon as he started I advised him to report the case to the police at once. On hearing the word 'police' he started laughing hysterically. Eventually I managed to convince him to go to the police and make a report. He agreed to go on two conditions- that I accompany him and secondly under no circumstances should I laugh if the charge officer finds my story funny. I wondered why any one will laugh at a victim of such a crime. At the police station this is the conversation that took placed at the charge office. I am not even sure whether they took it serious enough to document it.

Taxi driver

I have a complain to make about two women I picked from Kaneshie to Madina A.R.S. yesterday.

Policeman Why, didn't they pay you?

Taxi driver They did.

Policeman So what seems to be the problem. Come on tell me your story. Start from the beginning.

Taxi driver Okay, when I woke up this morning...

Policeman My friend, I did not mean beginning beginning I meant begin from where you believe a crime was committed, and don't waste my time, there are serious people here with real problems.

Taxi-driver Okay, when I got to their house they begged me to help them with their luggage into the house. When I went they lured me into the bedroom.

( As soon as he mentioned the word 'bedroom' everyone in the charge office stopped all that they were doing and started paying attention to the taxi driver. ) He continued. They stated struggling with me.

Policeman Why, did they want to steal your money?

Taxi-driver No. They wanted something even better.

Policeman I don't get it. What is better than money? You better stop wasting my time and let me know if a crime was committed. This is a police station not an 'akpeteshie' bar.

Taxi driver They rapped me. Apart from me everyone in the police station started to laugh hilariously.

Policeman What, are you crazy? How did that happen? Is that even possible? You should rather go and pay them if you did not pay before they come and press charges against you. Taxi driver But I am the victim here!

Policeman Of course you are the victim of enjoyment. You better go and pay There are no laws to protect men from rape by women. I hope the domestic abuse bill will take care of it.

The above illustration is the problem regarded as a taboo and never talked about. You can all imagine what would have happened if the ladies got to the police first. Most people have the erroneous believe that women do not abuse men and that it is always men who abuse women. Men are also sometimes abused mentally, physically and emotionally by their spouses. I hope the law will not be based on a false assumption that only women are abused. The only difference is that the mans' complains are ignored. In our culture no man can say these four words -'MY WIFE BEAT ME- without looking like a fool forever. These words could affect not only his children, grandchildren and great grand children but his whole lineage. Women might even refuse to marry men from that family. This is one of the reasons why it seems that there are more female than male victims. The opposite might also be true but saying it is equivalent to giving away your manhood.

Any law on domestic violence should have a realistic investigative clause enshrined in it because both sexes, contrary to what we have been made to believe, are equally capable of evil. Some men kill their wives and vice-versa.

Children are sometimes caught in the middle but unlike couples, they have no option of divorce. I propose that the domestic violence law should be made to allow children to divorce (for lack of a better word) their parents and, if possible, be adopted by a more loving or childless family . Children should not be sentenced to sixteen (girls) or eighteen years (boys) of marital bondage because of the incompatibility of their parents. We are all looking forward to a law that will protect the family unit as a whole and not tear them apart.

KPAKPO ALLOTEY NEWARK N.J.

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