Christianity Oppresses Women — Prof Mararike. 23/7/2017

Published by SUNDAYNEWS

PROMINENT academic and University of Zimbabwe (UZ) lecturer Professor Claude Mararike has ripped into Christianity, blaming the religion for the oppression of women and consequent dominance by men in African societies.

Speaking at a Southern Africa Aids Dissemination Service (SAfAids) regional symposium on gender norms transformation in Harare last week Prof Mararike described the church as a place where gender disparities were escalated. He said women in pre-colonial Africa had better statuses which they were, however, gradually stripped off with the coming in of the Christian religion. The renowned academic posited that in some pre-colonial African societies, women held significant decision making positions in both politics and religion before the advent of Christianity and colonisation.

“Before the white man came in women were leaders. Now this changed somehow to a point today where we only have three female chiefs. Before the 1940s there were women leaders, Nehoreka, Charewa chieftainship in the Mutoko District. In Mutare area there were nine women who were leaders. Chikanga Township was named after one of them,” he said.

Added Prof Mararike, “Ancestral spirits were also significant in decision making and most of them were females. Things changed drastically and women gradually did not take part in the decision making. They were helped in that position by Christianity”.

Prof Mararike said the sociolinguistic arrangement of the language used in churches which portrays God as of a male gender had largely contributed to the view that women should be subordinate to men.

“The male figure, baba/ubaba is a symbol of authority in a family. In Christiandom, God is similarly referred to as Father who art in heaven. The sociolinguistic arrangement of such language generally affects how people view the sexes and is therefore part of the politics of gender in which men seem to dominate in most societies,” he argued.

Prof Mararike said the in the African religion, particularly in Zimbabwe, the language portrayed God as belonging to a particular gender. He said addressing sociolinguistic arrangement of such gender insensitive language in churches and society at large would be the first step to attaining equality between men and women.

“The language of Baba vedu varikudenga/uBaba wethu osezulwini, our Father who art in heaven is found in Christianity. In African religion the word he or she was not used, there is no such thing. It’s only in Christianity where you talk about our Father in heaven. Some church leaders are even referred to as Father. We need to address that language. Would we want to say uBaba wethu osezulwini/Baba vedu varikudenga or simply Mwari wedu arikudenga/Uthixo wethu usezulwini. The latter would be better because if you say our Father who Art in Heaven, there must also be a mother,” he said.

Prof Mararike also touched on how language that is used in sex, courtship and marriage portrayed women as objects of men’s pleasure.

“In the language which relates to courtship, marriage and sex men are the subjects who do and women are the objects who are done. That language needs to be addressed. Men court women and women are courted by men, in a series of encounters which are both verbal duels and battles of wits.

Eventually the men convince the woman, and the woman abandons her protests and objections and gives in to the man’s demands. For a man to be loved, it comes after a long struggle and as a form of surrender or capitulation on the part of woman. To the man then, to be loved is victory and this gives him and his ego a big boost,” he argued.

“Even pregnancy is referred to in terms of a man making it happen and the woman then becomes a victim or object of the man’s action. The logical conclusion from all these examples is that indigenous people view sex as a form of invasion and conquest in which men annihilate women,” he said.

Prof Mararike said such language needed to be changed to cultivate equality between men and women.

“The point I’m making here is that if the language of courtship gives men that position, if the language of marriage gives men that position and if the language of sex gives man that position we need to address that language. The language of marriage I talked about requires some thinking. What is it that we want to do with the language and women’s roles?” he quizzed.

The Symposium, which ran under the banner “Youth Changing The River’s Flow” drew over 300 participants from countries in the Eastern and Southern African (ESA) region.

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