We need a new law on marriage, of course

Which people were involved in the drafting of Malawi’s new marriage bill?

Perhaps that is a wrong question; it should read ‘what are the motives of the new marriage bill’?
I have read the snippets of the bill, they sound not appealing except on the divorce part and they are only appealing if I will have the misfortune of getting married to an obscenely rich but cruel woman.

Anyway, perhaps I should just indicate that they are appealing if I get married to a rich woman who is not even cruel. The grounds of divorce will be fabricated or provoked. I will just make sure that the end result is a smiling young man all the way to the bank.

Activists are clenching their fists, thumping the air, attempting to convince – if not to confuse – all of us that the bill is the next good thing that ever happened to Malawi.

But, we know how to read and the more we are reading, the more we are seeing the nakedness of the bill. That bill is vulnerable, and wanting. I doubt a sane activist would vouch for that except of course if his activism is for discrimination.

So, now, let us stop this blackmail of ‘the bill protects children from exploitation’. For now, I challenge, it never does. It is an illusion of protection. A farce. Serious child activists, who know the reality on the ground, will laugh at such a damning statement.

If you leave parents to consent (read: marry off) their young ones as long as they are 15, what does that do?

I have been to areas where marrying off young ones is practised. It is often referred to with the same clout of ‘parental consent’. Parents, and the community, pressurise young ones into marrying and when it happens they claim they just consented.

So, ride off from your horse of vanity, stop thumping the air, shut up before the world media microphones and face the reality: ‘you have left the marriage age at 15 – not 18!’

If, a man with money, coaxes a young girl’s parents to marry their 15 year old daughter all you civil society mis-leaders advocating for the assenting of this unbaked bill will be whiling your time away by the resorts of Mangochi, your children tucked safe in Private Boarding schools, while the law leaves that young girl vulnerable.

Stop the hypocrisy, that your bill needs fine-tuning. There is no need to rush. It has theoretically raised the marriage age while technically leaving it lower as it were.

Now, I have heard another disgruntled school of thought from the male side arguing that the bill was drafted by an angry feminist aiming to get even at an ex-husband. 

It is an interesting argument, if you only imagine it. So, you imagine an angry feminist (insert character in your imagination), looking at a photo of a previous marriage that fell and crumbled. Then, she starts sobbing. Angry, she goes and starts punching lines on her typewriter (not a laptop! Nobody has seen any raw form of that bill but the makers) and then calls her frustrations a bill.

Well, that was just an imagination. The truth is, it was some rapist actually who drafted some of the lines in the bill.

Hear this conceptualisation of marital rape:

‘A husband will commit the offense of rape if he is on separation from her wife and has sexual intercourse with her without her consent.’
Now, is that not nonsense? 

Let me refresh your memories a little: not long ago some famous woman was in court arguing she only interested her husband when she was menstruating. Did she enjoy the sex? Well, the court did not even ask her such an obvious question. Did she consent to it? You can guess the answer and if it stretches outside the letters ‘NO’ we will get afraid, very afraid.

Is there any other way of calling what the husband was doing? Use ‘cruelty’ if you are a little kinder but the lawyer must be saying it is ‘marital rape’.

However, under the Parliament-passed bill that is not marital rape. It is marital rape only if the two are separated and it is without consent of course. If it is without consent but the two are not separated then it is just some ‘rough sex’ I guess.

Have we degenerated to that level of disrespecting our spouses? I would not want to be a part to such madness.

Are the disabled people a part of Malawi and need to be embraced as they are? If you ask the activist he will shout a loud ‘yes’ yet at the same time he is advocating for a bill that just falls short of saying: ‘stay single the moment you discover you are disabled; some of you we do not want your polluted lineage’.

If you are impotent, the bill advocates, you should be divorced. The assumption? Probably that impotency is akin to laziness and should be punished for it. Wherever went the saying that ‘children are a gift’?

I can bet, liars and charlatans hiding under the false title of Prophets will have a luxurious business milking the impotent by promising them some ‘holy water’ and such other nonsense.

Whereas the paradigm in the world is shifting to be a little kinder on mental illness, Malawi has no time for that. So, the new law empowers a partner to divorce the other on grounds of mental illness – any kind, violent or non-violent.

If you take your meds, manage yourself, your spouse still can decide that they want a divorce and – for no reason than your mental illness – the courts will annul that marriage without second thought. Probably we need to change our calendars and let them record 100 BC. That is where we belong, with this thinking.

Even if you get away for being potent, mentally sound even though your family members have noticed the signs of mental disturbance only you haven’t been diagnosed, you should as well make sure your blood is clean.

If you have a Sexually Transmitted Infection, the bill that your activists are trying to assure you that you need or you will die the next minute advocates, you should be divorced. You want to guess what the drafters had in mind? There is no prize for guessing.

At a time the debate on HIV/AIDS is that we should not fear, not discriminate and show love, a new law is being championed that will make discrimination legal. Do we really need a place in the modern world, to do what?

Have you read the Bible, the Christian point of view of things, or the Quran, the Muslims perspective of morality?

See what they say? Marriage is between a man and woman. The line is there as well in the new Bible, er bill so it is called. So, if you love a person of the same sex and you are Malawian, your country does not want you, under its laws you have to be jailed, under its proposed new law you have no right to marry.

The Bible again, what does it say on adultery? There is a punishment that follows it. The bill as well has a punishment: 5 years imprisonment and MK100,000 fine. It is there in the Sharia as well, right?

Suddenly, despite fathers defiling their daughters, police and robbers fighting for space to milk off tax-paying citizens, Presidents plundering our taxes for personal benefit, our daily activities always having an element of gossip and envy, despite all that we have went back to the maxim of ‘we are a God fearing nation’. Our laws are now being influenced by religion.

Am I advocating for infidelity? No! But, if I marry, may she stay faithful to me because she loves me and not because she is afraid of jail and a fine. This, by the way, just cannot be implemented. It will just be used for victimising and blackmailing. Try it for a week and see if half of the population will not be rotting in Prison, or even all of the sexually active age being there.

What is marriage?

The new bill has a funny definition, funny definitions actually. Any sexual relationship is marriage, it says for one. One can only forgive the drafters if they were high on something when coming up with this clause.

How many married people will we have in Malawi under this impossible generalisation? But, I know this line, it comes from the holy books of the religious. I wonder why we should impose the same on George Thindwa and those of his ilk. It is just so wrong. 

By the way, you can get married even without your consent. Yes, if you stay in a relationship for any second beyond five years, you are married under the bill if the President decides to assent it into law. It must be laughable really that the government can impose limits on how long should people be in a relationship.

And, the community can tell you that you are married as long as they see a presence of marriage (whatever marriage is) between the two of you.

We have a million problems and child marriage is one of them, infidelity might be another (depending on your angle of viewing issues) and people staying longer in relationships than you think it is necessary (depending on how naïve you are) might as well be another but certainly we can do better than the current nonsense masquerading as a bill.

So, yea, we need a new bill on marriage, family relations and divorce. But, it should not be this one that addresses the frustrations of a few, leaving out others.

As a footnote, what do those people we call Members of Parliament doing in the August house, just collecting allowances?

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