Academic journal article Journal of Emerging Trends in Educational Research and Policy Studies

Still Caught-Up in the Cultural Abyss: The Plight of the Girl Child

Academic journal article Journal of Emerging Trends in Educational Research and Policy Studies

Still Caught-Up in the Cultural Abyss: The Plight of the Girl Child

Article excerpt

Abstract

The study sought to establish the prevalence of harmful cultural practices which disadvantage women in general and the girl child in particular. The research was carried out in Huchu, a remote place in Gokwe South District. The Feminist Sociological theory informed the research. A descriptive survey and ethnography were used as research designs. It was established that despite all the sensitisation programmes that seem to have enveloped the social, political and economic realms, intended goals are far from being realised as harmful cultural practices still abound. These cultural practices include marrying offyoung girls to affluent persons, chiramu/sibale, chimutsamapfihwa, incest and intra-denominational marriages. Also significant was the impact of patriarchy on the vulnerability of the girl child. Incest was also practiced though in a distorted way between fathers-in-law and daughters-in-law. The most prevalent harmful cultural practice was noted to be intra-denominational marriage of young girls especially brothers-in-law marrying sisters-in-law. Stakeholders are urged to empower the girl child to have freedom of choice despite all religious or cultural pressures. The conservatism of communities has to be broken into. There is need for a functional and binding legal framework that protects the vulnerable girl child. In addition, the law enforcement agencies and civic groups with related scope of operations have to decentralise to these remote areas. Media coverage also has to be spruced up in these areas to broaden the coverage base. Quite significant therefore, is the fact that this research empowers all the stake holders to redirect their efforts to address the plight of the girl child in a social system where abuse is sanctioned by society. This paper is particularly significant in that it urges policy makers and the community at large to begin to walk their talk.

Keywords: harmful cultural practices, intra-denominational marriages, child abuse, girl child vulnerability, polygamy, gender disparities, patriarchy, lobola

INTRODUCTION

Post independent Zimbabwe has made remarkable strides in addressing issues of gender inequality. To some sections, addressing the skewness of gender relations is a myth, while others cherish the impact which electronic media, printed word and live campaigns have had (Mutsvangwa, 2010). The other view contends that modernity has distorted African culture deeming it primitive and uncivilized. Modern civilisation has trashed African culture as evil and demonic. Egalitarians see it as a barrier to equal rights whereas philanthropists and development theorists see it as an impediment to development (Somanje, 2005). Education and religion have been used as social transformative agents reconstructing our culture to what it is like today. One wonders if the transformation has benefited all communities. Our culture seems to have been adulterated so much that what we call 'African culture' is a distorted mirage of original culture. Some communities are caught up in conflicts between tradition and modernity. McFadden (1997) (ed) notes that, most African traditional practices were known for sexual explicitness, which was meant to prepare teenagers for future life, marriage, birth and passage from one stage to the next. Sexual innuendoes which were inherent in traditional art such as dances, songs and drawings have been misinterpreted and undervalued in contemporary society. The sense of pride, identity and belongingness which used to characterise our 'ubuntu' measured against some forgone cultural practices but reactivated in another version largely by sections of the community adamant to positive change led the researchers to undertake this research.

These cultural practices in general constitute childsexual abuse whose gravity is glossed over by culture. Despite UNICEF (2001)'s advocacy for a multi-sectoral approach to address this topical issue, remote areas devoid of electronic media and printed word have witnessed a phenomenal increase in child sexual abuse. …

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