There Are No “Small Wives”.

There Are No “Small Wives”.

Written by Efua Sintim... For as long as I can remember, I have stayed “woke” in regards to all forms of oppression and social injustices; in my pe

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Written by Efua Sintim…

For as long as I can remember, I have stayed “woke” in regards to all forms of oppression and social injustices; in my personal, my professional, and social life in general; as if I have been primed for them. I am unsure whether it was enrolling in a Gender and Development course for a year during my undergrad studies that deepened this social-consciousness or whether I was already becoming more sensitive to them by mere observation. Nonetheless, it seems that every day something new, different, and often worrisome arises and I just can’t look away.

It may seem the steam that erupted during the Otiko Djaba brouhaha might have settled, but that is only because “those of us who really care,” do not have as much power and influence like she does. While the controversies centered around Otiko and her current role as “protector” of the feminine realm in the country, it also exposed our society in very unsettling ways.

This past week, in particular, I have heard and read many cases of child sexual abuse, which has triggered, on my part, a very critical reflection into our cultural setting to identify other ways to steer the discussion on sexual harassment and child sexual abuse. I have noticed and mentally catalogued, over the years, the various disturbing ways in which grown men address not only adult women but teenage girls and children with terms of paternalistic endearment.

“My wife….. “

“Ei miyere kitiwa,(my small wife) how are you? When will you come and cook for me?”

“Ei my wife, I’ll marry you ok.”

Here, methinks, is a prime example of unassuming, subtle everyday-sexism mining its heels deeper and deeper into our collective subconscious. With every saying of “my wife”, there’s not only a reinforced gender stereotype in our cultural lexicon, but also, a  perpetuation of a culture of polygamy, patriarchy and ‘chattelisation’ of women as items and objects, that a man can just have at his beck and call. This goes to influence a woman’s sub-consciousness that it is OK to be a little wife, a second wife or the “Side Chick” when the big madam is indisposed.

A very mundane picture in our society is being painted here. The sexualization of girls from a very early stage is one canker we cannot afford to miss. This statement is also one we’ve heard come from our uncles, family friends, neighbours, etc. It is for this simple fact that statistics show that majority of rape victims actually know their rapists on a personal level.

It starts as simple “flattery,” or “compliments,” as I suppose these patronizing monikers would seek to achieve but really what it does is give a false sense of intimacy to relationships that are in truth built on nothing more than mere cordiality. And because it is largely overlooked by even parents, the perpetrators are able to get away with it because obviously, they are people “we trust.”

We might have all heard this statement in some variation before. Adults who should know better, shamelessly say it to freshly born babies. They say it to toddlers. They say it to teens. They say it to adult girls.

Now here are a few things to note:

Please, men, listen up. Erect a thick wall of boundary that reaches to the highest heavens when it comes to girls. Don’t admire, don’t flatter, don’t propose marriage. Let teenagers remain teenagers and children, children. Keep your favours and endearments to yourself.

If the only thing you have to say to a little girl is ‘my wife’; then you should give yourself a befitting hard knock on the head and STOP, because it is no endearment. It is totally INAPPROPRIATE.

Also, young girls are not your playmates. Desist from sending little girls and boys on errands; you were blessed with legs too. Truth is, people notice these things and more often will not complain openly or call you out until something terrible happens to that child.

If the child goes missing, they will mention you. If the child gets raped, they will point fingers at you.

Why? Because you chose to treat the child like an adult and made marriage proposals to little girls in jest while sending them on errands as if they were born to serve you.

Many dangerous people are clad as family and friends. The perverts are not strangers. Even our sons and baby boys are not spared. Some of these pedophiles are also females. There’s no gainsaying that evil in itself has no gender!

Parents, please pay attention to your daughters (and sons); listen to them. Don’t beat them into silence. DON’T BLAME THEM. Listen. Believe the child. He/She may only reach out once.

Also, pay attention to the people they get close to. Rape and child abuse did not die yesterday – it will be here with us till the conversion of the Jews.

Don’t make a sexually abused child lie in the name of “protecting the family” or your marriage. Cowardice at this time is not an option! Get justice for that child. Let the child trust you; let them know you are here to protect them and not blame them. Name and shame the abuser. Let the laws deal with him/her.

If you see or notice something odd, don’t look away. SPEAK UP! You have chosen the side of the oppressor (abuser) when you say nothing. Sweeping sexual abuse under the carpet won’t make it stop. Neither will it make us nor our kids safe. Break the culture of silence.

Talking to your kids about child sexual abuse isn’t scary. NOT TALKING IS!

Empower your child to identify/recognize what an inappropriate “touch” or compliment is and to boldly say NO! Teach them to SPEAK UP!!!

It is an easier task to build a strong child than to fix a broken adult.

Stay “Woke”




Efua Sintim
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Efua Sintim

Efua Sintim is a student of law, at the University of London, and a Compliance Professional. She loves to read and bake. Follow her on social media...
Efua Sintim
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  • comment-avatar
    E. Hayfron-Benjamin 8 months

    Well stated piece! Succinct yet addresses some of the deep seated attributes of our so-called culture which ought to evolve with the times. this article can serve as a basis for crafting policy that will go a long way in helping our children and keeping them far away from the ever-present predators.

    • comment-avatar

      Thank you for your comment, Hayfron. We indeed have a long way to go.

    • comment-avatar

      Thank you so much for indulging Kuuku!! 🙂 Indeed there is a lot to change in our culture. Let’s keep talking and shifting paradigms. Gradually, our world will be better!

  • comment-avatar
    Kenneth 8 months

    All stakeholders addressed. great one.

  • comment-avatar
    Jacob 8 months

    This is a very well written piece although I have have a few reservations. Although I have a strong antipathy to hegemonic masculinity and and the problems associated with patriarchy, I think there is a thing line between advocacy for the rights of the girl child and totally destroying our African culture. I am no expert in Gender studies but I would strongly dissagree with the notion that calling a girl child one’s wife or husband amounts to “chattelisation”. I was called “small husband” many times and I do not think it amounted to or was intended to mean anything even close to objectification, or as you say chatellisation (in fact in my language the word for grand-son is the same as the word for husband and the word for grand-daughter is the same as the word for wife). Not being able to send children etc etc is in some sense an affront to and destruction of our culture. Like I have said earlier I admire the essay but I dissagree with certain aspects of it on the grounds that it does not make room for some respect for our culture.

    • comment-avatar

      Hi Jacob,

      Thanks for reading. Inasmuch as I understand and appreciate your point of view, I’m afraid I have to disagree. The fact that you and many africans think it’s “normal” is the very reason there’s everything wrong with it.
      First of all, culture is not absolute; it’s not a perfect institution. Man makes culture and not the other way round. This article is not purposed to dismantle our culture as you seem to think. It is simply to identify aspects of our culture (which we don’t realize) that aid child abuse. Now does the aspect of our culture that encourages children to run errands for adults or calling children “small wives” and husbands” add anything valuable to our identity as Ghanaians?? You think it’s something WORTH keeping and encouraging in the name of culture? Are you really thinking about the possible repercussions of these things?? My point is simple really- there are aspects of our “culture” we all need to stamp out as it does NOTHING valuable for our existence, only for predators to hide behind these normalized occurrences and “culture” to win the trust of children to harm them. There is EVERYTHING wrong with calling a child a wife or husband. They are CHILDREN!!! Let them be children! A child is not anyone’s wife in jest. As much as possible children must be kept out of harm’s way. Go to other jurisdictions in the world and try anything like this and see where it ends. Like I said these are terms of endearments that only dig its heels in our collective subconscious. A child should not be made to feel too comfortable or trusting of any adult!! It doesn’t matter who. ANYONE can be a child abuser.

  • comment-avatar
    Grace N 8 months

    As a people we have grown in so many ways but stayed blissfully ignorant in others. I’m going to get on a soap box here so pardon my rant.

    Go to any secondary school or university in Ghana and you will see the blatant sexual predatory behavior happening right under the school administrations’ nose. Older men visiting their “small wives.”

    The sad part of it is because we place little premium on understanding talk less of celebrating our sexuality as women, the only conversations we can have with our daughters and sons is about not getting pregnant while in school, marrying the right girl (for boys) and making a good wife. When we do venture beyond these three topics the discussions become lewd or a sermon.

    Sexuality isn’t about sex it’s about understanding your attributes, your power iin granting or denying accesss, the awareness of appropriate versus inappropriate relationships, the connection to spiritual and emotional satisfaction etc etc.

    Sadly Ghana is not the only country with these problems. I have travelled quite a bit and I see the same issues in other countries. Fixing this starts with how we raise our children to begin with and that is how we can break th cycle too.

    If our Minister of Gender wants a cause – this is the one. But if she truly wants to deal with women’s issues she should please start by reading the relevant research and save herself the embarrassment of subjecting us to the naive ramblings of her mind.

  • comment-avatar
    Grace N 8 months

    Great job, Efua.????

  • comment-avatar
    Barry 8 months

    This is a very good read. Great Job Efua

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