Tim’s heart-wrenching post about the fate of so many Thai girls stirred something in my mind pertinent to South Africa.
It is not about young girls who are forced into the sex trade either physically or by force of circumstance. Rather it is about different perceptions. And which of the perceptions is right.
On the one hand, Zuma has a constitutional right to have as many wives as he wants. The Constitutional Court has ruled that the traditional practice of having multiple wives fits in with the national constitution. And there is no doubt that the majority view in South Africa is that there is nothing wrong with that. A Black woman I spoke to recently expressed distaste for the practice at a personal level, but acceptance at a general level.
“If he has three wives,” she said, “that’s his problem. But my husband is not going to do the same thing.”
On the other hand, I think that Zuma’s polygamy sets a bad example for the young of the country. But immediately I say that, I wonder whether my Western-centric view of the world has any applicability to countries outside the European-influenced zone. Why should different cultures not have different morals? And if they can have different morals, one may disagree with them, but why be critical of them?
I don’t find thinking about this issue very easy at all.
In addition to being perplexed about polygamy, I also am intrigued. How does it work, in reality? Do the wives have a pecking order, so to speak? How does Wife #1 feel as her husband marries Wife #3? How does Husband divide his time between the Wives? Do all the Wives live in the same house? Do they get on? And what if they don’t? (I feel a mystery coming on here – Murder in the House of Zuma).
There is also an issue around Zuma’s polygamous marriages that I find very distasteful – namely the tone of so many reports in the West of his latest marriage. The tone is that Africa is inferior, primitive, and its inhabitants immoral savages. As an African I resent that.
I’m interested in finding out what you think about these issues.
Stan - Thursday
(Photos: Ndaba Dlamini)