Women’s Rights, Customs & Elections: What’s a Priority for Her?


There are some stories that would sound as hypothetical till you touch them on a first hand. While the world is celebrating the International Women’s Day (IWD), this time I find quite interesting to share with the readers a following fascinating story. To some extent, the story sounds as bizarre but it’s true. Precisely, it is about women’s rights within traditional settings. The story relates a bit longer woman’s menstrual cycle and her banishment from the husband’s house because the bleeding is reflecting an ‘infidelity’ proof.

The woman expelled from her house is a married mum of two children. The first one is 4; while the other is 2 years. The husband is approximately 28 while the wife is 24 years. The family got married within a period of roughly five years ago and they are likely to break for the sake of allegedly “sexual disloyalty”. The reason behind breaking their marriage is to somewhat unjustifiable or based on traditional way of handling infidelity within a family. The reader wonders what?

They are both, husband and wife, from Panu in Idiofa Territory, the former Bandundu Province. The husband has finished his senior 6 and he unsuccessfully tried to study University. He couldn’t continue his studies as fact of being financially limited. Quite reasonable as university fees are as huge as compared to per capita income, level of poverty as well as access to credit in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Financial means remain also a squeeze for individuals from villages as the only support into their hand is mostly the capacity to farm. On the other side, the wife has had an opportunity to reach senior 4 and stopped for largely the same reasons as his husband. Beyond lacking possibilities of continuing her studies, the lady might have been in a position requiring her to get married. Then, she becomes a mum in contextual that wouldn’t allow her to search for other opportunities so long as she has to take care of children and so forth.

Panu is on a hundred miles from Kinshasa town as some informed reader might know. While they were living in Panu, the husband had to find all around solutions since he stopped his studies. One the option if not the sole one was to move to Kinshasa. Afterward, the family as whole joined him and they lived in Kinshasa’s suburbs. The jobs that he could get in Kinshasa are also limited in numbers. Those familiar to job market in DRC know what it means to obtain an occupation in Kinshasa. Sometimes, you have to do everything from your muscles. We do call these kinds of jobs “multiprise/passe partout”.

While the family’s members were familiarizing to live in Kinshasa, the first job that the husband got ended suddenly. As the reader can understand, these types of job are unlikely accompanied with social security scheme. The response of lacking his job was that the husband decides to send back the wife to her village in Idiofa. The decision of going back to village got consent from the family partner, the wife. There, she stayed for roughly a year in a situation of separation with the husband. During the year of separation, what went wrong in terms of marriage disloyalty remained a mystery as it might be that nothing has happened.

Kivu 2011ter 161

At some point, the husband managed to get another “job” in Kinshasa. He called back the whole family; that is, the wife and their two children returned to Kinshasa. The stumbling block that led her to getting expelled was that the wife menstruated a bit longer as compared to regular menstrual period. The story-teller seemed saying that the wife has roughly been bleeding for two weeks. Hence, from traditional perspective, the unfortunate situation led the husband’s family to confirm that the wife has had an affair with another man. A strange reasoning for someone who understands the body functioning and how it ovulates in a process that is unequally distribute d. As matter of confession or concession, it’s possible that the wife has also ‘acknowledged’ the affair.

Consequently, tribal customs in Puna/Idiofa resolve such issues of marriage disloyalty by expelling the wife to her parents. Besides expulsion, the wife’s parents alongside with herself have to moreover identify the man whose fault is to blame for having affair with. Since the man is identified, there started a process of requiring him to pay one cow and one goat as a “fine” for repairing the damage. That is, the cow and the goat are to be paid to the husband. From the time of realizing the infidelity till the payment of the fine, the wife leaves the husband’s family and lives with her parents. This is what happened to the couple as currently their two children are with their father; while the wife has relocated to her parents’ friends. As per the story-teller, the only way to handle the matter is the payment of that fine. It’s a long process of negotiation involving different people as well as financial capabilities. Otherwise, the family would forever break; and strangely, the tribe customs believe that the woman won’t stop bleeding until some traditional ritual is organized.

From the discussion above, the blogger feels to raise few concerns that constitute the points of attention:

  • Can really a disloyal affair led a woman to bleed longer than usual? If so, what the scientific basis of such hypothesis?
  • Can’t it be that the bleeding wasn’t specifically longer as it might be less identical in terms of days? Experienced people can possibly confirm that.
  • Having a disloyal affair might also be possible to both, husband and wife. However, the question is to how fairly is the process leading the wife to concede/confess went organized?
  • Can’t the motivation of handling the infidelity form the wife be driven by such payment of cow and goat which can be seen as valuable within a specific socio-economic context?
  • Don’t we have to think about the care of these children? For what reasons they have to lose the parents’ affection? What is their responsibility in this case?
  • Has traditional customs to be of paramount importance as compared to laws?
  • From the blogger’s point of view, the marriage break up within the Idiofa family was exacerbated by the fluctuation of job market in DRC. That is, can we deduct that fixing the problem needs to think about access to education as well as job’s sustainability?
  • Is that mum really concerned with elections or her rights?

What’s your point of view in a situation as such? What would you advice to the family?           

Ntanyoma R. Delphin

Secrétaire Exécutif & Coordonnateur

Appui au Développement Intégré &

à la Gouvernance

Compte Twitter @delphino12

Blog: www.edrcrdf.wordpress.com

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