The US President, Barack Obama, strongly condemned the practice of female genital mutilation and other such traditions that treat women as second class citizens, in a speech delivered on Sunday as he wrapped up his Presidential visit to his Kenyan hometown.
Obama earned vehement applause from 4,500 Kenyans in the capital town of Nairobi as he drew his attention to the rights of women and girls. He showed his remorse to those people in Africa who promote unethical customs by defending their long-established traditions and culture.
“Around the world there is a tradition of oppressing women and treating them differently and not giving them the same opportunities, and husbands beating their wives, and children not being sent to school. Those are traditions. Treating women and girls as second-class citizens. Those are bad traditions. They need to change,” Obama said. “Just because something is part of your past doesn’t make it right; it doesn’t define your future.”
According to the United Nations, an estimated number of 31 million girls of primary school age and 32 million girls of lower secondary school age had left school in 2013. Moreover, only two out of 35 countries in sub-Saharan Africa have gender parity, a dreadfully shocking ratio. Every one in four girls in Kenya becomes the target of genital mutilation, which carries numerous health risks.
Obama said: “Treating women as second-class citizens is a bad tradition: it holds you back. There’s no excuse for sexual assault or domestic violence, there’s no reason that young girls should suffer genital mutilation, there’s no place in a civilized society for the early or forced marriage of children. These traditions may go back centuries; they have no place in the 21st century.”
He further went on to criticize the nations that fail to educate and employ their girls and said that such nations are doomed to fall behind the global economy. “We’re in a sports centre: imagine if you have a team and don’t let half of the team play. That’s stupid. That makes no sense.”
The speech was applauded and cherished by the audience as there was a trigger of enthusiastic clapping and whistles.