Namibia has been inundated with debates on polygamy, polyandry, polygyny, palyamory, wet and dry sex in the last few days. These debates come at a time when the nation is facing unprecedented looting of state resources, such as the missing Kora dollars on the one hand; growing poverty and plans to erect a multi-billion-dollar parliament, on the other hand. Alarmingly, these debates emanate from the chambers of our “elected” leaders. Common sense would compel any sensible person to wonder why serious matters that affect the nation are relegated to secondary consideration, and sex – a private matter between consenting adults – is elevated to the forefront of national debates.
Be that as it may, it is important to note the most obvious of facts that every known human society has some form of marriage, and in every complex society governed by law, marriage exists as a public legal act and not merely a private romantic declaration or religious rite. In any given culture or society, what matters the most is that the principle of marriage everywhere is embodied in practice.
As a practically universal human idea, marriage is about regulating the reproduction of children, families and society. Marriage may differ across societies, but it is a sexual union that creates kinship obligations and sharing of resources between men, women, and the children produced from the sexual union. That is the traditional marriage known for centuries throughout societies before the advent of same-sex marriages and other fantasies making headlines in our parliamentary chambers.
Society has evolved drastically in a negative way to the extent that marriage and sex are no more sacred and private matters. Today family law has become mired in and enlarged by controversial public debates over sexuality, autonomy, responsibility, the law and equal rights that purport the introduction of polyandry in Namibia. As a footnote, polyandry is practised when a woman is married to two or more men. Fraternal polyandry (where a woman is married to two or more brothers) is found in certain areas of Tibet, Nepal, parts of China and part of northern India where it is accepted as a social practice.
Non-fraternal polyandry, where the wife’s husbands are not related is common among the Nayar tribe of India. It is understandable that our colonial minds are still used to copying anything and everything from other societies, hence the obsession with calls for polyandry, which has no root in any Namibian culture or tradition. A society that does not have or fails to respect its culture is as good as dead.
For a long time now, societies, including Namibia, have been questioning the role of the law in regulating or facilitating the intimate relationship between sex, parenting and marriage. Before our parliamentarians decide for us as to the importance of wet sex, as opposed to dry sex, we need to interrogate the relevance of the public purposes of wet sex. Is it not scientifically proven that STDs and the HIV virus is easily transmitted through fluids, including saliva, vaginal fluids and semen? To believe that HIV is only in the bloodstream is not only misleading but foolhardy. Any organ that has glands which secretes any fluid can spread HIV and STDs. We may agree that dry sex is bound to cause abrasions which may lead to the spread of the HIV virus. However, we should not be blind to the simple reality that our cultures, including the cultures that have practised dry sex for centuries, are not the Alfa of the HIV virus, and barring dry sex will not be the Omega of HIV/AIDS. Only a terminally colonized mind may believe such nonsensical insinuations.
The best that parliamentarians can and should do is to stay far away from our bedrooms. Marriage and sex are essentially private, sacred, intimate and emotional relationships created by two people for their own personal reasons and pleasure to enhance their own personal well-being. Marriage and sex is for the couple, by the couple. It is therefore wrong, discriminatory and counter-productive for the state to favour certain kinds of vaginal temperatures whether, wetness or dryness. Parliament has no right to legislate how wet or dry Namibian women should be during sex. In any case, enforcing this law would require that parliamentarians should be present in every home, hotel, or any place where sex will be taking place to verify on the spot the wetness or dryness of the woman in the act. How possible is that to enforce? It goes to show how short-sighted our thinking can be at times.
It is essential for our lawmakers to look at marriage law as part of a family system, designed to reinforce key norms (Namibian norms and not some norms adopted from the West, I dare say) necessary for the protection of children and the reproduction of the family system and society across generations. Therefore, the first public purpose of marriage should then be to encourage Namibians who make babies to stick together and take care of each other and the babies together, as a family unit. Other unintended arrangements, such as adoption, should not arise primarily from deference to the emotional needs or sexual choices of adults, but to meet the needs of the children whose biological parents fail in their parenting roles. A cluster of benefits given to people whose taste in sex or lifestyle we happen to personally approve should not be at the heart of marriage law. Marriage law should be a set of obligations and rewards that serve important social, not merely personal, goals. Marriage exists not only to support desirable behaviours, but also to discourage sick, demented and deviant behaviours.
Enough with sexual talk. Can we now get back to serious business and address urgent matters of national importance such as poverty eradication, employment, education, health, land, and others highlighted in the Harambee Prosperity Plan.
• Dr Charles Mubita holds a PhD in International Relations from the University of Southern California.