Bishop Kukah Calls Out Cultural and Religious Practices Fueling Women’s Oppression

Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah, the head of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto and founder of The Kukah Centre, has voiced his concerns about the systemic oppression and injustice against women ingrained in Nigerian culture. He also criticized the misuse of religion, which he believes has contributed to the country’s current state of affairs.

Speaking at the public unveiling of the National Ethical Policy for Combating Gender-Based Violence in Abuja, Bishop Kukah expressed his disappointment over the defense of women’s abuse and attacks in Nigeria under the guise of religion or culture.

He urged women to assert their rights, drawing inspiration from figures like Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani education activist who survived an assassination attempt for her outspoken stance against the Taliban’s ban on girls’ education.

Bishop Kukah lamented the commodification of women, often justified by religion. He pointed out that women have historically been treated as commodities, given away at the end of wars or to broker peace. He emphasized that it is not culture that created human beings, and therefore, people have a responsibility to challenge the misuse of religion.

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Reflecting on the cultural norms that perpetuate injustice and oppression, Bishop Kukah recalled childhood memories of domestic violence, where children could do nothing more than watch helplessly as their fathers abused their mothers. He criticized cultural norms that discourage reporting such incidents, leading to situations where women are beaten to death without any repercussions.

He stated, “Our African culture also suggests you cannot go and report your father, you cannot go and report your mother and your father is beating your mother until he kills her, you cannot say anything because ‘how are you going to disgrace your father?”

Bishop Kukah also highlighted the ongoing issue of women being sold; he said, “Today ,we are talking about women being sold. There are parts of Nigeria that even up till today, people will tell you that if you enter the palace of a king with your wife and the chief likes your wife, if he crosses her leg, then you go home alone.”