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Questionable Custom

Noorkishon came to me yesterday asking for a help. She needs $20. The Maasai have a custom that is hard to understand. On the day of marriage, a wife becomes her husband’s perfect bank, the place that he can keep his money in absolute safety. His bank, read wife, is safe because she is responsible for whatever money he gives her. If the house burns down and her husband’s money burns, she must find the equivalent amount to return to him. The same is true if the money is stolen or lost. She can’t refuse to keep his stash and if something happens to it, she must scrounge around every which way to replace it. If she can’t come up with the cash, he beats her.
Noorkishon put the $20 dollars into her small wooden box, locked it with a pad lock and put it under her bed. She closed the makeshift door of her Maasai igloo shaped cow dung covered dwelling and went off driving donkeys carrying plastic jugs to draw water. Returning, she found the door wide open, her box broken into and her husband’s $20 dollars gone. For the last couple days she has been going around to friends tearfully asking for contributions. She is very afraid of being seriously beaten.

6 Responses to “Questionable Custom”

  1. Wow Ned, how terrible.  If he discovers the money is missing, can’t she tell him the truth and say it was stolen?  After all she didn’t spend it.  Or even be proactive and tell her husband they were robbed?  Perhaps she can spin this as his fault for not building a secure enough door.

  2. Anonymous on 22/02/2012 #

    She will tell him that it was stolen, but it will not make a difference. The money is gone so it is her fault. She has to replace it…weird. Anyway, each of his wives is responsible for building and maintaining her own house. Sometimes she’ll get help putting in the big poles, but other than that it is up to her.

  3. Martha Stovall on 23/02/2012 #

    You’re right this is hard to understand.  I am beginning to see that women are really not much more than cattle to the Maasai.  Your mission of educating women is so important – I realize that more and more as I read your blog.

  4. Ned Marchessault on 24/02/2012 #

    Yes Martha, in many ways that is true. At the same time, the women on a day to day basis control the food. For example, if a husband is giving his wife a hard time, she might tell him that there is no milk to drink because the calves got loose and milk their mothers dry. The man theoretically is in control of everything. In day to day life, he must be careful of using his authority, lest he go hungry. There is also the possibility of a husband losing his wife completely. Giving a concerned father-in-law or mother-in-law or brother-in-law, he will pay for ill treatment of his wife by having her taken from him.

  5. Barbara on 04/03/2012 #

    Oh this is heartbreaking.

  6. Ned Marchessault on 05/03/2012 #

    Most customs grow out good ways to deal with the environment and human relations. I can’t figure what the positive aspects of this one might be.

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