Madagascar Family and Women
In Madagascar, the Family Ministry (Ministère de la Population, de la Protection Sociale et de la Promotion de la Femme = MPPSPF) is responsible for the concerns of families, children and women. This also includes laws to protect children, women and the family. In reality, however, these laws and rights are often not followed – be it out of ignorance or for socio-economic reasons.
Women are traditionally subordinate to men. This is shown by many customs and usages of everyday life, for example that the man is served first when eating. Therefore women are not given equal rights in the private sphere, although the constitution provides for this. In rural areas, women usually do most of the day-to-day work, look after the children and the house, help with farming and often support older family members. The family hierarchy is usually rigid; Mobility in the ranking requires the permission of the family, but with regard to today’s educational opportunities, exceptions can also be made if, for example, a girl wants to go to school. In terms of equalityThere is still a lot to be done by women and men in Madagascar: Equality laws are definitely in place, but in reality they are still not implemented enough. For years there has been no information on the GII (Gender Inequality Index) of Madagascar. The GDI (Gender Development Index) shows a value of 0.946 for 2018. This puts Madagascar in 162nd place out of 189 countries.
According to naturegnosis, the family is generally very important in Madagascar. Even if modernity has made its way into Malagasy society and many factors lead to different ways of life coexisting such as rural traditional families, single women in urban areas, homeless people, beggars, young employees with good salaries, etc., people are in the “fianakaviana”, the extended family or the clan. This includes all descendants of a male ancestor known by name. The ancestors (“Razana”)continue to determine to a large extent the family structures, the hierarchy and the general behavior of family members among themselves and in their environment. The ancestors are omnipresent. Dead, but actually immortal, they watch over the family, so to speak, with the laws assigned to them, the “fady” – rules and prohibitions (taboos) with precise instructions on their meaning and use. Apart from the “fady”, the honoring of the ancestors is most impressive through the rebirth or turning of the corpses (famadihana) clear. Since a lot of effort is made here and the ritual recurs again and again, it also often has negative economic consequences on a large scale, because families run into high debt by entertaining the guests.
The sense of community – “fihavanana” – also plays an important role: the families visit each other on all conceivable occasions and thus strengthen social interaction. The duty of care (” Ray aman-dreny “) of the married couple towards the children entrusted to them is also taken very seriously and also permeates political and social relationships. The image of the country’s father and his children has often been manipulated by presidents since King Andrianampoinimerina in order to enforce political interests, which is also expressed in demonstrations to defend democracy.
Malagasy women have around four children on average (4.13 in 2017), most of which are born at home. More than a third of the population has no access to family planning services or trained obstetricians. Boys are generally welcomed more than girls, but there is no strict rejection of girls. Pregnancy and childbirth are associated with numerous “fadies” that the pregnant woman must adhere to. For example, the pregnant woman is not allowed to eat ginger, the baby’s first ritual haircut can only be done by a man whose parents are still alive, etc. Admiring expressions towards the child are not welcome, as it is believed that the ancestors could otherwise become jealous and do bad things to the child. The birth of twins is a bad omen in Madagascar that goes so far that the babies are still abandoned or even killed today. Often children are not officially registered after the birth because the parents think it is unnecessary or because the distances are too far. This has far-reaching consequences for educational and social policy. In Madagascar, sterility is a great disgrace for a couple, and fortune tellers (ombiasy), astrologers (mpanandro) or fetishes are often used to remedy this. On the other hand, pregnancies are among minorsfrequently. Before the arrival of Europeans, extramarital relationships were far more normal and frequent in Madagascar than in Europe. The missionaries put a stop to this, but the rule of loyalty and monogamy does not seem too strict. While polygamy is prohibited by law, it is still practiced in some regions. Today, young people choose their spouses individually, but differences in religion or class can still be an obstacle to marriage.
The number of marriages of children and girls is extremely high in Madagascar. The traditional marriage age for girls is 15 to 16 years, although the law states that women and men cannot marry until they are 18 years old. Although family formation officially only begins with marriage for all ethnic groups, premarital births were and are not taboo. Modern contraceptive measures are only available for a small proportion of women (28% of women in rural areas and 36% of women in urban areas), and condoms are used relatively rarely.
Violence is still ubiquitous for the majority of women. Over half of all women in Madagascar are exposed to various types of violence, and intra-marital violence also appears to be common. In many cases they hardly defend themselves because they are traditionally subordinate to the man. Many NGOs try to break the silence of women through programs or projects and to show them their rights.
The working conditions for many Madagascans go to the official standard of labor laws passed, especially women and children often have to work hard. That women are not generally oppressed shows the supremacy of the queens in the past, who ruled powerfully and often without scruples.