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Women Kneeling Down when Greeting Older People Does not Command Respect but Submission – Winnie Byanyima

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Uganda’s Winnie Byanyima, the Executive Director of the development charity, Oxfam International said to BBC radio; “Is it humiliating for women and girls in Africa to kneel down when greeting elders is a custom which belongs in the past”. She went further to explain that it does not command respect but submission.

Winnie Byanyima who is also the leader of women’s rights, democratic governance and peacebuilding said

“This practice of girls and women kneeling before men reinforces gender inequality and is one of many practices that might appear harmless but that in fact are insidious and continue to perpetuate and legitimise inequalities and discrimination against girls and women.

I was not calling for outlawing it, I was calling for a debate. It is coached as respect but to me it is submission. It’s not a cultural issue. for me it is a class issue, a gender issue, intact a political issue. It is someone lowering themselves and posing as inferior to another.

This happens in Asia and the Middle East, in Africa, it is a class issue, it is people who are economically inferior, who have lower social standing who kneel before those who are economically superior and of higher social standing, and it’s a gender issue because it is women kneeling before men.

Do you agree?

Below are some reaction from African readers on BBC Facebook; | Rebranding & Celebrating Africa! 
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  1. I agree with Winnie Byanyima to some extent. I do not think all “African” customs are good. In Buganda, it was a taboo for women to eat chicken and eggs. This was simply because men were too greedy to share with women. So yes, some cultural norms are oppressive and not justifiable. In my culture I should kneel to greet people older than me. I hate that I have to do that to make someone feel good about themselves. I know in some cultures it is kneeling mid-air, in mine it is full blown kneeling on the floor with both knees. We’re lucky whoever came up with it did not think we had to bow too cuz then it will be unheard of for a girl to not kneel and bow while addressing an elder person. I do not kneel while greeting my mum and she never takes offense, she knows I respect her and treasure her. So in my opinion, kneeling doesn’t mean I respect you. Me greeting you in the first place should be enough without me having to scar my knees while at it.
    Also, I think leaving rude comments is totally uncalled for. Everyone is entitled to an opinion and I am sure everyone can find a mature way to put their arguments across.


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