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Hands Off Aberash!!

The Monitor (Addis Ababa)
November 13, 1999
By Melakou Tegegn

Addis Ababa - I read Ayenew H. Selassie's "Being a Woman" with surprise. For one thing, I simply couldn't figure out what he wanted to say under such a high-sounding title.

Volumes can be written under such a title but for a newspaper article I had expected a piece that warrants the title. Nevertheless, I cannot hide my utter disgust for what he said about Aberash becasue it came as a terrible disappointment for an article that started off as sympathetic to women.

Personally, I found it unfathomable for I was just contemplating of writing to the BBC recommending Aberash as "my African of the millennium". Truly, anybody can consider any person to be her/his African of the millennium from the perspective that he/she thinks is important for Africa.

My perspective here is the gender perspective not gender in the abstract but from the angle of violence unleashed against women. The UN development report had it that the position of women had worsened everywhere.

Let me add that in Africa the situation of women is getting worse by the day. Without going into the economic, political and social aspects of the degradation of women let me just dwell on violence against women for that is why I was prompted to write in the first place.

In Africa the violence that women face is extremely terrible. Nothing seems to have stopped it.

In fact, the more the African state pledges to have the law to be respected the more the violence against women seems to be unleashed, the more the euphemism "law enforcement" becomes so blatant as the law enforcement agencies themselves sitting idle in face of a brutal crime. Such is the most blatant hypocrisy that the African state system is based on as the double standard of the dominant discourse pushes the issue of violence against women from the public to the private domain.

And nothing displays so starkly the underdevelopment, moral hypocrisy, the lies, the filth that African society is deeply submerged in as the apathy towards the violence against women. One can just conclude that the degraded position of women in Africa and the hypocritical attitude towards them symbolize the underdevelopment and moral impoverishment in the continent.

Violence against women in Africa has been going on for long. The attempt to stop the violence has just started in the face of the most shameful resistance that passes as tradition, culture and sometimes as religion.

In the mean time women are suffering by the day. The battering at home, rape, abduction, genital mutilation, child marriage, arranged marriage and being married off to men with ages of their grandfathers still continues unabated.

The more the population grows the more women are affected. So long as society oppresses women it perpetuates its own underdevelopment, so long as it unleashes violence on women it unleashes violence against itself, battering itself and pushing down itself to the ashes.

The AIDS pandemic has added more misery to women. Nobody seems to care who really the vector of the AIDS epidemic is.

The spread of AIDS has a lot to do with the sexual behaviour of people, i.e. not staying steady with a single partner.

The African male is well known for his promiscuity and therefore for his reckless sexual behaviour. Men are generally reckless for their sexual behaviour than women.

On top of this, what is indeed shocking is the AIDS virus is transmitted as a result of rape. Innocent women falling victim to rapists with the virus end up not only being brutalized but also certainly dying of AIDS.

This is the magnitude of the problem caused by violence against women. In dealing with such a problem, definitely we are talking about a crime tantamount to killing someone.

Women who are raped by men with AIDS will definitely die. Women who defend themselves from rape are at the same time trying to save their lives.

Offense and preemptive action is also the best defense, as we all know. Let me just ask Ayenew H.

Selassie: if you were a woman and if somebody is trying to rape you and you certainly cannot tell whether or not the man has AIDS, would you just accept to die? Or will you strike first before you die? And what will you advise your wife, girlfriend or sister to do under such circumstances? I am sure you won't think this would be taking the matter "too far" as you said in your article. Indeed, rape is increasingly being considered as a crime punishable by death.

Recently, a young South African wrote a novel with a message that rape should be punishable by death. In the era of AIDS how else can rape be considered other than a crime deserving a death penalty? In dealing with rape we are in the main talking about a man as the rapist and a woman as the victim.

[The other way round is extremely unlikely, and I wonder how a woman can even rape a man by force.] Men usually don't seem to realize the consequences of rape. If a columnist of Ayenew's caliber is one of such men, what can be expected of an ordinary man in the street not to speak of the millions of bums around.

In this era of AIDS, rape can cause certain death to a woman. Whether or not a rapist is conscious of this fact, he is, as far as a woman [the potential victim] is concerned, as dangerous as any wild beast.

There is no discussion, no dialogue, no law no nothing when a hyena attacks you. You respond, you defend yourself, and the best defense is to kill the heyena.

By doing that, you will save your life and prevent the heyena from attacking another citizen some other time. By letting him kill you, you will also endanger society by letting such a beast at large.

If Ayenew wants to understand the consequences of rape and why women speak with bitterness about it, he only has to put himself in a woman's position and examine the whole thing. If he does that, I am sure he will be one of those who will definitely recommend not only rape be considered as a crime punishable by death but even to wage armed struggle against rapists! Ayenew's comment that Aberash and her supporters have "gone too far" is indeed bordering on an attempt to rationalize rape.

Aberash is the standard-bearer of those who should end violence against women. Hands off Aberash!!

Copyright (c) 1999 The Monitor - Addis Ababa. Distributed via Africa News Online ( For information about the content or for permission to redistribute, publish or use for broadcast, contact the publisher.

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