Extract from on women and development issues in Africa (emphasis added) “Repositioning culture for development: women and development in a Nigerian rural community – Community, Work & Family – Volume 18, Issue 3”
From a general perspective, advances in Internet technology and the field of medical surgery have affected the concept of woman. Through medical surgery, transgenderism provides evidence that the idea of womanhood is no more static. It has widened the biological identity that defines the woman by pushing the concept of woman into a state of flux. Furthermore, the Internet provides a platform for flexible woman identity. In online communities, a man can adopt the identity of a woman at any time, for an indefinite or a specific period. Such a person can participate, interact and make decisions concerning women in the cyberspace. This is possible in webinars, non-video web conferences and social networking websites. In situations like these, it can be difficult to ascertain males or females because biological identities are concealable behind computer screens. Therefore, it is reasonable to argue that the biological concept of woman is no more the same everywhere. It is wider in legal systems with established sex reassignment cultures. From the aspect of community, it is broader within the cyberspace than in the real world. Considering this changing context of woman, one may view woman as anyone identified to be legally or biologically a female gender of adult age in any society. This very broad definition recognises that the concept of woman is no more entirely biological issue, but has stronger legal (sex reassignment rights) undertones. It recognises the transgender (or transsexual) and virtual woman, as well as the biological woman as a part of womanhood. It recognises that people’s gender can possibly be altered during their lifetimes. It even takes into account, the geographical perspective of womanhood. For instance, a transgender woman in Germany may not be accepted as a woman in Nigeria due to differences in legal and social systems. That means – a man in one country can be a woman in another. About this issue in Africa, there is a lack of data available on transgender populations due to lack of endorsement of gender alteration by National governments. The only exception is South Africa, whose law, Alteration of Sex Description and Sex Status Act of 2003, recognises sex reassignment, and its Constitutional Court has indicated that sexual orientation includes transsexuality. In Nigeria, just as in many African countries, the legal system is transphobic. However, this issue is worth mentioning. Although transgender women may be invisible in Nigerian communities today, overtime or as the legal systems change, communities may face the challenges of incorporating them in women’s community development affairs. This status of the issue in Africa means that the changing concept of woman has community development implications only in countries like South Africa.
Since our research focuses on Nigeria, we take a more traditional view of a woman’s identity – that is, the biological, social roles and cultural perspectives of womanhood. This is in accordance with the situation of women in Nigerian societies. We have adapted to this concept of woman because it matches the traditional view of womanhood in Nigerian rural communities. Within this context, women are at the heart of the social construction of the family. Their reproductive capacity and marital status is important in community development (Okejiri, 2012). In addition, there are behavioural and cultural conditions that guide the identity of womanhood. These social conditions shape women’s identity in Nigeria.