On 4th January 2016, a memorandum is reported to have been issued by the Personnel Management Office indicating the following: “This is to inform you that an executive directive has been issued that all female staff within Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies are no longer allowed to expose their hair during officials working hours with effect from December 31, 2015. Female staff are urged to use head tie and neatly wrap their hair.
“All Heads of Departments and Agencies are urgently advised to implement this directive and bring it to the attention of their female staff within their departments and agencies. All are strictly advised to adhere to this new directive.”
The women of the Gambia are told daily that the President of the Republic stands for their welfare. However, the President of the Republic has not hesitated to support beauty contests among school girls and rewarded them with scholarships but is now telling adult women how to dress. This is the height of patriarchy. This is the danger posed by self perpetuating rule and having permanent male dominance of high office. The women of the Gambia have a duty to put an end to such male arrogance and chauvinism by becoming politically active and struggle to occupy the highest posts or ensure that no male occupies that post who would treat women as their children, chattel or possessions.
The executive should be told in unequivocal terms that women employees are not children. They are adults with their ways of life to live. Some have husbands and others are either without or are hoping to attract a partner. They would not wear what they are not comfortable in wearing. When one visits offices one finds women with and without head ties. Some put on Islamic attire and others have their hair plaited. Each dresses according to her own taste. This is their own prerogative.
Employers who do not buy clothes for them have no right to tell them how to dress or manage their hair. Women who hold strong Islamic values need not be told to put on veil. They know what their religious obligations are but there are those who do not hold those values. They and their male partners go to night clubs and so on and so forth. Those are their values. They have no other obligation but to give service to the state for money.
A man with moral values would not be intimidated by the way women dress not to mention the way the woman styles her hair. Any man who is tempted to rape a woman because of dress is a virtual beast. No human being should enjoy pleasure from the pain of another human being. Any religious person should know that the world is both for the religious and the mundane and no religious person would compel others to live a life in the open that they are opposed to in secret. That would amount to sheer double standards. To put on head tie in office only to put it in one’s bag after office simply transforms women into robots and marionettes at the mercy of the executive. They would do things just to obey executive orders. Those who respect women would not subject them to executive orders which are not based on any law or regulation but on the mere whims and caprices of a person in position of power. Absolute power leads to unrestrained impunity.
Pious people know the type of world they would want to live in but cannot impose their values on others whose ways of life are not a threat to theirs. If Gambians with certain values cannot tolerate others with different values they would still co- exist with tourists or travel to countries where they would have to accept diversity. Uniformity in social values only exists in fairy tale. There should be no compulsion in the way a woman should maintain her hair.
Hence, for once the women Federation should go and tell the President to practice what he preached in Brufut. He said: “being a Muslim is to worship according to the Quran and Sunaa and let others also worship according to their beliefs. I have not appointed anybody as an Islamic Police. The way the women should dress is not your business…….”
Now are Permanent Secretaries and directors not being reduced to moral police officers to enforce moral codes?
Mr. President, the way women should manage their hair is not the business of the executive. This is their personal life and no one should infringe on their freedom of choice on how they should look. A person of clout does not exploit soft targets to promote an agenda. We wish to assure you that if you insist on dictating how women should maintain their hair in offices you will alienate yourself from many of the women folk of the country.
It would be interesting to see how female soldiers and police officers would put caps on top of head ties to function. The future will tell how women originations would react to such intrusion in the private lives of women .Let us now move to the issue of witchcraft.
ABDUCTING A PERSON FOR WITCHCRAFT IS A CRIME AGAINST HUMANITY
The Gambian citizen is a Sovereign Citizen. He or she is entitled to fundamental rights. Section 19 of the Constitution Subsection 1 states: “every person shall have the right to liberty and Security of person. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention. No one should be deprived of his or her liberty except on such grounds and in accordance with such procedures as are established by law.”
To abduct an innocent person is a crime!
Section 21 adds that “No one shall be subject to torture or inhuman degrading punishment or treatment.”
To make a person to drink hallucinogenic concoctions is a crime!
Section 23 adds: “No person shall be subject to interference with the privacy of his or her home …..”
To invade the home and houses of innocent people is a crime!
Section 37 of the Constitution adds “If any person alleges that any of the provisions dealing with fundament rights are being or is likely to be contravened in relation against the person one may apply to the High Court for redress.”
The High Court has responsibility to prevent any abuse of rights. PDOIS is ready to receive any complaint of anybody abducted and maltreated in connection with witchcraft. Families must give solidarity to their family members by identifying abductors and stand ready to name them in court. Families must no longer be complacent. People shout thief when their hens are being stolen and should therefore raised more alarm when their kith and kin is being abducted .They should distinguish those who are to enforce the law and those who are taking the law in their own hands.
It is time to make the High Court to work to protect rights. If there is any delay in the High Court we will assist victims to go to the ECOWAS Court and move on up to the ICC. Abduction and administering hallucinogenic drugs to innocent citizens are not acceptable. What happened before will not be allowed to happen again without grave cost .Those who take the law into their hands and act like prosecutors and judges at the same time would pay the price if families take a stand to give evidence.
We cannot stop people from having their beliefs but they must find ways of protecting themselves other than making unsubstantiated allegations against citizens like themselves. If people believe that there are witches, they should know how to identify them. It stands to reason that if one believes that witches exist, then one must equally agree that only a witch would know who is a witch.
The battle to protect the sovereign Gambian citizens from poverty and injustice will never be abandoned by PDOIS. We will fear no sacrifice and will surmount every difficulty to ensure that the people live in liberty, dignity and prosperity.
Issued By Halifa Sallah