Background information for 1-2-1 Connectors responding to questions on Tribal marriage infidelity.
Tags: marriage, plural marriage, engaged, unfaithful, HIV/AIDS, Labola, African culture.
Africa is a continent, with about 72 different countries in it. South of the Equator the majority of the people are Blacks, in the south they are known as 'Bantu' which is their word for 'the people'. The African black peoples are divided by tribal and language differences, but many of the customs of marriage and family are similar to one another.
First on the list is probably the matter of a man choosing a wife. Simple? Not really.
Questions that need to be asked: Is he living in a tribal community, or is he living in a city? The answer will affect his values and judgments when looking for marriage.
The usual procedure when he chooses a woman, is to approach the woman's family through a negotiator and determine the terms they demand for him to marry her. Yes there is a cost, called 'Bride Price' that must be considered. The girl has been part of her family, with her duties to hoe, weed and harvest the crops. This is considered woman's work, and the bigger the fields the more females are needed to do this, usually all by hand! Her marriage takes away from the family a valuable resource for their food supply.
If the girl is educated, she increases in value, especially in view of her perhaps working in a city, whence she may be able to send money from her paycheck to her family. The more education she has, the more she earns, and marriage will bring that income to her husband and not to the family. So the bride price will have to be carefully considered by her family. Bride Price is usually determined by the level of education and the attractiveness of the girl, and is always computed in the currency of 'Cows'. If this sounds strange, the Latin word for money is 'Pecunia' = the root word is Cow! So the use of cows in ancient economics was based on early barter systems.
Once the family have agreed on the Bride Price, the man must save up and produce the payment in terms agreed upon before the marriage can take place. The penalty for abusing the girl after marriage, with her wishing to return to her family, would necessitate a refund of the bride price by her family to the former husband.
Second on the list is the matter of Plural Marriage in Africa.
In the Republic of South Africa, polygamy, or Polygny, were both illegal, and technically still are. The Black Government in South Africa is making subtle changes in the law, and currently President Zuma has multiple wives. The legal system turns a blind eye to plural marriage in most cases. Plural marriage is likewise rampant in many other African countries.
The man needs more than one wife if he is to enlarge his agricultural holdings, as the women work the crops. The men and boys care for the animals, cows, sheep, goats.
The way these plural marriages are arranged is usually the first marriage is arranged within the legal system, and the 'First Wife' becomes the wife of record. Then the man will marry other wives, within the tribal system, but outside of the legal system. The tribe recognize these marriages as normal, and all the obligations of marriage, including the Bride Price must be met. The head wife is in charge of the other wives, and sees that they get their benefits and contribute to the work load.
As a 1-2-1 Connector, if you hear from a woman in Africa, the chances are 5 to 1 that she has access to electricity, and therefore is living in a town or city. The tribal villages seldom have access to the internet and the knowhow to use it. This means that you may be corresponding with a woman who is struggling with a conflict of marriage viewed within her tribal culture, but living in a modern environment. She and her husband will still have accountability to their respective families, even if the family still live in isolation in the tribal area. The Bride may be conflicted between helping her family financially, and helping pay her husband's expenses living in the city.
Adultery by the husband becomes a big issue. In the city he may find a 'girlfriend' who if not a prostitute may well have been with other men, and the likelihood of his contracting HIV/AIDS is extremely high throughout Africa. The wife may wish to return home and leave/divorce her husband.
The family are then facing the return of the Bride Price, the 'Labola', to the man, when the Bride wants to leave him. The bride's family see the 'girlfriend' as simply another wife in tribal culture, and not as a life threatening issue for their daughter.
Third on the list, is a web site that specializes in HIV information for Africa:
Here are some of the facts they have gathered (Info accessed 2014):
Out of the 34 million HIV-positive people worldwide, 69 percent live in sub-Saharan Africa. There are roughly 23.8 million infected persons in all of Africa.
More than one million adults and children die every year from HIV/AIDS in Africa alone.
71 percent of the HIV/AIDS-related deaths in 2011 were people living in Africa.
Because of HIV/AIDs, the average life-expectancy in sub-Saharan Africa is 54.4 years of age. In some countries in Africa, it’s below 49.
Because 59 percent of HIV-positive people in Africa are women, the vast majority of children diagnosed with HIV have had the virus passed from their mothers.
South Africa is reported to have the largest population living with the disease, at well over 5 million people infected.
The percentage of populations infected in countries bordering South Africa, are actually higher, running between 26% in Swaziland, and 23-22% in Botswana and Lesotho. More than two-thirds (70 percent) of all people living with HIV, 24 million, live in sub-Saharan Africa—including 88 percent of the world’s HIV-positive children.
In summary, this is a huge issue for the African people seeking help with marriage problems.
I encourage 1-2-1 connectors to pray with the inquirer, and to point out the Christian benefits of marriage in a 'One Man and One Woman for life' commitment.
Keep in mind that the use of the words, 'Boy friend' and 'Girl friend' are indicative of a sexual relationship, where little if any contraception is practiced, and where the men are just as likely to contract the disease from another non-family woman (prostitute), leaving the wife with a family to raise, on her own, if she does not contract the disease herself.
Be sensitive to the woman saying that her family are telling her to stay with the husband. This is usually a reluctance, or incapacity, to return the 'labola' they received from the girl's husband.
Link to article on the Wives of South African President Jacob Zuma
© 2014 Jim Cole-Rous