African men call for UN to protect white women

stephen-lewis.jpg (Mother’s Day Edition)

OK that didn’t really happen, but just think how white men would respond if it did.

What happens of course is the reverse: white men offer themselves as saviors of African women.

One random example: Stephen Lewis the former United Nations Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa (2001-2006) said that UNAIDS “utterly and tragically failed to protect the women of Africa” and he is calling for a new UN agency for women to supply the missing protection.

And it matters not whether we’re talking about sex trafficking, or female genital mutilation, or child brides, or honour killings, or the absence of property rights, or the absence of inheritance rights, or the absence of laws against rape and sexual violence, or the need to guarantee economic autonomy, or the dismal limits of political representation … in each and every case, and countless more, the world cries out for a women’s agency to intervene.

I of course agree that all of these things are horrific tragedies, and that oppression of women, and violence against women, is one of the most terrifying violations of individual freedom that we see in the world today.

But what would work pragmatically to better the situation? White men who run aid agencies or offer themselves as advocates for African women have to think through some hard questions.

(1) Is a direct outside intervention to save African women likely to be effective?

Doesn’t an effective intervention require the cooperation of African men? How likely is that to be forthcoming if African men are marginalized and ignored as the outsiders intervene in sensitive gender relations? Especially if African men are stigmatized through over-generalization as war criminals and rapists (or the slightly more tame stereotype as wife-beaters who spend all the household money on alcohol?)

(2) How credible are white men calling for gender equality in Africa when we don’t have it at home?