..... it comes around: Some sense on fatherhood

A very interesting article in The Namibian today. All eight traditional leaders in the Oshiwambo speaking areas “have agreed that men who impregnate girls will have to compensate them.” This is a welcome return to the way things were. In the past there was always a fine, usually in terms of livestock, that a young man had to pay for getting a girl pregnant. The practice withered as part of the pressure of colonial rule on indigenous societies. Payment for causing pregnancy did more than simply provide income. It also implied acknowledged public responsibility of the man for the child. The breakdown of this practice has caused untold suffering to women and their children who paid over a lifetime, and whose economic and social contributions were stunted by the stigma of a child borne out of wedlock. Men under this broken system often continued their lives as if nothing happened. Back in the early 1980s, when I first entered Namibian society, I was regularly asked, “How many children to you have over in America?” “None,” I would reply, and immediately there was puzzlement on the face of my questioner. Perhaps they wondered if I was gay, or didn’t like women for some reason, or had some strange illness. I quickly learned to explain that where I grew up, the courts were very strict about making men pay child support, and that they could even attach part of my salary before it was paid out. This, I explained, made one very careful about birth control. If I was talking to a woman, her response was usually “That’s a very good thing.” If I was talking to a man, it was usually, “I never want to live there!” Regardless of whether or not the fines and payments can be made to stick, the idea that communities declare irresponsible fatherhood as unacceptable behavior is a good thing.