THE TANZANIAN WIVES’ CLUB

Marie Claire (South Africa) - - FILTER -

In a con­ser­va­tive and pa­tri­ar­chal so­ci­ety in the Mara re­gion in north­ern Tan­za­nia, women are us­ing an age-old tra­di­tional cus­tom to cir­cum­vent gen­der dis­crim­i­na­tion: mar­ry­ing each other to pro­tect their liveli­hoods. Called

(‘house of women’), the cus­tom pro­tects women in the case of di­vorce or the death of a hus­band. Ac­cord­ing to tribal law, women can’t legally in­herit prop­erty or as­sets, but if a wo­man with­out sons loses her hus­band, she is al­lowed to marry an­other wo­man, who can then have chil­dren on her be­half.The women live to­gether but don’t have sex – the younger wife bares chil­dren with the man of her choice. It’s es­ti­mated that these cou­ples make up 10-15% of house­holds, with many women see­ing it as a free­ing al­ter­na­tive to be­ing mar­ried off against their will. ‘My wife and I do ev­ery­thing to­gether,’ says 27-year-old Anas­ta­sia Juma about her wife, 49-year-old Mu­gosi Maningo Anas­ta­sia was mar­ried off to a 50-year-old man when she was 13, but ran away with her son soon af­ter giv­ing birth. Mu­gosi, whose hus­band left her be­cause she couldn’t have chil­dren, was in dan­ger of los­ing her prop­erty when he died. ‘I was lucky to nd Anas­ta­sia and her boys,’ she says. ‘I love them very much.’

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