I was led to this topic over the happenings and pronouncements regarding our Chairperson of the Electoral Commission in recent times by the honourable Member of Parliament (MP) of Assin North Constituency in the Central Region.
It may be needless for the purposes of this column to add that he is an MP on the ticket of the opposition New Patriotic Party (MP). This is because my remit today is larger than the specific statements which have provoked this column.
I recall with deep regret that when Afia Schwarzenegger got into a similar patch with this same MP, we all kept quiet as the victim, Afia, was suspended or dismissed from her job as if it is normal to deprive women who have worked hard in their chosen fields and have reached the top. Do they need to be so treated by men who also have the power of position and the influence that goes with it?
I was left wondering why that particular matter was not resolved by her employers by ordering her to invite the MP to her popular show as a guest and using the chance to thrash out all issues in addition to increasing the income for her employers by making more people to watch her show. After all, it was entertainment she was offering and anything to hype the gate, promote understanding between the sexes, and put to rest the nagging question that her employers, being men, were on the side of equality.
Are women in power a problem?
The question to be asked is, are women in power a troubling matter for some of us such that we are ready to say the most unfortunate things about their sexuality, and if so, what is civil society doing about it? This and many outrageous incidents of late and the loud silence of civil society all add up to a stifling atmosphere for our women to aspire to the highest positions. An additional question is why is this so? Vestiges of past ideas of inequality, or inequality and verbal violence befitting women we disagree with in our politics? Do we have a civil society at all?
In this particular instance, the impression has strongly been created that political parties run and contest with the Electoral Commission for political power in this country, to quote our articulate Foreign Minister, and that the highly-qualified person at the head of this essentially referee position between the parties must be seen as an opponent to be vilified as a party in its own right. Of course, this is not true, just a carefully-contrived gimmick whose utility is difficult to fathom.
I am also surprised, to put it mildly, at the loud silence of the noted women who also hold positions in this society. To be truthful, some have spoken, but most have kept quiet, or sided with the contrived condemnation of Mrs Charlotte Osei, for very narrow partisan considerations. The condemnation of Mrs Osei, however, is not a partisan matter because she is only one commissioner among several who are mandated by law. Why single her out for savage attacks?
Appointment of women
She represents something about our society which we should not sacrifice. The appointment of the first woman Chief Justice by President Kufuor, and the first woman Speaker of Parliament in the time of President Mills, have been events we all took justifiable pride in. Earlier the current Education Minister had become the first woman Vice Chancellor, following the first woman Pro-Vice Chancellor both at public universities, signifying national acceptance of the equality they deserve all this while. The appointment of Mrs. Osei therefore must be seen as the natural progression of our women to positions of trust in this country.
To listen to an experienced legislator say the sort of things he is reported to have said about Mrs Osei is to endure a painful lesson in how all that we as a society have done to advance the frontiers of the fight for equality for our women have failed. It is not because they are our mothers, sisters, aunts, grandmothers, wives or what have you. It is solely because they are human beings and deserve equal opportunities and treatment in the sharing of the available positions and rewards of society.
If the sexual peccadiloes of men do not matter in our assessment of suitability for positions, why should it matter when it comes to women? Partisanship too cannot be a defence for attacking any woman who is discharging the duties imposed on her in whichever public office she finds herself holding as a consequence of the unending struggle to create an equal society. This paper had its first woman editor more than three decades ago. We have come so far since then to be held down by a needless concentration on the gender and sexuality of women who aspire to public positions of trust.
It is unacceptable for women to be so savagely denigrated and attacked because they are women holding public positions. The train of full equality has long left the station. It cannot be brought back, stopped, or harassed along the way by the hollering of abuse and insults at the passengers. The earlier we cease and call to order men with antediluvian views the better and peaceful our society would be.
The strange thing is that the men guilty of such utterances and practices are all married men, meaning the first person they see on waking up every morning is a woman. What a pity!