chapter  6
Women, Sexuality and Property Inheritance
Pages 22

Western analyses of gender relations are unified in incriminating traditional practices and culture as the source of women’s plight in Africa. For instance, one notable Western agent of social change, the International Society for Human Rights, West Africa Committee (ISHR-WAC, Online), consider ‘traditional practices or customs continue to be the main obstacles in the progress towards gender equality and justice’ in Africa. Flowing from these analyses is the all-too-familiar recommendation of ‘modernization,’ a euphemism for destroying all vestiges of African culture and tradition. This recommendation is founded on the tacit, and quite often, the explicit rationale that ‘modern’ – read western, values and culture are more capable than African traditional varieties, to eradicate gender-based discrimination and simultaneously elevate the status of women. These claims and assumptions have not been sufficiently challenged. Thus, they have become something akin to gospel truth. Only a few researchers, such as Niara Sudarkasa (e.g., 1986), Fatima Mernissi (e.g., 1988), Bonlanle Awe (e.g., 1991), Philomina Steady (e.g. 1981), and Ester Boserup (e.g., 1970) have dared to challenge this orthodoxy.