Thursday, May 31, 2007

Woman Use

Any of our Liberian readers know anything about "woman use"? Apparently if a man lives with a woman, and he puts her out of the house after a time, she is entitled to financial renumeration for "woman use". Men complain that this causes some women to go from man to man hoping to cash in.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Never heard of it. But things have changed at home over the last few years so I wouldn't be surprise.

10:54 PM  
Anonymous ants_in_my_pants said...

The Rules and Regulations Governing the Hinterland contains a "codification" of the customary rules in "woman palava" and marital cases.

In case a wife walks out on her husband, he gets ... a refund! The Regulations (Art.55) state that in that case the husband is entitled to a refund of any dowry (max. $40.00) paid to the woman's family. The wife "is compelled to live with him until the family is willing or able to make a refund".

In addition, "a woman married to a man [who] deserts, abandons, and leaves him and their bed and abandons without being able to show any cause of cruelty on part of the husband, in addition to the $40.00 the woman and/or her parents shall be required to pay the amount of $100.00 as damages, failing to do which she shall be held in custody until such amount shall have been paid to the husband"

No similar provisions exist when it is the man who kicks her out though... what a surprise there!

Damages are payable to a husband when "a man estrange[s] the affections of a woman from her husband". It's a 100.00 for the Head Wife (the boss lady of the family) and 10.00 for secondary wives... The fine is levied on the scoundrel who entices a woman to leave her husband. Again there's no equivalent payable to a woman in case her husband sleeps around.

The Ministries of Justice and of Internal Affairs are currently battling it out over the MoJ's desire to abolish sassiewood (or trial by ordeal). The MIA sees this as another case of "book people" trying to impose their way on the people.

There's some truth in this of course as certain MoJ officials have said that the Hinterland Regulations should be abolished altogether.

Liberia's dualistic legal system was initially intended to have the "law book" apply to "civilized persons" and customary law to the "natives".

Customary law continues to play an important part to this day. Custom allows for polygamous unions. Custom give certain powers to the local chiefs to resolve certain cases.

Custom remains important in a country where only a few weeks ago posters were plastered around Monrovia proclaiming that "OUR JUDICIARY IS STILL CORRUPT". People in the counties simply have no faith in a judicial system that they don't understand and whose officials abuse to indulge in all forms of extortion.

What needs to happen it that the MoJ should work to encourage the MIA to upgrade the rules, not abolish them altogether (except for sassiewood of course, as that's just torture by another name). The chiefs must be encouraged to see the need to modernise custom to bring it in line with the "book law".

11:23 AM  

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