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Is Polygamy Really the Solution?


In recent months there have been vigorous discussions on the growing anti-social behaviour in Botswana society. This is mostly evident in the way the youth is behaving, starting from misbehaviour at school age, such as abuse of alcohol and other substances, vandalism, sexual activity, so-called Satanism, violence, lack of respect of elders etc.

It is also manifested by teenage pregnancy and dropping out of school. There are other aspects of the social breakdown syndrome that manifest in adults, such as alcohol abuse and lack of responsibility at home including the neglect of family obligations.


Some regard all these as symptoms of the breakdown at family level. There is evidence, for example, that the majority of children are now born out of wedlock. This means that most children are raised by single parents, another way of saying raised by the mother alone. In many cases this means there is no male figure in the homestead, because modern life has to all intents and purposes put paid to the extended family system.

The maternal uncles, who used to play the role of the father in such circumstances, are now too far to fulfil the role as they are likely to be living away from the single mother. Some attribute the breakdown in social behaviour to this disintegration in the family structure. So the debate rages on, what can be done to bring about what some have called a “moral regeneration”?


As is expected, proposals are being generated from different perspectives, based on the background of the person making the proposals. Some believe that our society should go back to “culture and tradition”; even suggesting that a revival of initiation ceremonies like bojale and bogwera would do the trick.

The young ones would be taught during these rites of passage how to be responsible members of society in the mode of the traditional Tswana agrarian society. Others believe that we should go the religious way, the Christians leading the way. According to them we should all embrace Jesus Christ, and then everything will come right. According to them, we have all strayed from the Christian path; that is why our society’s morality has gone haywire.

There are, according to them, all sorts of demons at large in our society. The solution- we should all practice Christianity.  Still others, myself included, believe that our society and culture have evolved, and we cannot solve our problems by simply going to old ways. We are not an agrarian society anymore; we are a modern society, more of a commercial industrial entity than an agrarian one. As for religion, it cannot be the guarantor of morality. 

Immanuel Kant’s “categorical imperative” is operative here; we are now more products of the Enlightenment rather than of religion, hence our embracing the secular State. Our society should develop its human values and empirical reasoning, allowing its members the choice to approach morality from various angles; religious, traditional, deist or secular. The family is the fulcrum, the place where these values should be developed. Our problem is that the family has broken down, and that is where leaders in our society should invest their energies.


After this long introduction, let me now come to the gist of my message. In the last two weeks, it was largely reported in the press that a Traditional leader has advocated Polygamy as the solution to the family breakdown problem.

According to reports, the leader believes there are so many more women than men in Botswana that Polygamy should be allowed, so that the extra women can be married. In that way, we would avoid the problem of the extra women being concubines, and the children they bear growing up without father figures as these women would be recognized wives.


I have a problem with this thinking. Firstly, are there really that many more women than men in Botswana? According to the 2011 Census in Botswana, there are 95.5 males for every 100 females in Botswana. To me this does not suggest that every man can have two wives, because everything being equal, the ratio would not support such a scenario.

To all intents and purposes, there is one female for every male in the country. The apparent preponderance of women over men is relative; it is a social consequence of our societal structure, not a product of numbers. In polygamous societies, when a 70 year old many has four wives, the wives’ ages will range from 20 years to 60 years. Men go for women who are far below their age, whether to make them wives or concubines, and this makes it look like there are many more women than men.

What is more, women tend to be choosy when it comes to selecting men for marriage, they will tend to go for men who are older and offer more security, whether economic or social. That is why the so called shortage of men is really a social construct and not a reality.


Polygamy tends to die away as societies lose their agrarian structure and move into the cash economy. Other influences could also be religious; we know that mainline or orthodox Christianity dictates strict monogamy. These two factors have probably been responsible for the decline of Polygamy in Botswana.

The law itself has not prohibited Polygamy- if a man wants to be polygamous, he simply has to marry by traditional law and he can have as many wives as he wants. Why is it that many men in Botswana don’t take that route? We should realize that whereas in the past, and in the polygamous societies in general, women tend to have to fend for themselves, producing their own food in the fields etc.

In modern Botswana society wives tend to depend on the husband for livelihood. A man who marries more than one wife therefore has to fend for all the wives. This may be another factor that drove Botswana men away from Polygamy.


Marriage in Botswana has been declining. Couples tend to have children but not marry. That is why most children are now born out of wedlock. In many cases the man simply goes away after the woman falls pregnant; in some cases the couple will cohabit but not marry.

According to the Analytic Report of the 2011 Botswana Census, while in the 1971 Census 47.1% males and 42.9% females were married, in the 2011 Census 18.8% males and 17.9% females were married. This shows a very profound decline in the percentage of married adults in the four decades. The reasons for this decline should make the people of this country wonder what is going on. Polygamy is certainly not going to solve this problem, because shortage of men is not the source of the problem.

The problem is most probably economic, and the costs of getting married, especially bogadi and related costs are most likely the main problem. Of course there are likely to be other problems, many men are now just afraid of responsibility.


We should also note that people are not bearing as many children as they used to. According to the 2011 Census, the Total Fertility Rate (the average births per woman) for Botswana is now 2.7 children. In the 1971 Census it was 6.5 and in the 1991 Census it was 4.2. So fertility has been declining steadily, or to put it in other words, women have been bearing less and less children in the last four decades.

This is to be expected; it always happens when women get more educated and get more engaged in the job market and work for careers. Unfortunately, the women in the lower socio-economic classes tend to be left behind, and we see in Botswana that the women with little or no education tend to bear more children, in many cases out of marriage and with more than one man. This is unfortunate as these are the very women who cannot afford to raise these children properly in economic terms. Again it is difficult to see how polygamy will solve this problem.


The question of Polygamy takes one to the very core of equality for women and their empowerment. With the secular modern democracy on which our Republic is based, and looking at modern developments in such a liberal democracy, I believe that Polygamy is very incompatible with the very basis of the kind of society we are aspiring to.

This is because by its very nature, Polygamy treats women as inferior and not equal to men. I know that there are some who try to argue biologically and say that in all mammalian species males mate with many females, but humans have developed a brain and a level of intelligence not found in any other mammal, even in primates, our nearest relatives. Human development, and the attendant human rights, dictates that the time for Polygamy is gone.

One of course accepts that we still have those who would like to practice things they regard as traditional or cultural (bear in mind that culture is dynamic and changes all the time), and therefore traditional practices like Polygamy cannot be banned even if they are incompatible with our worldview. However, I believe as a State we should not be seen to encourage such a practice.


Lastly, we should not forget that two decades ago (I cannot remember the actual year), an attempt by Government to unify the traditional and modern laws which would make polygamy an option in all marriages was thoroughly rejected by the people of this country. It shows that Batswana have generally outgrown that kind of marriage and do not want it to come back.

We should not labour under the impression that marriage was a bed of roses when Polygamy was still a common practice. There must be a reason why it was called “go nyala lefufa”. It implies that there was always considerable jealousy in such a marriage.


Let us move forward, not backwards. Our leadership should find ways of dealing with the breakdown in social mores that we are experiencing, but trying to revert to an agrarian mode of life is not a viable alternative.

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Khan: Boko, Masisi are fake politicians

18th January 2021
Masisi & Boko

While there is no hard-and-fast rule in politics, former Molepolole North Member of Parliament, Mohamed Khan says populism acts in the body politic have forced him to quit active partisan politics. He brands this ancient ascription of politics as fake and says it lowers the moral compass of the society.

Khan who finally tasted political victory in the 2014 elections after numerous failed attempts, has decided to leave the ‘dirty game’, and on his way out he characteristically lashed at the current political leaders; including his own party president, Advocate Duma Boko. “I arrived at this decision because I have noticed that there are no genuine politics and politicians. The current leaders, Boko and President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi are fake politicians who are just practicing populist politics to feed their egos,” he said.

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Ookeditse rejects lobby for BPF top post

18th January 2021
LAWRENCE-OOKEDITSE

Former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary hopeful, Lawrence Ookeditse has rejected the idea of taking up a crucial role in the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) Central Committee following his arrival in the party this week. According to sources close to development, BPF power brokers are coaxing Ookeditse to take up the secretary general position, left vacant by death of Roseline Panzirah-Matshome in November 2020.

Ookeditse’s arrival at BPF is projected to cause conflicts, as some believe they are being overlooked, in favour of a new arrival. The former ruling party strategist has however ruled out the possibility of serving in the party central committee as secretary general, and committed that he will turn down the overture if availed to him by party leadership.

Ookeditse, nevertheless, has indicated that if offered another opportunity to serve in a different capacity, he will gladly accept. “I still need to learn the party, how it functions and all its structures; I must be guided, but given any responsibility I will serve the party as long as it is not the SG position.”

“I joined the BPF with a clear conscious, to further advance my voice and the interests of the constituents of Nata/Gweta which I believe the BDP is no longer capable to execute.” Ookeditse speaks of abject poverty in his constituency and prevalent unemployment among the youth, issues he hopes his new home will prioritise.

He dismissed further allegations that he resigned from the BDP because he was not rewarded for his efforts towards the 2019 general elections. After losing in the BDP primaries in 2018, Ookeditse said, he was offered a job in government but declined to take the post due to his political ambitions. Ookeditse stated that he rejected the offer because, working for government clashed with his political journey.

He insists there are many activists who are more deserving than him; he could have chosen to take up the opportunity that was before him but his conscious for the entire populace’s wellbeing held him back. Ookeditse said there many people in the party who also contributed towards party success, asserting that he only left the BDP because he was concerned about the greater good of the majority not individualism purposes.

According to observers, Ookeditse has been enticed by the prospects of contesting Nata/Gweta constituency in the 2024 general election, following the party’s impressive performance in the last general elections. Nata/Gweta which is a traditional BDP stronghold saw its numbers shrinking to a margin of 1568. BDP represented by Polson Majaga garnered 4754, while BPF which had fielded Joe Linga received 3186 with UDC coming a distant with 1442 votes.

There are reports that Linga will pave way for Ookeditse to contest the constituency in 2024 and the latter is upbeat about the prospects of being elected to parliament. Despite Ookeditse dismissing reports that he is eying the secretary general position, insiders argue that the position will be availed to him nevertheless.

Alternative favourite for the position is Vuyo Notha who is the party Deputy Secretary General. Notha has since assumed duties of the secretariat office on the interim basis. BPF politburo is expected to meet on 25th of January 2020, where the vacancy will be filled.

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BDP cancels MPs retreat

18th January 2021
President Masisi

Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) big wigs have decided to cancel a retreat with the party legislators this weekend owing to increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases. The meeting was billed for this weekend at a place that was to be confirmed, however a communique from the party this past Tuesday reversed the highly anticipated meeting.

“We received a communication this week that the meeting will not go as planned because of rapid spread of Covid-19,” one member of the party Central Committee confirmed to this publication.
The gathering was to follow the first of its kind held late last year at party Treasurer Satar Dada’s place.

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