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"So they wind up falling back on strategies that they hope will at least provide them with some kind of security."Regardless of intent or approach, marriage is an obligation in Mali, says Whitehouse.
I don't think this is that widespread yet, but the fact that we're seeing it at all in this fairly conservative society is very significant."The urban version of polygyny, Whitehouse discovered, differs from its rural counterpart.And though marriage provides the social respectability that Malian women seek, many believe their husbands will be unfaithful, regardless of which box they've checked during the civil ceremony.They don't trust the state to uphold the contract of monogamy, so the type of commitment made during the ceremony becomes somewhat inconsequential."One inference that I can draw is that there's this really high degree of mistrust between men and women before they get married, and it doesn't necessarily end after they get married.He writes about the experiences of friends and acquaintances living in Mali.“That’s how I like to handle some of these big sweeping issues as an anthropologist—to look at it from the lens of particular individuals who are grappling with it in their own lives,” he says.Whitehouse’s expertise is frequently sought by the U. government and the governments of other nations, journalists and non-governmental agencies working in the region. I try to be hopeful for the future, but I also try to be a realist. Under the surface there’s a lot that’s wrong, and those problems that had accumulated during the period before the coup, most of them still haven’t been addressed. They have to do with really basic things like the rule of law, corruption.”Lehigh strives to foster an intellectually stimulating environment—a culture of discovery that allows its researchers to bring the highest level of scholarship to all the work they do on behalf of the university, their disciplines and society.I think it's going to have very far-reaching consequences."In early 2012, strengthened by arms from the 2011 civil war in Libya, rebels and Islamist militants gained control of northern Mali, upsetting the country’s relative stability.
The nation then experienced a military coup in March of that year, and Islamist rebel groups capitalized on the chaos.
Malian law requires couples to commit to either monogamy or polygyny when they marry.
Checking the box for polygyny—a form of plural marriage in which a man is allowed more than one wife—does not require a man to take another wife at any point, but it leaves the option available.
"Anecdotal evidence suggests that women are taking multiple partners before marriage and possibly during marriage because they want to secure their economic future.
And they're coming more and more to see marriage as primarily an economic transaction."This mindset, says Whitehouse, is causing a great deal of friction between young men and women."Women see men as being inherently unfaithful and inveterate liars and manipulators," he explains.
During his time in the Peace Corps, Whitehouse lived with a polygynous family in a rural community."None of the adults in that family had even a primary school education," says Whitehouse.