But this problem is not applicable to all patriarchal societies; some communities are patriarchal but do not necessarily have all the characteristics of a patriarchal system. One such example is the community of traditional healers. In this context, gender inequality discourse is not a concern because of the belief in spirits which cut across gender boundaries Mkasi Therefore, the deconstruction of patriarchy proposed by feminists is not necessary as homosexuality is practised within the parameters of the patriarchal system.
Besides, deconstruction of patriarchy does not give assurance that prejudice and attitudes associated with homosexuality will come to an end. Therefore, African homosexuality should be closely scrutinised within African description and analysis of patriarchy. Furthermore, male leadership and authority, which are disputed so much by feminists, do not automatically give men the right to oppress women, but that authority comes with accountability, reciprocity and respect as well as the maintenance of order in the household.
Obedience and respect are used as tools to maintain order in the society and in the household. Obedience and respect are used as tools to bring peace and order rather than perceived as submissive signs. As Johnson in Gwyn rightly puts it, patriarchy is 'about how social life is and how it is supposed to be, about what is expected of people' p.
This requires order as everyone acts responsibly in his or her role. Patriarchy in traditional communities is not specifically designed to undermine women but such behaviour is promoted by individual attitudes, not the system. Johnson argues that there is a tendency to discuss the system without considering the characteristics of the people who participate in it whereas individual behaviours have great impact on shaping the society Gwyn Furthermore, in patriarchal societies, gender roles are assigned in relation to physical ability, naturalness and sensitivity more than oppressive roles or to subordinate female gender.
To implement gender equality in the household will require a shift in roles whereby males take up female roles and vice versa. Taking into account the fact that some roles are not socially constructed, but natural, changing roles would mean that women would have to give up their natural right to give birth, whereas men have no ability to give birth or breastfeed. Moreover, most women would not like to give up that right for equality. If gender equality discourse insists on this worldview without revisiting, indigenous discourse, this will complicate the patriarchal discourse and will definitely cross cultural boundaries Gwyn , From my observation, gender equality discourse has neglected the issue of African maleness, men's role as protectors is not important anymore.
The strength of African men that used to be the shield of the society is replaced by democratic laws. In fact, equality discourse puts more pressure on women who want to prove that they have the ability to do what men can do while their bodies are often weaker than men's bodies. Women still have to carry a child for 9 months, give birth, look after the baby and also continue to work.
Patriarchy is about making sure that men work to provide for their families, when mothers experience vulnerability when giving birth. While this article is trying to highlight positive elements in patriarchy it does ignore the negative elements in patriarchal systems, but those can be reconstructed and some gender roles can indeed be transformed, redefined and renegotiated rather than destroyed.
But deconstructing social understanding of hetero-normativity of gender roles in the name of patriarchy devalues traditional communities Sullivan Therefore, I suggest that patriarchal discourse should not be analysed and generalised superficially but rather be seen in the context of historical and cultural impact on the society.
Foundations of the Anthropology of Gender
Some cultural practices that are being criticised by feminists bring life to the community and they are not at all life threatening. Discussing these practices within equality and right framework is not appropriate because leaders and practitioners of these practices are not included in these discourses. They are voiceless, while activist, scholars and policy-makers are speaking on their behalf. Thus, traditional communities give less attention to changes taking place in South Africa, because they feel excluded and therefore distance themselves from transformation that takes place as results of the constitution Van Zyl African sexual practice and democracy.
We should be careful of African discourses that are founded on Western discourse. When democratic government was inaugurated in , South Africa adopted human rights laws which enforced abandonment of sexual cultural practice Moseley , even though the majority of African people strongly believe in such cultural practices Gouws Traditional laws have been replaced by constitutional laws in response to the constitutional requirements of equality to everyone, whereas the same constitution does not recognise indigenous voices who are the practitioners of African traditions Constitution, Chapter Human rights laws, with their liberal approach, put strain on traditional laws since liberalism is constructed on individual rights and equal rights Gouws Thus, Western notions are imposed on traditional communities without evaluating the impact on African cultural practices.
To substantiate this point, Chilisa argues that Western thought and education differ from indigenous knowledge systems, and are therefore unable to meet the needs of indigenous problems Chilisa Practices such as virginity testing and ilobolo bride price are contested because beneficiaries of the practices are men. Virginity testing is described as a violation of human rights and an invasion of privacy South African human Right Commission and ilobolo is interpreted as price paid by the groom for a bride Scorgie These practices are rejected based on Western understanding of human rights.
Thus, Nhlapho in Gauws argues that:. In the African context, recognition also requires that we accept that there are conceptions of human dignity that are distinctly African and are involved in cultural practices that may look like subordination from a Western perspective. For example, ilobolo or the bride price is not the selling of women but the uniting of two different families and many women feel valued by this.
So, the recognition of identities also requires respect for cultural practices.
Alternative Sexual Identities and Communities in the Contemporary United States
While opposition to virginity testing focuses on technicalities of the practice, there is silence about the whole initiation process whereby children are taught life-affirming lessons such as HIV prevention, nature conservation, life-affirming songs and the history of the amaZulu Scorgie Virginity testing is not only about the physical body of an individual, but it is intended to sustain a healthy land and the livelihood of the nation.
Virginity testing is one of the practices that the Zulu nation prides itself in, as it does not only prepare women for marriage but also for a ritual of appeasement dedicated to Mother Nature, 'Nomkhubulwane' Scorgie Biyela confirms that:. Nomkhubulwane is regarded as a powerful female intercessor during times of catastrophe such as drought. The Zulu believe that before Nomkhubulwane implores with God for rain, she goes to the mountain where she has to be surrounded by other girls marked with strings of white beads around their lower waists; their purity encourages Mother Nature to give more food.
This practice was and is still performed in recognition of the Zulu female goddess, and it remains in effect. However, the ritual is not performed to benefit the individual alone but the whole nation in accordance with African philosophy. While political and traditional leaders argue about virginity testing practices, some have seen it as a business opportunity.
Virginity testing has been so commercialised that it has become a tourist attraction Nkosi The media has full access to initiation rooms, which in this context is not seen as a violation of the right to privacy. Its commercialisation does not improve the practice but only increases the country's economy and puts the top political leaders in the limelight. Nkosi argues, 'Ceremonial events should not end up being commercialized and performed to attract tourists only, but to achieve their initial and traditional purpose' Nkosi A lack of initial purpose of the practice results in disrespect and false interpretations of the practice which demean the dignity of African traditions.
Ilobolo is also not exempted from the problem of commercialisation; the meaning of ilobolo has changed. It is no longer about building a relationship between two families, but it is about exchanging goods. This change is rationalised by the level of education of the bride which changes the whole concept of ilobolo. Regardless of Western feminists' ignorance of African culture, African feminists have played an important role in voicing the concerns of woman in traditional societies. Women of concern, and theologians, made a great input in addressing the problem of universalism of women's issue.
But they also consider the fact that some of these problems are over emphasised, where the blame is continuously put on African culture. They acknowledge that women all over the world have common problems as a result of patriarchal system. Although there are oppressive practices in African religio-culture, woman traditional healers have used the same culture to find their own place. They have claimed their position within the patriarchal system that is known to be oppressive to woman. It seems indigenous ways of knowing may provide space for indigenous discourse on same-sexualities.
Moreover, revising and contextualisation of African patriarchal systems can identify elements that are supportive to African women. Often, lives of African women are interpreted in Western values and standards which do not give true reflection of their experiences. Even though some African feminists have reviewed and critiqued Western theories on African women's sexualities, they cannot remove themselves from Western standards, whereas same-sex practice and discourse that occur within the traditional healing context are purely indigenous and are not influenced by Western paradigms.
Moreover, indigenous discourses contain no Western terms or concepts; this means these discourses are not polluted by Western worldview. Since izangoma are traditional leaders and are able to talk about their sexuality, this could be an opportunity to start such discourse in traditional communities where same sexuality is not accepted. Furthermore, scholars who work in the area of sexuality should start using tools of research that are appropriate for indigenous communities.
This will enable them to access information that can help bring understanding of why there is so much resistance towards transformation in traditional communities. Political leaders should also consider the needs of indigenous communities, especially giving attention to the elders of the community because they are the archives of knowledge. Ignorance of cultural beliefs and labelling them as superstitious will only prevent flowing of knowledge from the older generation to younger generation, because our youth will not respect the voices of the elders as Western teachings emphasise individualism and self-centredness which result in selfish behaviour and undermine the African philosophy of Ubuntu.
Furthermore, lack of literature and African scholars who are interested in African indigenous same-sexualities is problematic for students who want to study this subject, because using Western literature to analyse African same-sexualities weakens the analysis. Read more about Miraji, lyrical translation, the poetics of theory: Gender, philosophy, aesthetics, and desire.
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