Madagascar: Brides-for-Sale just one harsh reality of poverty

As part of the Malagasy citizen media community, I often try to highlight the social and economic progress Madagascar has made. It stems from the belief that not enough attention is given to the effort and creativity of Malagasy citizens working for the betterment of their communities.

However, a positive outlook is sometimes just not possible when harsh economic conditions strike. In the past week, Malagasy bloggers could not escape discussing the harsh reality of endemic poverty that affects the vast majority of the population. Here are a few examples of how poverty has cornered many communities into difficult decisions.

Patricia, Foko blogger who recently had the opportunity to speak at the Interdependence day in Brussels, reports cases of teenage girls who are put up for sale by their parents (fr)

Pour certains, les parents et la jeune fille se mettent d’accord pour la personne qui va acheter la jeune fille et pour la somme ou le cadeau en échange. Il faut préciser que la personne qui achète n’est pas forcement un étranger mais c’est seulement ce qui se présente dans la plupart des cas. Pour d’autres, cela se présente sous forme d’ordre, les parents ordonnent et la jeune fille obéit!
Le dernier cas qui a été publie est celui d’une jeune mineure de 15 ans qui a été offerte a un étranger pour 200.000 Ariary. Il lui a meme promis le mariage, mais après avoir ete avec elle une nuit et l’avoir deviergee, il lui a remise entre les mains de son pere.
Cette histoire n’est qu’une parmi les cas identiques qui se présentent dans l’île.

For some families, the parents and the young girl agree on whom she should be wedded to and for what price. It must be noted that the buyer is not always a foreigner; it’s just that in most cases here, foreigners are involved. In other cases, the parents force the young girl to obey.
The latest case that was published was the story of a 15 year old who was sold to a foreigner for 200,000 ariary (note: about $107 USD). He promised to marry her but after spending the night with her, he brought her back to her father.
This story is just one of many of its kind on the island

brides for sale

( photo credit to Hebdo de Madagascar and Foko )

News2dago confirms that the dream of trying to wed a foreigner is peaking drastically (mg):

Tonga eto Madagasikara ireo mpanera vazaha ka nampiantso ireo malagasy te hanambady vazaha. Gaga fotsiny aho nahita ity tantitra an-gazety fa mahery ny 4.000 izy ireo no milingilingy te hanambady vazaha. Ary voalaza fa arahan-dranomaso mihitsy oe ireo izay tsy lany. Indrisy tokoa fa dia hitomanina ankehitriny ny hanambady vazaha.

Many foreign “matrimonial agencies” have arrived in Madagascar to look for women willing to be a foreigner’s bride. I was astonished to read that more than 4,000 volunteered to take the plunge. It was also reported that many were crying upon learning that they were not selected. It is indeed a sad day when one is left begging for a foreigner to take her with him.

In the comment section, many bloggers reacted to the story. Tritriva notes that it’s not only women who are seeking to wed a foreigner. Sylvie says that marrying a foreigner is not bad but make sure that he does not have children from a previous union because they will never respect you and your spouse will always take his children’s side. Maintikely argues that one should not be too prompt to judge and respect the women’s choices. She warns that life overseas may not be as ideal as they think it would be.

Lomelle, blogger of foko-Mahajanga, witnessed another sad aspect of poverty. She recalls (fr):

On avait été contacté pour faire un reportage à Andralanitra. Rondro et moi y sommes allé sans trop savoir ce qui nous attendait sur place. Tout ce qu’on savait c’est que c’était un reportage sur les ordures [..] Un camion à ordure roulait devant notre voiture au moment où on s’est rapproché de l’endroit. Arrivé à sa destination il a renversé toutes les ordures et à ce moment là une quelque trentaines de personnes se sont ruées sur les ordures [..] Ecœurement, c’est le seul mot qui puisse définir ce que j’ai ressenti à ce moment là. Ecœurement pour toute ces personnes qui n’ont que les ordures pour vivre [..] Ecoeurement pour l’attitude répulsive que j’avais adopté à ce moment là. Je me suis cru être une fille ouverte d’esprit,n’ayant ni préjugé, ni jugement. Pourtant devant ce spectacle je n’avais qu’une seule envie, me tirer de là et me detacher de ces gens.”

I was send to write a report on Andralanitra. Rondro and I went without knowing what to expect. We were only told that it was report on waste management [..] We were driving behind a waste truck until we reached the waste facility. When the truck released the waste, about thirty people came rushing to dig through the trash. I felt sick, sick for all those people who had only trash to survive. Sick for my own reaction at that instant. I always thought that I was an open-minded girl, without prejudice nor judgment. However, as I was watching this sad spectacle, I only wanted to run far far away from these people.

Micramia has a different take on the poverty issue and its perception. He explains that poverty is not an incurable disease (fr):

Si vous arrivez encore à manger normalement chaque jour, vous n’êtes pas pauvre. Mais la pauvreté est curable. À mon avis la pauvreté est en faite due au manque d’intelligence. Seul les gens qui n’utilisent pas leur coco n’arrivent pas aller loin. Il sont pauvre intellectuellement et si on n’a rien dans la tête, comment avoir de l’argent pour acheter de quoi manger [..] la solution c’est de se cultiver, augmenter ces connaissances.

If you can still have a decent meal on a daily basis, you are not poor. Moreover, poverty can be fixed. In my opinion, poverty is due to a lack of intelligence. People who cannot make it far are just not using their heads. They are intellectually poor, that is why thay cannot find money to eat [..] the solution is to learn and increase one’s skills.


  • Matt

    Would it be nice if we could start orphanage and funding source to purchase potential brides and instead allow them to go to an orphanage and finish growing up?

  • Barry Smith

    I am an American who has visited Madagascar & fell in love with the land & the people. It is a shame that so many of the people live in such poverty. I saw the desperation of the young girls who sell themselves at the side of the road each night. I hope that we people who have not lived in such poverty, do not make moral judgements about these poor people’s decisions on how to feed themselves. It is not a moral decision, it is an economic one.

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