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Mauritania : Ignorance and Tradition

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Generously endowed women are favored in Mauritania. The fatter the woman, the more beautiful she is thought to be. Being big is also a sign of wealth and the search for beauty and signs of exterior wealth leads to some unorthodox methods : gavage, or the force feeding of women, forcing them to ingest 2 kilograms of couscous mixed with two glasses of butter in one seating.

Gavage of Mauritanian women was the subject of a “Politique au Senegal” post, written by Naomed, and a commentator remarked that :

“mais ce n’est pas de leur faute, ils ont été eduqués de la sorte”

“but it is not their fault, this is how they were educated”

Naomed, writing now on the Archipo Blog wonders though if Ignorance or tradition are an excuse.

“Les comportements condamnables sont légions dans nos sociétés dont une bonne partie sont légitimés par la tradition et la culture. Je cite en vrac : l'exploitation exacerbée opérée sur les jeunes bonnes et encore plus sur les petits talibés esclaves de leurs marabouts, l'excision, les mariages précoces et arrangés… Tout cela est profondément ancré dans notre culture, parfaitement conforme à nos moeurs. Jusqu'à un certain point, la corruption et la patrimonialisation du pouvoir accompagné du népotisme sont aussi inscrits dans les traditions.

Nous ne sommes pas responsables de l'éducation que nous avons reçue, c'est indéniable, mais jusqu'à quel point pouvons nous nous réfugier derrière cette éducation pour justifier nos actes ?”

“Condamnable acts abound in our societies and a great number of them are legitimized by tradition and culture. I name : the exploitation of young maids and abuse of small talibes slaves by their marabouts, excision, early and arranged marriages…. All this is deeply ingrained in our culture, in compliance with our customs. Up to a certain point, corruption and power, wealth grabbing combined with nepotism are also entrenched in our traditions.
We are not responsible of the education we got, that much we cannot deny, but up to what point can we hide behind this education to justify our actions?

He argues passionately that :

“Nous tolérons très bien la survivance de comportements criminels à condition qu'ils se passent chez nous et que les acteurs soient de notre culture, que ce soient nos voisins et nos frères…”

“We tolerate the survival of criminal acts if they are committed in our home and their perpetrators are of our culture, our neighbors or brothers…”

and he then turns the argument of tradition and education on its head :

“Si un comportement actuel condamnable est toléré et justifié par une tradition et une éducation, il serait juste d'appliquer ce principe de manière universelle. Ce qui est bon (à appliquer) pour nous doit l'être pour les autres.

Cela nous met dans une situation génante pour juger l'esclavage et la traite dont a été victime le continent africain.”

“If a condemnable act is tolerated and justified by a tradition and an education, it would be right to apply this principle universally. What is good for us, should be good for others.
It puts us in an awkward situation to judge slavery and its trade of which the African continent has been the victim.”

“L'esclavage était une tradition bien établie à l'époque. Nombre de sociétés étaient basées sur l'esclavage y compris en Afrique. Cet esclavage était conforme à la tradition, aux moeurs et à la morale de l'époque. “

“”Slavery was a well established tradition at the time. Many cultures were based on slavery, African ones included. This slavery was conform to the tradition, customs and morality of the time.”

He concludes by deploring the slave like conditions of young maids and demonstrating the absurdity of the education and tradition argument.

“Il ne vient à l'idée de personne de pardonner à ceux qui ont jadis commis ce crime. Au nom de la réciprocité des formes doit-on tolérer et laisser impuni le quasi esclavage des petits talibés, celui des jeunes bonnes ?

Sous le prétexte que les auteurs de ces actes ont été éduqués ainsi et qu'ils n'y voient aucun mal ? “

“”It comes to nobody's mind to forgive those who committed this crime. In the name of the reciprocity of forms, should we tolerate and leave unpunished the slave like conditions of small talibes, young maids?
Under the pretext that the perpetrators of these acts were thusly educated and saw no ill doing?”

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