Child marriage is a problem in the developed world. When girls as young as 11 and 12 (or even younger) are getting married, this increases their risk of complications in pregnancy, and limits their own futures (in terms of education).
A Malawi tribal chief has taken a stand. Theresa Kachindamoto, senior chief in the Dedza District in Central Malawi, made 50 of her sub-chiefs sign an agreement to end child marriage in her area of authority.
“I told them: ‘Whether you like it or not, I want these marriages to be terminated,’” Kachindamoto told the news outlet.
She also made a rule to annul any current child marriages, which resulted in the break up of 850 marriages.
“First it was difficult, but now people are understanding,” she said to the outlet.
This has protected against girls getting pulled out of school.
“I don’t want youthful marriages,” Chief Kachindamoto told U.N. Women. “They must go to school. No child should be found at home or doing household chores during school time.”
In poor, rural regions like the Dedza District, rates of child marriage are particularly high, according to Unicef, and it can be hard to convince parents not to marry off their daughters in exchange for a dowry. Especially parents who feel like they have no other way to escape poverty.
But this is where Chief Kachindamoto comes in.
“I talk to the parents,” she said to U.N. Women last year. “I tell them: if you educate your girls you will have everything in the future.”
“Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere”
A great note to end the week with, some spiritual brilliance from this internationally known New Orleans poet.
According to her bio, Sunni’s mission is to aid in the awakening, the revival, and the remembrance of our gifts and voices, enabling us to move to a greater space of self empowerment, creativity and actualization.
I noticed the African words in the middle of the poem are names of the West African, Yoruba Gods. I think it’s interesting that she chose to put them in the middle of the poem deliberately. On my blog you can also read more about Yoruba or the Gods of Yoruba.
TEXT OF POEM:
We have not always found comfort in killers.
We have not always found solace being rocked
in the bosoms of those who silently pray
and openly destroy.
No, not always have we mistaken mimicry for mastery
or pretending for knowing
or enslavement for freedom.
But across my memory —-
across my memory marches millions -—
bold, regal, resilient, confident —-
unshackled feet stumping up spirits
to guide us through this fickle material world.
We like sun and moon folk,
universal souls praying our prayers,
singing our songs.
Eshu, Ogoun, Shango, Yemaja, Oshun, Obatala, Oya,
Damballah, Ayida Wedo, Loa, Nkongo, Olodumare and Yami.
We know all of you by name.
We are people of beginnings, of culture, of strength.
Not always have we given into the empty threats
and scare tactics of the powerless ones.
Not always have we allowed the blood of our sons and daughters
to color the streets while we’re walking asleep,
marching to the beat of that siren song.
They’re still wearing their sheets,
with nooses in reach,
showing their teeth and smiling, it seems.
But I hear in the breeze
in the rustle of the trees
and the dangling of the feet,
they say, please, don’t let them ever forget.
You see, not always have we suffered from amnesia.
Not always have we forgotten how to conjure up spirits,
fix up a mixture,
We, like magicians,
god-like vision, we -—
we are people of sight.
So, no, not always have we fallen
for this okie doke
or inhaled the hazardous smoke of the manipulators
or been satisfied with crumbs for meals
our hands have prepared.
Hughes said life for us ain’t been no crystal stair,
but at least the steps are there
to push us up higher,
teach us how to go beyond the destroyer’s disguises,
look them in the eyes and be able to see.
Because what’s surprising when you know the nature of a beast
and especially when they’ve shown the same face for centuries?
So you tell me,
what’s the difference between two sisters in New Orleans
shot point-blank in the back of the head,
and two women bound in their car in Baghdad?
Or government-sanctioned killings in Kenya,
and a sister held hostage in a house in Virginia?
Or poverty in Haiti, poverty in Jamaica,
rape in Rwanda or rape in Somalia?
A sweatshop in China or one in Guatemala?
Or small pox and blankets, syphilis and Tuskegee,
formaldehyde and FEMA, ethnic cleansing and Katrina?
I recall within a speech Dr. King made us aware,
he said injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere.
So they can spare us their drama, huh?
We got the heart of them field working mamas.
We carry the torch of that ancestor fire.
So with every fiber that flutters in our being,
with every find that comes from our seeking,
with every hearing that comes from our listening,
and every sight that comes from our seeing,
we must be faithful, strategic, victorious and free.
(Update: I recently gave permission to the Gay Life Newsletter to publish this article here)
Radicalization of violence and hatred towards homosexuals is getting worse in Africa. Today it is outlawed in 41 out of 53 African Common Wealth countries. In Sudan and Somalia, one can receive the death penalty for homosexuality. Law makers tried to pass a “Kill the Gays” – or rather a Death Penalty for homosexuality in Uganda as well, but the act was eventually changed to life in prison. Gays are also increasingly under fire in Nigeria. Same sex unions are punished by 14 years in prison.
Lawmakers in Nigeria are calling gays “Un-African” and state that homosexuality is a decadent import from the west.
Anti-Gay Laws: A Western Import
Yet the ultimate irony is that Laws Banning homosexuality are the Western Import – not homosexuality itself. The current Anti-Gay Laws are actually a remnant of British Colonialism, the laws were designed to punish what the British authorities saw as unnatural sex among the natives. Even today, much of the political push towards Anti-Gay laws in Uganda have received massive funding from Christian Evangelicals in America. A documentary published by The New York Times highlights how money from American Missionaries is funding some very dangerous ideology that demonizes members of the LGBT community (Gospels of Intolerance). According to Mother Jones, Uganda has been a hotbed of activity for Evangelicals who have failed to demonize the Gays in their own country (Mother Jones).
Ancient Homosexual Traditions in Africa
Before European Imperialism in the continent, there was a varying degree of Gay Acceptance in Africa depending on the tribe and culture. It is important to remember that there are numerous tribes and cultures in Africa, so we can’t lump them all together as if they were one big country.
For example, there is the Mevengu tradition carried out by the Beti people in Cameroon. Women would gather together and have rituals to celebrate erotic power and the clitoris.
In northern Nigeria, there are the Yan Daudu – men who dress as women, like to braid hair, do make-up and are famed for their playfulness and sexual ambiguity. The phrase “Yan Daudu” itself means sons of Daudu – who is a fun loving, gambling spirit that is worshipped in the Muslim Bori practice. For more than a century, Yan Daudu were tolerated in the Muslim North. Their trance and dancing rituals were associated with poor, marginalized women, sex workers and the disabled. They even sometimes accompanied politicians in their campaigns. Yet now there is a religious revival sweeping the area, and more Yan Daudu’s are findings themselves under attack for their lifestyle.
Further west, in Senegal, there is a minority group of men known as Gor Digen, which means “man-woman” in the native language. These men dress like women and sometimes work as prostitutes. Even back in colonial times, Senegal’s metropolis was famous for its open and tolerant homosexual prostitution market. In the 1930’s a traveler named Geoffery Gorer reported that these “man-women” were a common sight and suffered no form of cultural oppression – other than the fact that they were refused a religious burial. Yet now homosexuality is punishable in Senegal by up to five years in prison.
The Rain Queen
There is a fascinating custom among the Balobedu people of the Limpopo Province of South Africa called “The Rain Queen.” The Rain Queen is a woman who is believed to have special powers, including the ability to control the clouds and the rainfall. She is not supposed to marry a male, but instead has several wives. However, it is not clear whether she has sexual relations with these women or if they are merely her ladies in waiting. Regardless of the technicalities of the situation, this is a custom of same sex marriage that has existed for 400 years and is very obviously not a modern western import.
The Key to Tolerance? Perhaps It’s Time to Embrace Ancient Cultural Wisdom
I think a key to restoring the tolerance and acceptance that homosexuals once experienced in various tribes is for these cultures to embrace their ancient practices and beliefs. While Ethiopia was technically one of the first places to embrace Christianity (a few centuries before the Europeans did I might add) I will say that much of the variants of Christianity imposed in Africa these days are colonial in nature and intent. Evangelical Christianity itself is a very fundamentalist, American bred outlook that is foiling attempts to deal with the AIDS crisis in a sane manner and is throwing gasoline on the fire in terms of demonizing homosexuals.
However, South Africa shines as a beacon of hope, since it is the only country in Africa where Gay Marriage is legal. On April 9th of 2013, two men tied the knot in South Africa’s first official gay wedding. They had a traditional African wedding as well as a Western Wedding. The grooms dressed in their respective ancestral attire – Zulu and Tswana. You can read more about the wedding here.
A documentary in which a Gay British DJ investigates what life is like for gays in Uganda