Friday, February 02, 2007

Here, women propose marriage and men can't refuse

[Hat tip to R. Alta Charo for bringing this to our attention] Ok, so this isn't a bioethics story per se, but the matriarchal culture caught my attention -- (and some of my colleagues -- both men and women -- have said they're moving to Guinea-Bissau! --- hmmm, I wonder if they have universal healthcare...) --

ORANGO ISLAND, Guinea-Bissau (AP) -- He was 14 when the girl entered his grass-covered hut and placed a plate in front of him containing an ancient recipe.

Like all men on this African isle, Carvadju Jose Nananghe knew exactly what it meant. Refusing was not an option. His heart pounding, he lifted the steaming fish to his lips, agreeing in one bite to marry the girl.

"I had no feelings for her," said Nananghe, now 65. "Then when I ate this meal, it was like lightning. I wanted only her."

In this archipelago of 50 islands of pale blue water off the western rim of Africa, it's women, not men, who choose. They make their proposals public by offering their grooms-to-be a dish of distinctively prepared fish, marinated in red palm oil.

It's the equivalent of a man bending on one knee and offering a woman a diamond ring, except that in one of the world's matriarchal cultures, it's women who do the asking, and once they have, men are powerless to say no.

To have refused, explained the old man remembering the day half a century ago, would have dishonored his family -- and in any case, why would he want to choose his own wife?

"Love comes first into the heart of the woman," explained Nananghe. "Once it's in the woman, only then can it jump into the man."

To read on, click here.

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