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justice as it applies to ethics. Specifically, it will reflect about whether or not justice is obtainable for women in war torn areas of Africa. Justice is often highly elusive, and it seems that the women of Africa are extreme examples of how justice can often overlook segments of the population, especially in countries that face political and social upheaval, and are traditionally led by men.
Justice is something that many Americans may take for granted, but in many other areas of the world, it is fleeting at best. This is quite apparent in Africa, especially in countries torn by war, such as Nigeria, and now the Ivory Coast. Justice for anyone may be difficult to find, but justice when it comes to women and women's rights is even more difficult to find. This stems from a variety of reasons, from societies that encourage subservience in women, to societies that are traditionally patriarchal and prejudiced toward women. Some people this stems from a fear of giving any kind of control or power to women. If women remain subservient, then they are controllable. Therefore, empowering women, especially women who are physically and mentally abused, is a source of difficulty in many areas of Africa. Women are second-class citizens, and as such, justice is rarely theirs.
Many examples of rampant outrages against women and ethnic minorities exist in the war torn areas of Africa. The many outrages in Somalia during the 1990s were chronicled in the film "Black Hawk Down," when warlords stole food from the starving, and created a society built on violence and greed. The group Niger Delta Women for Justice (NDWJ) is a non-profit group formed to unite women in another area of Africa that is traditionally violent and abusive. One woman who is a member of the group described what rebel forces did to her family. She remembers, "I was at home getting ready to go to the waterside. I heard the soldiers so we all ran. My son forgot something so ran back to the house. The soldiers shot him dead in the stomach. They beat my husband and took him away with the chief, his brother" (Editors). These people were never brought to justice, and this woman lost her entire family. Clearly, justice is not available to everyone, and those who rule African nations with violence and subjugation are not brought to justice because of their fearful and brutal tactics. People are afraid of them, and they dominate because of this fear.
Another area of special concern in Africa is the issue of female circumcision, also known as genital mutilation. Only one country in Africa, Burkina Faso, has passed laws against female genital mutilations, and actively upholds those laws. In thirteen other countries, people who promote or practice genital mutilation can receive jail time, but the laws are often ignored. In addition, twenty-eight other countries still condone the practice. It is estimated that at least 130 million African women have already undergone this practice, and two million more young women every year are circumcised (Rosenberg). The practice is inhumane, and can cause severe illness and even death in young women when it is not done under the proper conditions. Genital mutilation can take place in girls as young as seven. Patients can bleed to death, and often, complications with the urinary tract develop, and young women are rendered incontinent by the procedure. Writer Rosenberg continues, "Many infibulated women suffer constant infections and other health problems because urine and blood back up. Their husbands must bring a knife to their wedding night to cut them open. Childbirth often is fatal for infibulated women and their babies, and their wounds make them much more vulnerable to the AIDS virus" (Rosenberg). Yet, there is little justice for the "doctors" who administer these mutilations. Most of the laws are ignored, because in some Muslim cultures (large practitioners of this mutilation), uncut women are considered "unclean" and shunned. While more people are recognizing the dangers of this practice, since men control most justice systems in these countries, most of the practitioners, many of whom are women, are not brought to justice, or even sought for breaking the law.
Adding to women's woes in Africa, many families still practice incest, and there are still countries that do not have laws against this practice. Again, fear of stronger men, and fear of reprisal lead to a distinct lack of justice in these cases. One writer reports, "Less than 30% of incest cases that are reported end up in court because the children are threatened by their attackers and their own relatives" (Kalunga). Even when the attacker is brought to trial, justice is rarely served. Kalunga continues, "Besides, there are no guarantees that justice will be done in the courts. Some insensitive judges have given out an astonishing one-day jail sentence for defilement and the law is silent on instances where children are infected with sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV / AIDS" (Kalunga). Clearly, what we take for granted in justice in America is not prevalent throughout the world. Cases such as these would not be tolerated in our society, and yet they are tolerated in many areas of Africa, because of ignorance, and because of fear. African nations are largely run by influential men, and in nations suffering from internal war and strife, there is a political struggle as well. In nations in turmoil, it is difficult to create change and legislation that is more meaningful. Justice is simply not available to many African women, and because of this, they lead difficult, fearful, and demanding lives that show little hope for the future. In Africa, it seems justice is not for all, but only for the select few that have influence in the courts, and do not happen to be women.
In addition to the lack of legal justice in these areas, there is also a distinct lack of economic justice when it comes to the women of Africa. Unfortunately, many women in Africa are unable to create economic opportunities for themselves, or to empower other women to create moneymaking opportunities for themselves. One group, the Economic Justice Program for Eastern Africa (AWEPON) works to create viable economic justice for women in East Africa and beyond. Farming is still the largest economic activity in Africa, (nearly 80% of the population participate in farming), and there are few opportunities outside agriculture, especially for women. AWEPON notes the economic situation is also dependent on national and local constraints. They state, "At national levels the policy environment is oppressive and colonial. The entrepreneurial environment is hindered by lack of appropriate policies for small-scale business enterprises, coupled with lack of incentives for investment in agriculture, trade, and the entire business environment" ("Economic Justice"). Women in these underdeveloped areas are often the least informed about economic opportunities and advancement. AWEPON hopes to create a more equitable economic position for women by distributing information, influencing trade organizations, and implementing special plans that will ensure economic justice for everyone, man or woman, rich or poor. Women need to know there are alternatives to their current forms of agriculture, irrigation, and work, and these alternatives can help them lead better, healthier, and more economically productive lives. Again, because women are lower in social status than men, this information does not trickle down to them, and sometimes it is withheld because of fear and misunderstanding.
Even in African areas that are no longer so torn by war and strife, there are problems for women and justice. In South Africa, women still suffer from violence against men, and find little justice for the violence. One writer cites several examples of domestic violence in Zimbabwe in 2003, showing that violence against women is still prevalent and even accepted by many members of society. She writes,
During 2003 in Zimbabwe for example, there were three vivid cases of violence against women: the case of a Member of Parliament who stabbed his wife to death in Harare (the Zimbabwean capital) for alleged infidelity; a Harare man who burnt his wife to death also for alleged extra marital affairs; and the recent incident in Norton where a man shot his girl friend and mother of his son, her father and her sister. This killing spree happened because the man thought he should have the control regarding the custody of the child (Moyo).
Sadly, these are not isolated cases, but everyday occurrences, and even in countries that have laws against violence toward women, such as South Africa; the courts still fail to uphold the law in a large number of cases. Writer Moyo continues, "The media is still filled with complaints of hesitancy by the courts to use the law against the perpetrators. The inefficiency coupled with patriarchal attitudes cause the system to fail the women whom it should protect" (Moyo). Therefore, women, especially women who suffer from domestic violence, fall through the cracks in the justice system, and fail to receive the protection they deserve,…[continue]
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