Salone News

Ponder My Thoughts

23 November 2018 at 00:09 | 1820 views

By Andrew Keili, Freetown, Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone, like many other countries is immersed in deep cultural discrimination against women by traditional customs and laws which must be overcome in order to achieve gender equality. Such discrimination, sometimes done under the guise of actually favouring women is sometimes sinister and often downright dangerous for women.

A case in point is the observation of a reporter in Kuwait. She had done a story on gender roles in Kuwait several years before the gulf war and noted that women normally walked about ten feet behind their husbands. She returned to Kuwait after the war and observed that men now walked several yards behind their wives. She approached one of the women for an explanation. "This is marvelous", she said. "What enabled women here to achieve this reversal of roles? The Kuwaiti woman sadly replied. "Land mines". What a way to show women they were now empowered!
I was recently drawn to a story I heard over SLBC radio about two women locked up for domestic violence against their husbands in Kenema -Yes, it is not a mistake-against their husbands!

This has been well captured by Saffa Moiba, writing in Awoko. For the avoidance of doubt I will reproduce the report, courtesy of Awoko-“Two women convicted of psychological and emotional abuse.”

“Two women have been sentenced to 3-months imprisonment or pay a fine of Le500,000 for psychological and emotional abuse contrary to Section 2(1)( c ) of the Domestic Violence Act of 2007. Hawa Sesay of Nekabo in the Nongowa Chiefdom in Kenema who is married to Amadu Jalloh and Fatmata Barrie of Torkpumbu in Kenema who is married to Abass Bah. Magistrate Alhaji Sulaiman Koroma sentenced Hawa Sesay after she left her husband for a year and married another man in Weima, Malegohun Chiefdom. The second accused, Fatmata Barrie, was found guilty of abandoning her homemaking duties, stressing her husband and making him unhappy. Both accused women pleaded not guilty to the charge against them and argued that they abandoned their husbands because they were no longer active in bed. The court tried and found both accused persons guilty of the offence. The matter was prosecuted by PC 13537 Mansaray Abass from the Legal Justice and Support Department of the Kenema Police division.”

Hawa had left her husband for one year and married another man. Fatmata “abandoned her homemaking duties, stressing her husband and making him unhappy”. The source of unhappiness for both women? -they had abandoned their husbands because “they were no longer active in bed”. Magistrate Alhaji Sulaiman Koroma who found both women guilty appears to be a hard man. It is surprising that even though the reverse is done on a daily basis to our women the men are often allowed to go free. There are countless cases like this involving men that are not followed through by the Family Support Unit of the police. It looks like in this case Hawa and Fatmata have turned the tables upside down on the men who had made them unhappy because of their non-performance. It is also surprising that Hawa who had got into another marriage was not charged for another crime often committed by men-bigamy-or was it a part-time marriage?

The Domestic Violence Act, 2007, which is cited in this case is “an Act to suppress domestic violence, to provide protection for the victims of domestic violence and to provide for other related matters.”. The particular offence cited is for “emotional, verbal or psychological abuse, including any conduct that makes another person feel constantly unhappy, humiliated, ridiculed, afraid or depressed or to feel inadequate or worthless”. The “poor husbands” must have felt “unhappy, humiliated, ridiculed and depressed and in fairness to them, unlike other husbands, they did not run off and marry other wives but reported to the police-brave men! Someone opined to me that it was because perhaps they felt “inadequate. This is a strange case that has got many women up in arms. What is we were to report all the men who inflicted “emotional, verbal or psychological abuse, including any conduct that makes another person feel constantly unhappy, humiliated, ridiculed, afraid or depressed or to feel inadequate or worthless” on their wives and they were sent to the correctional center by a Magistrate ?”, they reason. “Ya go do”?

It is pleasing to note that Magistrates are getting tough also on law and order issues. In another story in Awoko-“Four youths accused of public defecation by FCC”, FCC is now serious about arresting “Number 2 bombers.”. According to the story “Four young men were recently caught defecating in a prohibited area, according to the Freetown City Council (FCC). They were charged with Prohibited Use of Public Place contrary to Section 4 of the FCC bylaws. Mohamed Kargbo, Mohamed Lebbie, Mohamed Bangura, and Kabba Musa were found defecating on Regent Street under the Ogugu Bridge in central Freetown. They were caught in the act by officers of the FCC and were taken to the Eastern Police Station. The FCC bylaw states: “No person should urinate or defecate in any street, public place or unauthorized place”. “
The four accused appeared before Magistrate Santigie Bangura of Court No. 1, pleaded guilty and were sent to the Male Correctional Centre on Pademba Road.
I am sure I can be excused for discussing issues of bowel disengagement but it is so important we have to talk about it. I will try to be as civilised as middle class British refer with a stiff upper lip to a "wee" as "Number 1" and bowel emptying as "Number 2". I have written in this column before about the number 2 problem which is serious and we are well aware of the health implications.

In Freetown, especially, sanitation problems abound in well-developed communities which are surrounded by shanty houses, many without toilet facilities. We applaud several projects on floor to address the "Number 2" problem. Thanks to some NGOs which are helping out some communities have been declared Open Defecation Free (ODF). Some NGOs are carrying out massive education campaigns for people to stop using streams and backyards as toilets. We need to have sensitisation campaigns and more facilities. The sceptic may very well ask-Where are the sanitary inspectors of old? Why can we not make the "Number 2" problem a law and order issue with punitive measures? What are our long terms plans for central sewage systems in urban areas?

It is good to see the FCC pushing for having more toilets because in all fairness to the public, what if one really gets stuck to address a “number 2” problem in town? We know what most people especially do with “number 1” but I pity the women who have to find innovative ways to solve their problem.
These difficulties do not however absolve these “convicts” of blame. Under a bridge? -bo una nor try! This is too much. I am certain they must have been repeated offenders. The morale of the story-don’t mess around with FCC-there is a new Sheriff in town. FCC is bent on sorting out the “number 2” problem or are they. In any case if all offenders were to be rounded up and sent to Pademba Road, we will be asking ourselves Ya go do?

The budget debate
Who says Parliament cannot be entertaining? The contributions to the budget speech by Parliamentarians have been enlightening. Whatever side of the political divide one finds himself or herself there can be no denying that the Finance Minister was faced with tough choices in preparing his budget. Even detractors cannot come up with ready solutions but we should perhaps examine some of the contributions. Combative APC MPs called it all kinds of negative names-“Criminal budget” etc., but some were more constructive, advising on issues in a bipartisan way.

I rather like the contribution of the APC MP (I forget his name) who gave us a good lecture on the macroeconomic situation in the country. This was indeed enlightening and we were taken on a lecture tour of “Psychoanalytical theory by Sigmund Freud”. After he told the Speaker he wanted to “introspect from your kind decision”, terms like “parito efficiency”, consumerism, co-modification were met with gasps of admiration from his fellow MPs. The hapless speaker appealed to Hon. I.B. Kargbo, Acting Leader of the opposition to intervene. Honourable I.B. Kargbo, did you see this coming? IB retorted, “I can only plead with your honour for him to continue. And so he continued with “demystifying the concept of “parito efficiency” saying that the budget itself was a ”cuncum of misappropriation of public funds”-whatever that means! He was modest enough to describe himself as a Research Economist, although the Speaker chose to describe him as a “Professor of macroeconomics”.
It was not all about the economics professor however, and other speakers like Hon. Matthew Nyumah,Hon. Emerson Lamina and Hon. Hindolo Ngevao defended parts of the budget very well.

The NGC Leader, Dr Kandeh Yumkella’s contribution was sobering in certain statements he made to jolt us into reality.

“Over the years, the Public Service Wage Bill has increased dramatically to about 55 percent of domestic revenue, 45 percent of of recurrent expenditure... rendering it fiscally unsustainable. This “wage burden” is largely due to the increase in the number of Sub-vented Agencies. In such a situation, we very seriously question the rationale behind the stated intention of the Government to embark on So why is the massive hiring of personnel creating more commissions, agencies and directorates within ministries”.

He continued…………: “are we a rich or poor nation”? The question is indeed appropriate because the ultimate purpose of an economic blue print is to put the country on a trajectory of growth, wealth creation and prosperity of its people. Several indicators presented in this year’s budget suggest that in spite of three Poverty Reduction Strategies programmes during the past two decades (one from the SLPP government, followed by the Agenda for Change, and the Agenda for Prosperity) this nation has either stayed stagnant or retrogressed in terms of human development and economic transformation.

The budget will in all likelihood be approved but it behooves the government to reflect soberly on the salient contributions made-even that from the “macroeconomics professor”.