In the past few days, articles of enforced polygamy in Eritrea have been circulating on social media with quite a number of people falling for this ruse. Quite rightly so if you are not familiar with Eritrea, where it is situated among countries that readily accept polygamy with some countries even indoctrinating it through their constitution.
Amid these rumors though, hell would have to freeze twice over before Eritrean women are subjected to forced polygamous marriages. In Eritrea, feminism was officially introduced back in 1970s by forming the National Union of Eritrean Women during the armed struggle. Its aim was to improve the status of Eritrean women and encouraging their participation in the war efforts. As a result, 30% of the freedom fighters composed of women, the highest in Africa.
After the independence, women are persuaded to be representatives in all aspects of governance, with 30% of the National Assembly seats exclusively reserved for women and at least one female judge in all of the 400 community courts. This persuasion of equality is also backed by the government and the legal system, which is inclusive in the new penal code which confirms that polygamy is not recognized by the law.
The slanderous accusations of the hardship of women in Eritrea has been floating around for quite some time with the obnoxious report of the Commission of Inquiry claiming the Eritrean legal system does not aid women who have been victimized and so forth. This article seems to be an extension of this deceptive allegation perpetrated to mislead the public from the factual reality on the ground.
The Eritrean Information Minister confirmed last night this report is a hoax. Eritrea’s Penal Code does not permit polygamy. On the flip side, I received many inquiries from friends and the South African media. So it has led to a lot of interest in social media circles on Eritrea!!
Prof. Iqbal Jhazbhay, South African Ambassador in Eritrea
ERITREA PENAL CODE 2015
Chapter 5. – Offences against Marriage and the Family
Art. 320. – Fraud and Deceit in Marriage.
(1) A person who intentionally, in contracting or in order to contract a marriage, conceals from his spouse a fact that would annul or invalidate the marriage on one of the grounds specified by civil law or procures a marriage by means of intentional misrepresentation, error or fraud or deceit,
is guilty of fraud and deceit in marriage, a Class 2 petty offence, punishable with a definite term of imprisonment of not less than 1 month and not more than 6 months, or a fine of 5,001 – 20,000 Nakfas, to be set in intervals of 1,000 Nakfas.
(2) Fraud and deceit in marriage may only be prosecuted upon the preferring of charges by the victim and after the marriage has been annulled.
Art. 321. – Solemnisation of an Unlawful Marriage.
A person who intentionally lends his offices, religious or civil, to the solemnisation of a marriage forbidden by law,
is guilty of solemnisation of an unlawful marriage, a Class 2 petty offence, punishable with a definite term of imprisonment of not less than 1 month and not more than 6 months, or a fine of 5,001 – 20,000 Nakfas, to be set in intervals of 1,000 Nakfas.
Art. 322. – Bigamy.
(1) Except where polygamy is recognised under civil law in conformity with tradition or religious usage, a person who, being tied by the bond of a valid marriage, intentionally contracts another marriage before the first union has been dissolved or annulled; or
(2) Any unmarried person who marries another he knows to be tied by the bond of an existing marriage,
is guilty of bigamy, a Class 1 petty offence, punishable with a definite term of imprisonment of not less than 6 months and not more than 12 months, or a fine of 20,001 – 50,000 Nakfas, to be set in intervals of 2,500 Nakfas.
(3) Limitations of criminal proceedings shall be suspended until such time as one of the marriages shall have been dissolved or annulled.