Thursday, February 27, 2014

A New Meaning for the Term Authoritarian

I’m not entirely against the idea of authoritarian rule.  To a certain extent parents are authoritarian, at least until their children reach a reasonable age.  I’m sure all my graduate students probably describe me as being authoritarian, “You are going to take this Statistics class.  You are going to enjoy it and use this statistical method whether you like it or not.  I don’t care what Dr. So-and-so’s students are doing.  As long as I am your chair this is what you are going to do because it is good for you.”  But I think there is a limit to just how far authoritarianism should go.  I realized the necessity of limits to authoritarian rule recently.

Here in Botswana we are in the midst of a marriage ban.  Yes, you read that correctly.  If you are a Batswana citizen you MAY NOT GET MARRIED.

The marriage ban was instituted back in September 2013 and is scheduled to continue through March 2014.  However, there is a lot of discussion regarding whether the ban will actually end or be extended.  Why ban marriages?  Because the Batswana royal family wants citizens to concentrate on arable farming.  I have no clue how those two are related.

Keep in mind, marriage has nothing to do with children.  Having children is a given.  Getting married is optional.  Most couples have at least one child before getting married here.  As a woman in my mid-30s no one really blinks when I say I’m single.  However, the follow up question is always, “Well, how many children do you have?” When I say I don’t have any the typical response is either, “Shame,” “Why not?” or “Are you sick?” (implying the inability to actually have children).

Point being, the marriage ban has not resulted in a drop in the birthrate.  As a lay person who knows nothing about children, marriage or arable farming I would deduce that having children would prevent arable farming because you are busy taking care of the kids instead of working in the fields.  I wouldn’t think marriage would impede arable farming.  Nevertheless, the marriage ban exists.

The problem with the marriage ban is that it is having repercussions throughout the economy.  In my class we always talk about the economic impact of the events industry.  THIS is a real life example.  A recent newspaper article stated that hospitality businesses, particularly those which center around photography; tent rentals; floral and décor; DJs, bands, entertainers and other sound/AV equipment providers; printing (invitations and stationary); caterers and of course hotel and banquet hall facilities have suffered considerably since the ban took effect.  In fact, some businesses have been unable to pay their monthly bills and bank loans due to lack of income.

I know there has been a lot of discussion around the world recently about gay marriage.  And everyone has an opinion.  I have no desire to get into a debate with anyone here.  But the marriage ban has simply made me wonder, what if no one was allowed to get married?  What if marriage became extinct?  I suppose if the desire for arable farming becomes too great, perhaps it could.  I don’t know.  The one thing I will say is that Botswana has enough of a fidelity problem without the added encouragement by preventing marriages. It will certainly be interesting to see if the ban is overturned next month or if it persists.

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