Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Setswana Culture: The Handy Club for Submission

If you find yourself in Botswana, in the middle of a debate that is impossible for your to win you’re lucky, because here, even if you have the most ludicrous position that leaves you standing on what you wish was shaky ground but in fact is air, you can pull out the always handy culture card and everything will magically go silent in your favour. Saying “it’s our culture” in Botswana is equivalent to saying “shut up- I win” because culture is this big, solid block that cannot be altered nor disrespected because then you are “influenced by foreign cultures” or a “neo-colonialist”.

I read last night’s Mmegi Monitor and I am positive steam was coming out my ears. The article was covering a workshop being run by a group called True Men being held for councillors and traditional leaders. The topic was on gender violence. This is all good. I like discussions about gender violence and I love that men are taking the lead. Good. Good. Good.

So where does it go wrong? Well one hotspot, the customary court president for Tati Town, Margaret Ludo Mosojane decided she had to put her two cents in (Yes -I did say SHE). Ms Mosojane stood up to educate the gathering about marital rape. According to her, it does not exist. If you signed on the dotted line you agreed that your body belongs to your husband. According to the Monitor, this champion of women’s rights told the group, “If he touches me, and I just tell him I do not want to do it, I am breaching the contract. You have to give it to him whenever he wants to have sex with you because you agreed that is what you will do.” Sound ludicrous? Don’t argue it’s the culture. (shut up- she wins) Nice to know she's up north there acting as presiding officer over domestic disputes- comforting.

Another infuriating topic of debate is the Children’s Act. Botswana can’t sign on since Batswana say putting the father’s name on the birth certificate is against culture. (shut up- they win). This crazed line of thinking starts with the always repeated factoid that there are more women than men in Botswana. How sad it would be if some women would be left out of all of the fun, so Batswana men, married or not, must take up their patriotic duty and spread their seed. So babies are born to all and sundry with complicated personal histories often involving a blame-less train that ran over an inordinate number of fathers. (No wonder there are less men than women- for godsake get off the tracks!)

So now these crazy, foreign influenced people want to do the unthinkable and write the father’s name on the birth certificate. Can’t happen, not in Botswana, it goes against Setswana culture. (shut up- they win)


Anonymous said...

Needless to say,these customs OUGHT to be CHANGED not just for MORAL reasons but because it is difficult for the Family Courts to

issue an order to the man,who fathered the child to pay CHILD SUPPORT!
The women in Botswana make it MUCH to easy for men,who avoid paying child support.

We have actually this trend also here,in Berlin.
In our law ofice we had a client,a Hungarian gipsy,who sued the Social Services for child support because she did NOT know who her's child father was.

It is a huge burden for the Senat of Berlin,paying social benefits to mothers,who get kids out of wedlock and think the MIGHTY Government and the taxpayers will pay for them.

As far as I know Presiden Ian Khama is a charismatic man but needless to say,Botswana is also hit by the downfall of the diamond and other minerals business and Batswana ought to learn to relay on themselves and NOT to expect that the Government will be always avilable to them!

Writing the name of the fatheron a birt certificate will help the authorities to track the location of the father and force him to pay a child support.

Anonymous said...

mind you culture is dynamic. give men a already trains are finishing them. lsk.

Helen Ginger said...

Now, Lauri, quite hedging around. Tell us how you really feel. ;-)

Thank goodness laws can be changed. It takes time -- and perhaps more time in some cultures than in others. But we here in the U.S. can't get up on our high horses. We still have some obnoxious laws.

AM-C said...

Congrats on your Baobab win Lauri. Seems that this year began with a bang for you and the momentum is gathering up spped. I saw that Book SA covered it (http://news.book.co.za/blog/2009/03/23/lauri-kubuitsile-wins-one-of-the-inaugural-baobab-prizes/). You go girl :) .

Lauri said...

Ayo- I've wondered wher you got off to. Thanks for the congrats. You know this writing game- one step forward two steps back. Today showed me that. How's you're writing going??

Helen- You're right, culture changes, that's all we can hope for.

Rosie- Getting child support for kids here is a huge mission, you're right.

Anonymous said...

Dear Lauri,
as you know I lived in USA and learned English but most of the time I read Court decisions and other legal literature,therefore I do not understand what Mr.Anonymous means by saying:give men a already trains are finishing them." Isk

Lauri said...

I think he left out a word- give men a break , already trains are finishing them

Anonymous said...

Culture should be examined and questioned and understood before being condemned. For me, the underlying message is simply choose your partner carefully. Also, I'm Motswana and the father of my child's name is on her birth certificate. Our choice;not to make it easier to chase for child support. Unfortunately, we are often blinded by foreign ways which are not always better.

Anonymous said...

I read the criminal case State of Botswana vs.Tsobane,who's verdict was a death sentence by stangulation.

He killed his OWN child in order to avoid paying Pula 40,- child support per month.
I know the salaries in Botswana are not as high as in Europe but even for Botswana 40 Pula are not soooooooooooooooo much money.
Therefore I could NOT comprehend, that there are women,who are getting children hopping to receive child support from a man,who does NOT wish to marry them.
The same is in my native country,BULGARIA!
When a marriage does not function,other women (also my own mother) blame ONLY the wife,never the husband!

BASTA...how the Italians are saying it!

Lauri said...

Anononymous- I absolutlely agree with you but the point I'm making is that even Setswana culture must be analysed and Batswana should be able to step up and say no this is not okay. The culture card is a handy, lazy way to win an arguement.

Anonymous said...

Needless to argue about culture...


do not be sooooooooooooooooooooo emotional,dear Barswana or Motswana!

Having the father's name written on the birth certificate makes it easier for the Child Support Agency and for the Family Court to find the father,who is delinquent on child payments.

Lauri is NOT condemnig the culture...otherwise she would not have married a Botswana man.

The issues of domestic violence and child support are very present ALSO in USA or in other Western countries.

It is NOT a cultural issue...it is a HUMAN ISSUE.As long as there are HUMANS on this Planet,there will be violence and children,who do not know their father or sometimes their mother.
There are also cases when WOMEN are running away from their marital duties.

Lauri said...

You are right Rosie. It is a problem all over the world.

Anonymous said...

Hi Lauri,

I've been reading your blog for a while now and I find your writings facinating. I also read the Mmegi piece, and just like you, I was shocked by what this woman said. In Mauritius, where I'm from, we've come to terms with spousal rape - Thank God. But there still remains a lot to do. One day listenig to the radio, I almost fell off my chair when I heard a woman saying that "if a man beats a woman it's because he loves her". It made me wonder if I should feel sorry for all those women who were never even slapped in the face!

In Mauritius, at least in some circles, calling on the culture argument might not be well received, but there is still a core of conservative people out there.