Towards Nonviolent Gender Relations in Africa: An Introduction to Inter-Gender Dialogue

Towards Nonviolent Gender Relations in Africa: An Introduction to Inter-Gender Dialogue

Effiong Joseph Udo (University of Uyo, Nigeria) and John Orioha (University of Uyo, Nigeria)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2574-6.ch007

Abstract

Despite global efforts, gender-based violence continues to be witnessed in varying degrees around the world. The use of dialogue as an effective tool in mitigating violence and conflict situations around the world provides an inspiration to conceive the need to extend the scope of dialogue to the domain of male-female relationship, which is fast becoming too complex, sensitive, strained, and tempestuous. In this study, the relevance of dialogue for a violent-free culture in the context of gender relations is interrogated. This study maintains that a dialogic mode of male-female relationship would go a long way to mitigate the persistent cases of gender-based violence. In an exploratory approach, Leonard Swidler's understanding and principles of dialogue are used as a framework to demonstrate what an inter-gender dialogue would look like. It concludes that, as dialogue offers an interactive framework for mutual understanding of one another, an inter-gender dialogue is constitutive of the social intercourse, which the very concept of dialogue represents.
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Theoretical Direction

Scholars often make use of two theories, egalitarianism and complementarism, in gender discourse. In this study, egalitarianism is adopted as a theoretical frame to demonstrate how a healthy inter-gender relationship might look like. Egalitarianism is “a philosophical theory that rests on the claim that human beings have some sort of fundamental worth and hence should all be treated as equal” (Afolayan 2015, p.1). This framework was initiated by the Stoics who affirmed the equality of all human persons in contrast to the predominant Greek ideology that human beings are never equal. According to Stoics, “It was the distinguishing mark of man that he was gifted with Reason. This set him apart from all animals; but in this all men, as men, were alike, and equal. To be a man was by definition to be so endowed: no question arose of more or less, better or worse” (Brown 1991, p. 22). The use of ‘man’ here should be understood to be inclusive of woman. In any case, from this position of the Stoics, the basic reason for human equality is the gift of reason in both male and female.

Egalitarianism as a theory that calls for the equality of all human persons has been criticized for two major reasons. The first reason is the non-equality of “the natural endowments, talents, capacities, limitations, vices, and circumstances that characterize our existence in the world. The second involves those different and unequal social advantages and disadvantages that humans are born into as members of the human society” (Afolayan 2015, p. 1). These objections to egalitarianism are further explained by Kekes:

Key Terms in this Chapter

Dialogue: Refers to an exchange between persons or entities that are different from each other in terms of religion, culture, race, gender, ideology, class, etc. This exchange or interaction could be in the form of a conversation or an existential encounter, especially having the goal of mutual learning in order to achieve an understanding of one another, and harmonious social coexistence.

Inter-Gender Dialogue: Refers to an interaction between a male and female where both of them recognize and respect each other’s humanity, dignity, and rights and relate interdependently on the basis of mutual understanding and on equal terms.

Complementarism: Is the opposing view to eqalitarianism which states that though men and women are essentially equal as persons (i.e., as human beings created in God’s image), there are basic gender distinctions when it comes to functional roles in society, the church, and the home.

Gender Relations: Refers to the culturally determined ways of relationship between men and women, and such that men more privileged than women in that relationship.

Gender: Is a term widely used to signify the socially or culturally determined roles, behaviours, attributes, or activities that a given society considers appropriate for men and women in that society.

Gender-based Violence: Is an umbrella term for any harmful act done against one’s will, and such that is based, especially on society’s determined roles between men and women.

Eqalitarianism: From the Christian perspective, is the viewpoint that there are no biblical gender-based restrictions on ministry in the Church. Christian Egalitarians believe that there are no gender distinctions and that since we are all one in Christ, and that women and men are interchangeable when it comes to functional roles in leadership and in the household.

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