For awhile there it looked as if Mali were going to have a new and better Family Code to improve the rights of women.
Its provisions included raising the minimum legal age of marriage for girls, improving women’s inheritance and property rights and removing the clause demanding a wife’s obedience to her husband. The law was adopted by the National Assembly in August 2009 but was withdrawn following uproar from conservative Muslim groups.
Provocative headlines in newspapers warned that women would no longer have to obey their husbands and thousands took to the streets in protest. A task group formed by Mali’s top Islamic council called it an “open road to debauchery” and the National Union of Muslim Women’s Associations said the law reflected the wishes of a tiny minority of women. When the Family Code was finally enshrined in law in January this year, it was substantially watered down. Campaigners say that far from protecting women’s rights, the code perpetuates discrimination.
Religion trumped women’s rights, as it so often does. Religion equated equal rights for women with “debauchery” – as if women weren’t people at all but just walking genitalia; as if all equality and rights could possibly mean to women would be fucking any man they could find; as if all women ever want to do is just fuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuck and therefore they can’t ever have rights.
According to Safiatou Doumbia, a member of the Malian Association for Care and Assistance to Women and Children, the new law has set women back. “The new law brings women’s rights back to more than 50 years ago because some rights women had in the former law have been banned. Before, a woman would automatically keep her children if her husband died. This is not the case with the new law, which allows a family counsel to decide who should keep the children.”
Under the new Family Code, as in the original 1962 law, a woman must obey her husband, men are considered the head of the family and the legal age for marriage is 16 for girls, and 18 for boys.
In short, women (including girls) are on a par with livestock. They are wholly owned by men; a woman without an owner is as nature-defying as a feral Bichon Frise.