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In fact, African societies strongly rely on these differences that determine gender roles and are the main element which determines differentiation rather than equality as stated in the Declaration. Here, biology is the key to understanding social structure and consequently, gender roles which also vary among representatives of the same gender according to membership in groups.
In Africa, traditions are central to the group which fights to maintain its individuality. The macroeconomic situation of most African countries - with huge percentages of the population of the continent living in conditions of extreme poverty - along with a low level of education (even compared to other developing nations on other continents) are also factors which determine the very slow rate of progress made here. Women are powerless to a great extent. The best example of the power relations that exist in African society are illustrated by a common practice which relies on female genital operations that are harmful as far as health and incredibly painful and cruel. Despite international human rights laws, this practice is still widespread and is based solely upon tradition. Women are forced to undergo such procedures and are victims of domestic abuse, rape, and isolation, all in the name of tradition which supports the idea that both society and family are led by man. Even more worrisome is the aspect of the spread of deadly disease such as AIDS. About one quarter of the total population of the African continent is HIV positive with people dying every few minutes (SIDA: (http://www.sida.se/sida/jsp/sida.jsp?d=1313&a=1420&language=en_US).Unfortunately, these frightening statistics also rely on gender roles which in turn, are determined by tradition. Women are not allowed to make decisions and this includes their own body and health. Furthermore, they are obligated to consent to sexual intercourse even if it is unprotected. In fact, most African women do not have knowledge of methods of protection from sexually transmitted disease, and even in the cases when they do, things cannot be changed as men are the ones deciding whether or not protection should be used (Ibid.). And of course, in most cases, the answer is negative which accounts for the terrible statistics.
The problems that Africa is facing even today can be explained by an entire set of factors which have shaped its history and have led to its poor human rights records. When assessing the situation in Africa, one needs to think about the consequences of colonial experiences which still greatly affect African countries. Also, central governments have severely failed in their leadership by supporting military involvement in national politics of several African countries and completely disregarding the promotion and enforcement of human rights which have never really been on their agenda. Another important aspect is cultural fragmentation that adds up to economic hardships and low modernization and industrialization rate. But perhaps the most serious problem the entire continent is faced with is the lack of knowledge due to a high percentage of illiteracy and a virtually inexistent access to information. Unfortunately, in Africa the status quo can be best described as a vicious circle without an end in sight. Gender equality, the abolition of genital mutilation, new attitudes and sex roles - these are all issues that desperately need attention in Africa.
Culture shapes society and represents the link between a country past and its future. Part of the collective consciousness, cultural ties among members of the same group or population are still shaping gender roles and consequently, determining individual fate - especially in the case of Africa - based on the roles awarded to individuals by society.
Denmark, Florence L., and Karen a. Nielson. "31 United States of America." International Handbook on Gender Roles. Ed. Leonore Loeb Adler. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1993. 452-465. Questia. 28 Sept. 2007 http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=59441936.
New gender roles and attitudes to reduce violence and HIV / AIDS in South Africa." Gender Equality Projects. 2007. SIDA: Swedish International Development Agency. > http://www.sida.se/sida/jsp/sida.jsp?d=1313&a=1420&language=en_US
Welch, Claude E. Protecting Human Rights in Africa: Roles and Strategies of Non-Governmental Organizations. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1995. Questia. 28 Sept. 2007 http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=30323520.[continue]
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