Friday, November 06, 2009

Marriage in Somalia

An interesting article in Al Arabiya discusses how marriage has turned into a legal way of sleeping around for young Somalians, helped by random calls on inexpensive cell phones:
Bile Farah, 25, said marriages nowadays have become more of an "entertainment."

"I don't think I'd be sane if it were not for the 'Qudbasiro', free-of-charge secret marriages," the unemployed secondary school graduate told Reuters, sitting cross-legged on a ragged mattress and sending a text message with his phone.

"I've divorced nine women already. Voluntary brides and cheap phone services, it is the only life we have."

Unsurprisingly, such behavior is frowned upon by hardline Islamist Shabaab insurgents who rule over much of central and southern Somalia and want to impose their own austere version of Sharia law on the whole country.

They have banned elopement in the areas under their control. But for Halima Osman, a Mogadishu mother-of-three, the mobile phone helped her run away with the love of her life.

I am very proud. I would not have these three kids if it were not for the cheap calls and elopement," the 20-year-old told Reuters, covering her face with a scarf.

She said her sister lived a "dog's life" being beaten for seven years after being married to an old man against her will.

"She suffered. But you can just dial a number or pick up a ringing phone. You make an appointment then elope. Life is so easy if you are lucky."

Aden, the shop owner, said he was shocked when his own daughter eloped and gave birth to a child with a young man he had never met. But he also had a confession.

"I enjoy this lifestyle myself, to some extent," he said.

Apart from an older wife in a "far away" region, he said he had three younger spouses in the capital: one through an arranged marriage and the other two "secretly."

"I call them day wives, because we usually have to meet discreetly during the daytime, the other one will take it out on the children if I'm missing from her nightly roll call," he said.

"But the recent insecurity has favored us. You hear gunfire, and you have an excuse to be absent."
The article started off with that same shop owner describing how things were in the good old days:
Somali courtship was different in Hassan Aden's day. When he was a teenager, you gave the girl's parents 11 camels and an AK-47 assault rifle as bride price and then waited respectfully.