My family and I said a very intense prayer for the supposedly kidnapped pregnant woman of Takoradi. Morning and evening we prayed that she would be rescued unscathed. Well, the prayer got answered because after all, we have her now. What I am not too sure about is whether we found her intact. Obviously, she is in a very bad state now. She may have lost a great deal of the sympathy she attracted from the public those few days while she remained ‘kidnapped’.
I suspect many people are now rather disappointed in her. Maybe a handful of the populace would even condemn her in the face and probably trade insults at her were she released to the public. I do not know what psychological trauma her dear husband and her own family members may be going through at the moment. The purpose of this writing is to court public sympathy and forgiveness for her instead of wanting to crucify her.
When I had the opportunity to pursue a PhD in theology, I chose to focus on human sexuality in Africa. I came to find in my research that sexuality issues do not normally bring us nourishment as God intended it to be, especially in Africa. Particularly problematic was the fact that we tend to be too silent about matters related to sexuality. We tend to forget that we are sexual beings through and through and that there is no single moment we cease to be sexual. Therefore, not talking about our sexuality is not talking about us.
In the second place, instead of making issues related to our femaleness and our maleness things that complement each other, we usually do the direct opposite. We would normally allow our maleness and femaleness to divide us to the point of drawing a wedge between us. This is so nasty in most African societies where women are sometimes treated as second-rate citizens and in a few isolated cases, like trash in a garbage bin.
The third challenge is the unfortunate case that our sexuality is often seen only in terms of procreation and nothing else. As a result, we do not often emphasize the legitimate nourishment we are supposed to derive from our sexual expression. This is to the extent that in some instances some women are denied the ecstasy their bodies are legitimately designed for even within the context of marriage.
Sometimes, in the majority of cases, this happens because many a man simply does not know how to serve satisfying sex to his wife. In a few of the cases, some women’s libidinal capacities have been seared by societal insistence that they are only tools of reproduction and that they are here only to give birth.
This last point tends to bite several women very sharply particularly in Africa. We still believe that every woman must give birth and, in fact, every woman can give birth. Those who remain childless for various reasons are made to go through hell in our communities. We would despise them and call them names. We wouldn’t simply let childless women be. When there is no child in the marriage, men are left off the hook. Women are made to bear the brunt.
My wife and I had one child in our marriage. When we were looking for more, she was the one who always went to see the gynaecologist. Not a single day was I invited by the doctor to come to be examined. Now looking back after these many years, I keep wondering, what if I had a low sperm count and that I was the cause; not my wife? But I have come to think this way only after my study and not before.
Far too often, wives suffer severely from the hands of their in-laws. Usually, their mothers and sisters in law – the very people who were supposed to understand them and lend them support tend to be ones who pester them and make them smell pepper. Some in-laws go to the extent of finding another wife for their sons or brothers and help collapse the marriage of the childless ‘sister’.
In many other instances, it is the husband of the childless woman who tortures her and makes her feel miserable and in-secured. Some men neglect their childless wives by denying them the attention and affection they legitimately need from their husbands. Some men may even go to the extent of humiliating her by calling her names or punishing her by bringing other women onto their matrimonial bed and beat her up if she dares talk about it. Some childless women have had to lose everything they toiled with their husbands to acquire simply because they were childless.
It is from this unfortunate standpoint that I call on the entire nation to view the sad case of Josephine Panyin Mensah. She is a victim of an African society that said that she could enjoy her marriage if and only if she became pregnant. Since she couldn’t get pregnant the normal way, she decided to get one her way. Unfortunately, her approach was so simplistic and fatal.
I cannot imagine what psychological trauma she finds herself in. Josephine may have suffered enough and needs a sane society to help her back into normalcy. We all need to forgive Panyin Mensah because if we had loved her unconditionally as a husband, in-laws, family relations, friends and neighbours, maybe she wouldn’t have thought of this stupid thing in the first place.
She said it somewhere that when she got pregnant, and before it was miscarried, her husband pampered and adored her. Since she dreaded the possible unpleasant treatment from her husband and maybe, the community, she hatched such a silly plan. It was bad and I condemn it in no uncertain terms. She made me waste the precious ears of God about something He knew was not a problem.
However, I am pleading on her behalf that we all forgive her, assure her that we are not angry with her and that we understand her. I plead that the First Lady, being an African woman with a clear understanding of what unpleasant cultural misfortunes women are often served in Africa, forgive Josephine and accept her back as a decent woman on behalf of all Ghanaian women.
I also plead that the President issues a statement to forgive her to end every possible psychological torture she may be going through now. Her desire was to contribute to populating society and she did the wrong way. I guess we can all forgive her and accept her back.
Finally, I ask that her husband and her neighbourhood should not ostracize her. Her husband should not divorce her if he is ever considering that in his subconscious state. Josephine has hurt you badly but forgive her and assure her of your unconditional acceptance. Forgiveness and acceptance would make Josephine better than any further punishment.
I say further punishment because, as far as I am concerned, she has punished herself enough already. Let us forgive her. And before anybody throws the next stone at her, let us understand that Africa doesn’t handle issues related to our sexuality in a way that brings nourishment to us. Issues related to our sexuality in terms of who we are as femaleness and maleness in Africa usually stinks. Let’s work on fixing these.
The writer is the Sekyere Presbytery Chairperson of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana, Asante Mampong
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