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The Problem with the Allegedly Proposed Eritrean Law From a Feminist's Point of View

Updated on January 28, 2016

Social media has been quite taken with the story of Eritrea, where the government is allegedly planning to pass a bill that requires all Eritrean men to marry two wives or be jailed. While this story makes for seemingly catchy headlines, the whole charade needs to stop. It is a little skeptical that any sane government, moreso in the free world, would pass such a law, setting women back a thousand years. The whole story would appear as someone’s desperate attempt at making a joke in bad taste.

Some men, of course, were exhilarated by the news. After all, who doesn’t love a good story? Especially when that story is an expression of your inner-most desires and behavioral tendencies. The African culture does not just permit polygamous marriages, it promotes them. Apparently a happy husband is the key to a happy home. You are told that you ought to let your husband marry another wife or lose him entirely and you are reminded about how shameful and embarrassing that would be. You have to put him on a pedestal because that was what God created you to do; that is what you are good for. There are several problems with this approach. In this time and age, no woman should have to compromise her happiness or beliefs just to please a man. We are living in the free world now; it is a new age. Most men expressed how they would love to move to Eritrea so that they would marry two wives, citing how beautiful Eritrean women are, what with their light skin and all

Woman carrying the Eritrean national flag
Woman carrying the Eritrean national flag | Source

It is shameful that we live in a society that objectifies women and regards those who look a certain way to be more beautiful and attractive than others. Society is simply telling young African girls everywhere that they are not beautiful enough because they have dark skin; that they have to be light-skinned in order to appear beautiful. Then we go on to trash and badmouth women who choose to lighten their skin when really, we are the ones who created the notion that light is beautiful.

Apparently, the Eritrean government wanted to pass the bill because the ratio of women to men is high in the country. The government wants to ensure that all women have a fair chance of getting married. While this is really considerate and heartwarming, depending on how you take it, it is, at the same time, utterly demeaning and disrespectful to women. Women are more empowered now than they were 100 years ago. There are many options available to them; a woman in the 21st century has the power to literally do anything she wants. A century ago, most women did not have options. You either had to get married or be rejected by society. People would make an example of you; you would literally be a walking shame and disgrace, not only to yourself, but to the entire society. Even if you did not want to get married, you had to eventually. Most women did not have possessions of their own. If you married ‘well’, into a rich family, you were the envy of other women. You would not have to struggle for anything in your life. While the allure of this lifestyle is appealing, every woman who has married into a wealthy family will tell you there is a price to be paid. You will be accorded an extravagant and materialistic lifestyle but at an expensive cost. You practically belong to somebody. Your freedom is curtailed and you have to put on a good show to keep up the family name. It is your duty to give birth to and nurture male heirs to your husband. If you could not give your husband a male heir, well, you were nothing but a shame and disgrace to your husband.

Beautiful Eritrean young woman
Beautiful Eritrean young woman | Source

"Since marriage constitutes slavery for women, it is clear that the women's movement must concentrate on attacking this institution. Freedom for women cannot be won without the abolition of marriage." - Sheila Cronin, leader of feminist organization NOW.

"Marriage is an institution developed from rape as a practice." -Andrea Dworkin

"95% of women's experiences are about being a victim.' -Actress Jodie Foster

"We are taught, encouraged, moulded by and lulled into accepting a range of false notions about family. As a source of some of our most profound experiences, it continues to be such an integral part of our emotional lives that it appears beyond criticism. Yet hiding from the truth of family life leaves women and children vulnerable." - Canadian Panel on Violence Against Women

Today, however, the tables have turned. Women can do whatever they want. The meaning of marriage has transformed entirely. A woman should not have to get married if she feels adequate by herself. Some women are still traditional and value the meaning of marriage, which is totally fine. Others, however, do not see the need to get married because they have some bigger dreams and ambitions in life than just being someone’s wife. They want to set a mark in this world; revolutionize it so that the future women are not judged by the same archaic and male masochistic standards that are used to judge today’s women. They are okay being single and definitely do not need a government to champion for them to get married. Their voice is loud enough and they can speak for themselves. The government definitely does not need to put words in their mouth in the name of looking after their well-being. There is nothing wrong with choosing not to marry. Let us not also forget that most women detest having to share. Some women are okay sharing their husbands with other women. I simply don’t get it but it works for them, so it is fine, I guess. Others can’t simply make it work. At the end of it all, everyone deserves the freedom of choice. Men and women alike should be allowed to choose what sort of marriage they want, if at all they want it, rather than having someone impose a set of rules you have to live by.

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