Letters from TZ

Beating down the barriers

It is indeed an amazing statistic, but 30 per cent of Tanzanian women in the 15 – 49 age bracket believe that a husband is entitled to beat his wife should she refuse to have sex with him. 18 per cent believe that a wife deserves a beating for burning the evening meal. This from the 2010 Tanzania Demographic and Health Survey (TDHS).

It is astounding that women feel that men should have the right to lay hands on them in any circumstance whatsoever, and yet 54 per cent feel that a man should beat his wife for a variety of other reasons including arguing with him, going out without telling him and neglecting his children.

Remember that the youngest women surveyed were just 15-years-old. And that would be shocking enough were it not for the fact that 2 in 5 Tanzanian women have experienced physical violence from a husband, partner or boyfriend since they were teenagers.

Women are physically abused from so early on that by the time they reach marriageable age, they have began to believe that man-on-woman violence is normal. Not only do they cede control over their own bodies, but their hearts and minds too. The TDHS also found that while women cower in the shadows, men extend their area of influence to exert mental and emotional control. Almost half of the women surveyed reported that their husbands or partners insisted on knowing where they were at all times. More than 60 per cent said that their husbands or partners got angry when they talked to other men.

These numbers are outrageous. To make matters worse, the recent release of the Form Four examination results revealed a 60 per cent failure rate. As is usually the case, the boys performed better than the girls. So not only is this generation of women disadvantaged in the job market, they are also disadvantaged in the home. It is hard to imagine what lies ahead for women who are disenfranchised even before they face the gender-biased realities of the big, bad world.

And the Oscar goes to…

So. Athlete and double amputee Oscar Pistorius will face charges of premeditated murder for killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp after claiming that he thought she was a burglar. He shot her multiple times through a bathroom door. Since the news broke, the paralympian has been painted as a gun-toting, steroid popping Lothario, with a history of violence against women.

Indeed, in 2009, the Nike endorsed sportsman spent a night in the police cells after a woman complained to police that he had assaulted her during a party at his house. He was charged with assault but later released without a warning.

Days after Pistorius was charged with murder, Nike dropped him from their roster. The company was one of his main sponsors. In a statement to the press, it announced the death of their mutually beneficial deal. “Nike has suspended its contract with Oscar Pistorius,” the statement said. “We believe Oscar Pistorius should be afforded due process and we will continue to monitor the situation closely.” Sunglasses manufacturer Oakley had been first off the block to suspend its sponsorship of the athlete, saying last week that it had suspended its contract with the athlete, effective immediately. Pistorius was originally reported to earn billions of shillings a year from his various endorsement deals.

But just like Nike stable mate Tiger Woods, the deals he struck at the height of his super stardom have vanished with his fall from grace. Interestingly, both Pistorius and Woods were knocked off their sporting pedestals by scandals that involved women. As the media peels back the Pistorius mask, it is becoming clear that his super human abilities were propped up by blades of clay.

Just as was the case with Woods. The great strength of both men is tempered by debilitating weakness. A thorn in the flesh, if you will.

Pistorius now faces a death sentence, and watching him in the dock these past few days, he has been the picture of a broken man. If he was putting on a show, he certainly deserves an Oscar. But if those tears were real, one wonders if he is mourning the death of one of the woman he loved, or the possible demise of his beloved career.