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ZAMBIA: WHERE POLYGAMY IS STILL VERY MUCH ALIVE AND KICKING

JOWIE MWIINGA

LUSAKA, Jun 4 1995 (IPS) - BY WESTERN STANDARDS, OUTSPOKEN HUMAN RIGHTS ADVOCATE LUCY SICHONE IS A LIBERATED WOMAN.

PARADOXICALLY, HOWEVER, SICHONE IS, BY WESTERN STANDARDS AGAIN, ALSO AN ENSLAVED ONE — OR SOON WILL BE.

A CONTROVERSIAL LAWYER AND CHAIR OF THE ZAMBIA CIVIC EDUCATION ASSOCIATION, SICHONE IS RENOWNED THROUGHOUT THE COUNTRY FOR HER DOGGED STRUGGLE TO PROTECT THE RIGHTS OF THE OPPRESSED, PARTICULARLY ABUSED WOMEN.

THIS WEEK, SHE CAUSED A DIFFERENT STIR BY ANNOUNCING THAT SHE WAS GETTING MARRIED TO OPPOSITION LEADER KEBBY MUSOKOTWANE — AS HIS SECOND WIFE.

AFTER A LONG-STANDING AFFAIR, MUSOKOTWANE AND SICHONE HAVE DECIDED TO TIE THE NUPTIAL KNOT — WISELY UNDER CUSTOMARY LAW. FOR WHILE POLYGAMY IS A FELONY UNDER STATE LAW, POLYGAMOUS MARRIAGES CONDUCTED UNDER CUSTOMARY LAW ARE RECOGNISED IN THIS SOUTHERN AFRICAN COUNTRY.

“IT IS TRUE THAT I AM GETTING MARRIED TO KEBBY, BUT THE PROCESS IS STILL UNDERWAY,” SICHONE SAYS.

BUT WHAT DOES REGINA, MUSOKOTWANE’S WIFE OF 32 YEARS, THINK ABOUT A SECOND WOMAN IN THE HOUSE?

“NATURALLY I AM NOT HAPPY. NO WOMAN WOULD, BUT I HAVE KNOWN THAT LUCY AND MY HUSBAND HAVE BEEN SEEING EACH OTHER FOR SEVERAL YEARS,” SHE SAYS.

IN FACT, HER MAIN OBJECTION IS NOT THE MARRIAGE ITSELF, BUT THE MANNER IN WHICH IT HAS BEEN ARRANGED.

“A DECISION LIKE THIS NEEDED THE PREPARATION OF ALL OF US. HE SHOULD HAVE INVOLVED ME FROM THE START, BUT THERE ARE CERTAIN THINGS THAT I ONLY LEARNT OF LATER,” SHE SAYS.

THE PLANNED MARRIAGE — AND REGINA’S RESIGNED ACCEPTANCE OF IT — HAS REKINDLED THE ETERNAL DEBATE HERE ON WOMEN’S RIGHTS AND THE IMPLICATIONS OF POLYGAMY.

PEOPLE ARE ASKING HOW THREE WELL EDUCATED ADULTS CAN ACCEPT SUCH A ‘BARBARIC’ CUSTOM. HOW, THEY ASK, CAN TWO POWERFUL, WELL CONNECTED WOMEN DEMEAN THEMSELVES LIKE THAT?

“IT IS AN UNCIVILISED PRACTICE, GREEDY AND IMMORAL. MARRIAGE IS SUPPOSED TO BE SHARED BY TWO PEOPLE. IT BECOMES CRAZY IF YOU HAVE TO SHARE TWO WOMEN’S DREAMS AND ASPIRATIONS,” ARGUES SIKELELA NCUBE, A GRAPHIC ARTIST IN THE CAPITAL.

 
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