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Archive for May 2010

Words to heed

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How scary is the trend of repression in Rwanda? Very, says Paul Rusesabagina.

Warning signs are everywhere. Organizations including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are strongly condemning new election-related repression. Senator Russ Feingold, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, has spoken out against “renewed abuse of civil and political rights.” The government is recreating the polarizing conditions that helped lead to genocide.


Written by Niall

May 1, 2010 at 12:55 pm

Posted in Africa, Governance, Rwanda

Proposed polygamy ban in Malawi

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Some of the Malawians that we interview are part of a polygamous household. One article suggests that polygamy is present among 12% of households. This week, the government proposed to make polygamy illegal

Christian and Muslim organizations, citing religious and cultural significance, have both come out against the proposed ban.

Not being active within the religious life of Malawians, I cannot comment on the religious significance of polygamy, however, I feel like the social and economic significance of polygamy have received little serious discussion in the debate over polygamy in Malawi.

In some cases, men see it as an expectation or as a conspicuous demonstration of wealth and success. While many women in polygamous households suggest that they accept the custom, I rarely hear from women that are supportive of there husband marrying and additional wife. There are serious cost to breaking up a marriage and divorce is not easy in any country. Even in very poor households decisions must be made about the division of assets and social ties may be threatened. From my observation of the people that we work with and interview, it is possible that polygamy is used as a way to avoid formal and costly matrimonial cessation through divorce. While it may sound crude, adding an additional wife is part of the marriage market in Malawi. Polygamy offers an alternative to divorce as well as an alternative to add to his asset wealth and household productivity.

Let me be clear. Polygamy doesn’t seem to be a good solution to marital discord, nor is acquiring another wife an appropriate demonstration of wealth. And I believe that many women probably do worse in polygamous relationships than they first anticipate.  However, with a high female-male ratio and a shortage of assets diversification options, wives are perceived as an item to expand the productive capacity of a household. As wealth increases among Malawians of options for diversifying assets improve, I propose that we will see a diminishing polygamy rate even in absence of a government imposed ban on the practice.

As for the predicted success of the law, this quote from the secretary general of the Muslim Association of Malawi leds me to believe that the impact of the ban will not be clear:

“I have only one wife, my dear wife… but the moment they proceed with this, I will take a second wife”

Here is Tyler Cowen on polygamy, with some read-worthy links.

Written by Niall

May 1, 2010 at 12:46 pm

Posted in Law, Malawi, politics

The New England Celtics

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No denying regional loyalty here:

Written by Niall

May 1, 2010 at 12:09 pm

Posted in Uncategorized