In a sample of 13 African countries between 1999 and 2004, 52% of women surveyed say they think that wife-beating is justified if she neglects the children; around 45% think it’s justified if she goes out without telling the husband or argues with him; 36% if she refuses sex, and 30% if she burns the food.
And this is what the women think.
The above statistics come from Steven D. Levitt over at Freakonomics. In light of my college's Take Back the Night week, I couldn't have come across this statistic at a better time. We ought not to forget that women's rights issues are global issues. It is very important to deal with these issues at home (wherever home may be for those of you reading this), but we cannot forget our fellow men and women around the globe. Women need to stand in solidarity with each other against the abuses of male supremacy. And men too must be part of the movement - men must stand up and tell their brothers that the power they (we) continue to wield and abuse is unjustified, inhuman, and cruel.
Levitt goes on to remark that "We live in a strange world." But there is nothing strange about these facts. American women face abuse and oppression every day and we choose to blind ourselves to it. We look down our noses at the "bizarre" or "strange" or "exotic" customs held in other countries and ignore the fact that similar things are going on in our own neighborhoods - maybe even in our own homes. We cannot just blame these problems on the "strange world" we live in. The world only remains "strange" when we let it.
But what can we do about it? There is a fine line between promoting and defending human rights, and cultural imperialism. How can we educate, inform, and spark interest without simply enforcing "our" way of doing things? We cannot export Western notions of feminism to foreign cultures monolithically, but we can spark movements and debate. We cannot, however, attempt to lead or control these movements. Women in Africa and other postcolonial regions need to find their own power within their own cultural space, but this does not mean that we cannot respectfully support these movements.