The thing about how pervasive and insidious patriarchy is, is that it absolves men of everything, even the most fundamental responsibilities, provided there is a way to make that the fault of women. And it is even more disheartening that ridiculous patriarchal values are often enforced the most viciously on women by other women. The best enforcers of patriarchy are the patriarchal princesses, women who have been singled out for ‘performing’ all the acts of submission and modesty that signals goodness and elevated into positions of authority. These women often terrified consciously or subconsciously by the realisation that once patriarchal values are abandoned, they will lose their privileged positions, extol the virtues of patriarchy and punish women who do not obey.
Take for instance the Ugandan Minister of Youth Ms Florence Nakiwala Kiyingi, who while delivering a public address stated that the increasing rates of divorce and separation in Ugandan families is as a result of women refusing to offer subservience and respect to men. While addressing the Ugandan parliament, Kiyingi, who is unmarried herself and therefore has no personal experience with marriage said:
“From my research, the major cause of child neglect is actually failure by women to respect men. I am serious. My point is that if you want to protect a child, you must love and respect the father of the child.”
What is even sadder is that Kiyingi said this during a deliberation on a proposed law that would protect children from violence from family members and force their parents (usually fathers) to provide child support for them in the event of a divorce. A Ugandan Human Rights Commission report suggested that the number of parents neglect the economic and social welfare of their children had risen from 13 to 15% in the course of one year. And if Ms. Kiyingi is to be believed, they do that because their wives and lovers don’t respect them.
The welfare of a child is father’s duty, it is not conditional on the behaviour of the mother or anyone else. Financial inequality between fathers and mothers often mean that women are economically at the mercy of their spouses and lovers and are often punished by the withdrawal of funds to either the mother, the child or both. When will we hold men accountable for the children they bring into the world. When will we stop making excuses for men?