OPINION: Women’s bodies are not political battlefields


© UNHCR/Petterik Wiggers 14,000 refugees from Eritrea are living in the Mai-Aini refugee camp in Tigray.
© UNHCR/Petterik Wiggers 14,000 refugees from Eritrea are living in the Mai-Aini refugee camp in Tigray.

By Ritah Anindo

Everyone loves freedom; the ability and power to act, speak, or think as one wants is innate.

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And every person will agree that freedom empowers; but why is freedom perceived differently when it comes to the female body?

Women’s right to choice has been one of the most politicised agendas and has been placed as a battleground for ideological, philosophical, and religious debate.

It is unfortunate that despite globalisation and modern advancement, there still exists an unfair gender status quo that prevents women from developing to their full potential.

The conceptualisation of women as a battleground has been in existence since ancient times when violence against women, including rape, was used as a weapon of humiliation during wars and peace reconciliation.

Today, with the COVID-19 pandemic, sexualised violence and femicide cases have gained more prominence, as every time an incident occurs, it becomes ideological football for feminist and male masculinity supporters.

More dangerously, is the effect that such conversations continue to have on women, as it widens gender disparities fueling stigma and discrimination, therefore, silencing women and gives power to oppressors and gender violence perpetrators.

Despite the existence of global commitments such as the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) – that promote women’s right to make decisions concerning reproduction free of discrimination, coercion, and violence – the reality for women is horrific.

Many women cannot say “NO” to sex with their husband/partner if they do not want to have intercourse, due to fear of being beaten or branded unfaithful.

The fight for women’s rights remains a struggle as their rights are not yet considered as human rights all across the world.

Even though countries have ratified these commitments, their implementation remains poor because of the country level’s existing structural and legal barriers.

Kenya, for instance, has a progressive constitution that provides for the protection of women against violence and the provision of safe abortion, yet, 7 women die every day because of unsafe abortions. Clearly, the battle is about power and control over women’s bodies.

Women have the right to decide when, whether and with whom to have children, when to get married, how to dress their bodies, and choose their future.

Furthermore, freedom from violence is reproductive justice. Therefore, women should stand up, call out patriarchy, and fight for women’s voices, rights, future, and dignity.

Ritah Anindo is a youth advocate at Reproductive Health Network Kenya RHNK

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