Tag Archives: child marriage

Whose virginity is it anyway?

26 Oct

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By Nyasha Gloria Sengayi

So I was having drinks with a hopeful who had so much potential of winning the heart of this stubborn woman. In my head, as I laughed with this guy, thoughts were reeling to a point where I even convinced myself that he was the funniest, most intelligent, most handsome, sweetest man left on earth… but that was until he asked me a question that led to the writing of this article.

All of a sudden, the guy decided to take our conversation from discussing the weather and other small talk issues to another level and asked me a question.

“So Nyasha tell me, are you still a virgin?” asked the Moron of the Century. I asked him to repeat himself.

I’d like to believe that I pick my men well but this guy became a failed project the moment he asked me that question. I was pissed off but maintained my cool and continued to eat my salad and drink my lemon water, both of which I decided to pay for the minute I was asked that question. I remained silent.

“Did I touch a raw nerve?” – another misplaced question

“No, I don’t have raw nerves, mine are just critical,” I responded.

“I’m afraid I don’t get you,” he replied.

Unfortunately, all men who go out there virginity hunting and testing don’t get it as all they want is to be the Nobel Laureate on the Commission of Virginity Breaking! I don’t know why these men give a fuss about our virginity more than we women do; I’ve heard this question from many men and I really find it offensive for a guy to have the nerve to interrogate my virginity status without even getting to know who I really am.

So all the time we are talking, he is thinking about sex? Is that the value he has placed on me? Why is it that every man wants to scramble for a piece of my hymen (or rather every hymen)? It seems like a ploy to keep women in the pit of ransom.

For a while, I was the judgemental girlfriend who had no idea why my friends were ‘giving up’ their hymens (as if there’s a cost attached to them). In this regard, I was perhaps no different to the men I now encounter. But my thinking has since matured.

The idea of breaking

In an expression of untamed egos, the language used when men sleep with a virgin expresses a disturbing power dynamic. Men speak of ‘breaking’, ‘ripping’, ‘tearing’, (wakamuboora here, ndakabvarura), and use a whole lot of other crude terminology. As a general principle, things that we break are fragile and powerless, so what these men, in effect, are saying is that our hymens are exactly that – powerless and fragile! Ladies, are we really that fragile?

You will rarely hear a woman saying, “I threw away my virginity”; we give it and entrust it to someone (in different circumstances where there’s consent). And that’s what women always seem to do; we always give a part of ourselves, no matter how much it costs us. For me, therefore, every man who asks about my virginity first before getting to know my surname has one aim: to break and disempower me.

Mapping my hymen

Having been born with my hymen hidden somewhere in the territory of my vagina, I’ve always wondered why it was placed there. Its location presents so many questions to me as a young woman; questions like, “Why is my vagina there?” and “Who has a claim to it?”

I think about it a lot, particularly about its safety down there. For most of us, the vagina is the last part of the body that we want to interact with outside of sexual pleasure; most of us have never gone down on a mirror just to check out what’s popping ‘down there’! For that reason I’ve heard many stories about women who have no idea how their vagina looks; who have, after a stint with an STI or irregular discharge, been forced – only then – to inspect themselves. At that point, however, they are not so sure if that is really how their vagina ought to look.

For other women, it’s their husbands or sexual partners who get the first sight of that part of their body; reflecting on all of this, my question would be: How do you trust someone to ‘break’ the hymen located in a space you are not familiar with yourself?

As for me, I can map my vagina in my sleep! It is who I am, the root of my identity, the heartbeat of my passion, the pulse of the feminism I have nurtured in my life, it is me. So I’m fully aware – and in total control – of everything that goes on ‘down there’. My friend laughed at me the other day when I went on a Google search to find out how a vagina should be properly cleaned and taken care of. But for me, it is of paramount importance that I know the ‘ins and outs’ – literally and figuratively – of this precious part of my body.

It is from this perspective that I then wonder why men think the easiest thing any woman can do is to simply open her legs for them so that they can enjoy breaking her hymen, without the slightest bit of understanding that the vagina – with or without the hymen – is a complex organ whose functions remain the same.

If the hymen is no longer there, is there a difference between a virgin and a non-virgin? Where is the difference? Why and how does the experience of sleeping with a virgin elevate a man, if at all? Where is the benefit?

Transactional identity

When will our men understand that not everything about women is sexually transactional? We are not a commodity and shouldn’t be treated as such. It’s just a hymen; seriously, I don’t see which part of life you will miss if you don’t have an experience with one. That just boils down to misplaced egos.

While I value my hymen, I don’t see it giving me much after I lose it. It won’t even guarantee me marital happiness. How many women who’ve gotten married as virgins have gone on to get divorced? Let’s be very realistic; how many have been infected with HIV in the comfort of their homes thinking they were safe with the one man who ‘broke’ their virginity? And also, how many women who got married as virgins have had extra marital affairs?

What really are we looking for – virginity or character? Personally, I think the vagina, and not your hymen, gives you your identity; any attempt to lay a claim on my hymen ignores who it belongs to.

It’s my hymen!

I just want to let the men know that keeping your virginity does not always mean you are keeping it for them. That is a misconception based on what men think they are owed. In case they didn’t know, some of us relate to our vagina outside of pleasing men sexually.

Growing up, advice given to us by our parents and other relatives told us to preserve ourselves and our hymens for our husbands. While this is a valuable practice, the truth is that that little piece of meat is mine! Even my parents don’t own it! If it belonged to my husband, then why didn’t God just place it on him?!

My hymen is on my body for a reason. I should decide how it goes and to who. Placing emphasis on the hymen as something we owe to our men displaces our power of choice. I am not saying women should sleep around, but I am saying that if I’m going to keep this hymen intact, that’s purely for my benefit.

The man I will give it to should never be mistaken in thinking that I have preserved myself for him. For me, it’s not like that. I don’t appreciate the whole world checking my virginity status for the sake of massaging their egos; that culture should end this minute! Surely it’s more beneficial to get HIV and STI tests done than to monitor a woman’s virginal state.

What all this drama has done is open new business opportunities for people who are now inventing virginity soaps and other products. Who ever thought that the hymen could be manufactured? And the pity and double standard of it all is that women hardly check men’s virginity status; in fact, we’d be scared to come across a male virgin.

So just before I left the table and paid for my meal (I had to argue to pay for myself and thank God, I had ordered a salad!) I responded and said:

“If your father had checked your mother’s virginity status, you probably wouldn’t be here today. Can you please confirm that for me!”

And with that, I walked off, not looking back.

Mapping my vagina helped me appreciate a lot of things about myself as a woman. Throughout my research on my vagina I have learnt that the things that you draw intimacy from are the very things you know everything about. I find my vagina a very complex organ which is able to shape how my identity is defined out there. So in that regard, it should be respected and dignified whether you are getting some or not from it.

At this point I wish all men would have an appreciation of the heart of our reproductivity and how much respect should be awarded to it. How then do you break something you respect and love?

———–
Nyasha is a feminist working with a young women’s organisation in Harare. She takes an interest in exploring world issues affecting women globally and is working on opening space for visual documentation of research on the status of women in Zimbabwe. Currently, she is writing her first book.

*Article reproduced courtesy of http://www.herzimbabwe.co.zw

Happy International Day of the Girl!

11 Oct

IDOTG pic
As you celebrate the International Day of the Girl, here are some facts about African girls to ponder! Don’t forget to make 3 people in your life aware of these issues and what they can do to help empower girls.

• Discrimination in the home is entrenched along gender roles where boys and girls internalize the gender responsibility they should play. On average, a normal working day for an African girl is between 20 to 30 hours a week.

• Approximately 140 million girls have undergone FGM and 2 million are subjected to it every year with a higher tendency of performing FGM on younger and younger girls. It is performed on infants and adult women but mostly on girls between the age of 4 and 12. The highest prevalence of FGM is found in Africa where 28 African countries practice it.

• Early marriage is most common in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Forty four percent of 20-24 year old women in West Africa were married under the age of 15 and all decisions on timing of marriage and spouse was made by fathers.

• It is often the responsibility of girls and young women to fetch water often from long distances. A study in Kenya identified that women and girls carry from 20-25 litres over 3.5 km for one or two hours daily.

• In many African countries, poverty and cultural practices often mean that it is traditional for boys and men to eat first and girls to eat leftovers. When food is scarce this can often mean females have very little to eat or nothing at all. Malnutrition will often mean that girls are anaemic which can lead to problems during pregnancy, maternal death, exhaustion and loss of productivity.

• An estimated 7.3 million young women are living with HIV/AIDS compared to 4.5million men and in Sub-Saharan Africa, 59 % of people living with the HIV virus are women.

• A young person under 15 is said to contract AIDS every 15 seconds.

• West and Central Africa accounts for the highest percentage of both girls and boys involved in child labour. This is followed by Sub-Saharan Africa, Eastern and Southern Africa.

• Approximately 1.2 million children every year are victims of trafficking internationally and within local borders.

• 80% of trafficked children are girls.

• 90% of children trafficked from West and Central Africa are girls who work as domestic workers.

• Every year 1000 girls between 14 and 24 are taken from Mozambique to work as sex workers in South Africa.

• Rape has been used as a weapon of war against millions of girls and women caught up in conflict. In Rwanda 1992-1995, it is estimated that half a million women were raped during the genocide and 67% were subsequently infected with HIV. In Sierra Leone young girls were particularly singled out for rape. Many did not survive and approximately 70 to 90% contracted HIV.

Sourcce:
Plan International
Unicef

Stop the rape of our children – sign the petition!

21 Jul

Nigeria
On Tuesday 16 July 2013, the Nigerian Federal Senate approved the marriage of under-aged children in the country. We at Every African Women are outraged that once again girls’ rights are being openly violated under the guise of culture and religion.

The new law sets aside the constitutional requirement that a child must be at least 18 years old to enter into an agreement of marriage. Supporters of the under-age law include Senator Yerima Ahmad Sani who himself recently married a 13-year-old Egyptian girl. In justifying his actions he stated that the constitutional stipulation of a minimum age was at variance with Islamic law. How convenient then that the Senate’s actions have now legalised his actions!

Sign our petition to the Nigerian National Assembly demanding that they stop the legalisation of child marriage. Pass it on to everyone you know, man or woman, and stop the legal rape of our children and little sisters!

SIGN THE PETITION NOW