Marriage: Which Voice Should a Woman Listen to?

As a woman, one is always told that they should be able to multitask. I must say that I know many women who have been able to carry out this order with no hustle. Sometimes though, there are many voices that keep on talking to women at different stages of life that they cannot seem to balance at the same time. The voices all speak to them in different tones all at once and they never give them peace. Culture, education, and religion all speak to women and give them advice about marriage and sexual reproductive health, but women don’t know which voice to listen to anymore. They are just weary of all these voices.
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As young girls, perhaps they were told to be submissive to their husbands. Their aunts and all their female relatives who took on the role of advising them sang the same song to them. Growing up in societies that followed cultural beliefs closely, the girls were trained to be good wives. This was a normal custom in such societies and all girls had to embrace these beliefs and some pre-marriage rituals.

These rituals involved pulling the clitoris to elongate them so that they could satisfy their husbands when they came of marriage age. They were told that a woman’s ability to satisfy her husband in bed would assure her a long and gratifying marriage. Looking back, I think this seems like some absurd custom that young girls were exposed to. How could a tiny part of the woman’s body that the man could not even see when he asked her hand in marriage be the determining factor for a marriage to work? At this age the girls had no right to question their elder’s orders, they just had to obey and wait patiently to reap the results of their obedience in marriage.

Contrary to the lessons of culture, education tells women that they are equal to their male counterparts. They are now enlightened to ask questions like: If I pull my clitoris and elongate them to satisfy my husband in bed, what will my husband do that will change him physically to satisfy me in bed as well. No one from the cultural realm seems to know the answer to this question as they keep on hushing the girl’s questions with the gospel of submission.

Then, there are girls who have been educated that love is shared between two people without the need to change who you are. They have read textbooks and novels all with literature in which women from all walks of life got married and lived happily ever after despite their physical appearance. They have read of the ill effects of female genital mutilation as they have come to know the cultural practices that they were subjected to. They only wish they had not listened to the culture voice as it advised them on marriage.

Education has unshackled these women from the chains of culture and told them to be autonomous. They have gained financial independence that makes them equal partners in marriage. Their husbands are scared of such achievements that they never dreamt to occur to their life partners. When the husbands were boys they were told to take pride in protecting, providing, and professing their love to their wives. One way to profess this love was to beat their wives. Women were also told to take pride in being beaten because they were misled to believe that a beating meant that your husband loved you. The love lay in the fact that he could come back and comfort you after the beating.

Being emancipated by education, some women no longer take any beating as a sign of love. It is an absolute sign of abuse. Most women will not allow any beating to start at all. If ever a beating sees light in a marriage, most women now know legal recourse to take against these marital matters that a husband would have thought to be mightier than a discussion to warrant a beating. Where is the line drawn then between culture and education that will make a woman maintain her marriage?

The voice of religion joins education and culture in the marriage advisor role. The church tells women to submit to their husbands. Does submission mean throwing away the educational voice that seems to give the woman freedom of expression and freedom to have a self so as to go back and listen to the cultural voice? The only difference is that in religion there is no physical change that is required of the genitalia -- at least none that I know of. A tough situation arises when women are asked by their husbands to pull their clitoris. These women have escaped the claws of culture and they have been educated on the negative effects of female genital mutilation but they are women of God, they have been told to submit.

Religion robs them of the right to choose what they want in their reproductive health in marriage. Women are told not to use contraception but they take part in deceit games where they still use contraception against their religious values because education outlined the benefits of contraception to them. Religion also told women never to abort in whatever circumstance. What if the woman gets gang raped and becomes pregnant? If you were this woman would you have kept the child? What name would you have given the child? Whom would the child have looked like?
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This woman is a staunch follower of her religion and she is surely going to submit, she is not going to use contraception, she is going to keep the child whose pregnancy she caught when she was raped and take away all the gains she has made in being herself. She is going to be entangled in the web of marriage advisors that are culture, education, and religion.

For whom is she living her life? No one will pity her when she develops cancers related to female genital mutilation. She will be ridiculed for having too many children. Society will point fingers at her for raising a child without a name. The same society, through culture, education and religion gives her conflicting messages on how to lead her married and sexual reproductive life.

I say women should break the chains that imprison them and choose the voice that they want to listen to. If fragments of voices from each advisor are what will work for them, then let the women be.