Opinion

PART TWO: Are Africa’s ‘men of God’ preserving injustices against women?

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Here is part two of this thought provoking article

In the previous article, the article highlighted the power that men of God have as well as exposing the problematic messages of marriage. In this part of the article we look at the term masculinity, and an attempt to find the solution in the problem.

A particular brand of masculinity

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The male gender, just like the female gender, is culturally constructed. And as the church defines and redefines the roles and positions of women in marriage and society, it does the same for men.

The church has always been a male-dominated institution. Beyond this, my research into the gender discourse of the Pentecostal and charismatic churches shows how they promote a particular brand of masculinity.

By “masculinity”, I refer to “a cluster of norms, values, and behavioural patterns expressing explicit and implicit expectations of how men should act and represent themselves to others”.

On the one hand, the brand of masculinity espoused by the “men of God” encourages behaviour that can be advantageous for many women in relationships: they generally eschew violence, advocate monogamy and companionship between spouses, and underscore the responsibilities of fathers and husbands.

On the other hand, the “Men of God” portray women as the “weaker sex” emotionally and intellectually, who need protection and guidance. Sometimes they emphasise women’s “limitations”. This leads to a devaluing of women, re-inscribing male domination and undermining female autonomy.

A different approach

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Pre-martial counselling has been suggested as part of the problem. But, there are churches that foster a more gender-sensitive approach.

One is the Family Life Ministry at Calvary Baptist church in Accra. They work with a network of professionally trained lay counsellors across several churches in Accra to offer couples practical social and spiritual guidance using an alternative approach to “family life”.

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Gender issues are tackled from social, medical, legal and cultural perspectives. Couples are encouraged to see men and women as created equal in the image of God, and to see the development of their partners as a positive investment in their own lives, and those of their families and society.

Only when approaches like this become the norm will the church become a place where women as well as men, wives as well as husbands, the single as well as the married, can experience comfort, well-being and true freedom from bondage.

Until then, in our deeply religious context, we can expect some fraught gender relations at best, and many unhappy wives especially.

(As seen in The Conversation)

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About the author

Ofentse Maphari