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Women, Traditional Values And Cultural Practices

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Since the ancient times being a woman has never been an easy sailing thing smooth flowing task. Women are raised to be wives they are constantly told that they can have ambition but not too much. Traditional values and cultural practices work more for the men in the society than does for women. Every society in the world has specific traditional cultural practices and beliefs, some work as the benefits to all members of the society, while others serve as an oppression to a specific group such as women. These traditional practices include early and forced marriages (ukuthwala), virginity testing, widow’s rituals and levirate and sororate unions (ukungena). No matter their harmful nature and their infringement of national human rights laws, these practices persist because no one dares to question or challenge them and therefore take on as a form of morality to those practicing them.

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Africa is a continent that is diverse, with different cultural practices and traditional values that are still being practiced. Women are often caught in situations where they are forced to undertake definite traditional practices as part of their society culture and tradition, with the status that is subordinate that women have in most African societies, they are not granted any opinions to these matters. Women are challenged with bigger challenges because of their status that is subordinate in comparison with the males. The virgin testingVirginity testing is practiced mostly in South Africa. Virginity testing is the practice and process of checking the genitals of women to determine if they are active sexually. It made on the supposition that the hymen of the woman will be torn only because the woman is sexually active. It is a very contentious practice, because not only is it not accurate but because of the suggestions it makes for the women tested.

There are two beliefs of teachings with regards to virginity testing. One belief submits that it serves as a form of sex education and it imposes abstinence from sexual activities out of wedlock. Women are told to never allow men to take away their pride by having sex with them out of wedlock. It is a popular belief that women will abstain from sexual activities because they fear being discovered that they are no longer virgins. This not a shame for only the women but for her family entirely as well. It is a belief that virginity testing greatly reduces the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, HIV/AIDS, and it reduces unplanned pregnancies of teenagers that lead to school dropouts. The other belief holds that the intention of the practice of virginity testing might be good, but its consequence side it is bias towards the two genders. It does not treat women and men equally. There are inference for gender inequality and human rights. The practice also threatens and objectify women so that fathers may get full amount of lobola on marriage. This belief argues that the practice of virginity testing puts the whole responsibility for sexual activities, abstinence and countering the spread of sexually transmitted diseases solely on the shoulders of women, who are victim of gender inequality and gender violence in many other respects. Women are expected to maintain the level of morality that they should be married to honorable men who have deflowered and/or impregnated a string of women victims, and might possibly even have contracted HIV.

On the other hand, virginity testing serves as a threat of discrimination against women who are no longer virgins (who in many situations may have been raped). The reasons advanced for virginity testing do not focus on prevention and protection. Forced marriages (ukuthwala)Ukuthwala is a form of abduction that involves the kidnapping of a woman by a man and or peers with the purpose of forcing the woman’s family to support marriage negotiations. In ancient Africa ukuthwala was a pardoned, albeit abnormal, route to marriage targeted at certain women of marriageable age. It did not involve raping or having any form of sexual activity with the woman until the marriage requirements have been met. Ukuthwala was not performed, however with indemnity it incurred responsibility for the culprit in the form of the payment of cows to the father or the legal guardian of the woman. Today ukuthwala involves kidnapping, rape and forced marriage of woman by grown men old enough to be their grandfathers. Virginity testing is contradicted by this practice. Ukuthwala burdens the woman with the responsibility of being a wife with a husband and required to have children and in-laws to look after. It is a health hazard, with problems ranging from HIV and other sexual transmitted diseases because no one is aware of the diseases the other partner might haveSociety development depends on its people, this include the health, education and knowledge, resources and skills controlled by these people. Ukuthwala undermines the woman’s access to those resources it indirectly undermines society development. There is a link between a lack of development, poverty and education. Ukuthwala denies women with opportunities to develop and educate themselves.

Further-more studies indicates that the women from poor families are mostly victims of ukuthwala. Their lack of underdevelopment and education, due to ukuthwala deepens their poverty and perpetuates the cycle of poverty. In many instances the children born into poverty also tend to be poor. This contributes to the cycle of poverty in the societies, particularly rural societies, where ukuthwala is rife. Levirate and sororate unions (Ukungena)According to the laws of Recognition of Customary Marriages Act 120 of 1998 (RCMA), a customary marriage must be negotiated and entered into in accordance with customary law. Customary marriages involve polygamous practices. Polygamy includes levirate and sororate unions, even though the RCMA is silent about this. As it is a cultural practice, it is still practiced by societies. If the inheritance of deceased’s spouse is conducted according to the custom of that society, and the widower or widow and the deceased spouse’s relatives consent, then that marriage is a valid marriage under the Recognition of Customary Marriages Act. Women from KwaZulu Natal and the Eastern Cape that widows are forced to marry the brother or any male relative of the deceased husband.

The widow is told to choose a husband without her knowing which one she is choosing because she chooses from the sticks that she is given to choose from, and whichever the stick that she chooses from will determine who the husband is. If she dares to refuse to marry one of the men selected from the stick, she is banished from her home, and she loses custody to everything including all her inheritance. The consent might therefore be coerced or excessively influenced by family members or the society. If the woman agrees to marry the male relative she picked from the sticks due to fear of what might happen to her, then the marriage is not valid. But what are inferences for woman of invalidating the marriage. Widow’s ritualsWidowhood is a clearly defined social role for women, that is associated with prescribed institutionalized cultural and religious norms and the concomitant social role occurs. However, altogether different set of norms applies to men upon death of their wives.

There is a large-scale discrimination against widows including the imposition of burdens, obligations and the with-holding of benefits, opportunities, as well as regular harassment of widows in the context of the household, community, state and market place. A widower’s status remains unchanged upon the death of the wife but a woman’s status shifts drastically (downwards) after the death of her husband. A decrease in social status not only has implications for women’s livelihood, quality of life and economic status, but also increases their vulnerability to abuse, harassment, gender-based violence and discrimination, as well as their ability to assert their rights. The danger of these harmful traditional practices is that the women’s rights to personal safety and well-being are violated. All of these traditional values and cultural practices are still very much practiced in some societies, women’s rights and feelings are much not considered because at the end of the day they were groomed from a young age that marriage is the prize every woman should have.

15 Jun 2020

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