Mananjary-Madagascar : Myths and curses on the twins, flagrant violation of human rights

In the district of Mananjary, 450 kilometers from Antananarivo (Capital of Madagascar), in the southern East of Madagascar, the ethnic group Antambahoaka and some Antemoro consider that the twins are a malediction for the village and for the families. Therefore, they abandon the children.

When the women give birth of twins, to keep the babies is not allowed. Formerly, the mothers had no choices: they had to kill their children. For the Antambahoaka, the twins have no right to live, they are considered as cursed animals. Consequently, the mothers were afraid and they must accept the traditional practices, under the pressure of their husband.

Most of the time, in the countryside, the parents, particularly the fathers throw the babies into the bush. «Unfortunately, their umbilical cord are eaten by ants before help arrives, and they die. », explained Mr. Mika, directorate of the Marie Christelle Fanatenane Association, a local organization who takes care the abandoned  twins and orphans since 1996.

Nowadays, the parents said that they don’t kill the twins but following to our investigation and the information collected in village some parents assassinate openly their children. The reason are:  the centers who take care twins in Mananjary, ask to the parent to prepare the birth certificate for the babies, consequently, they think that it will be another engagement later. I believe that some parents kill twins because our statistics are down, between 2016 and 2017,  the number of twins who need helps was reduced”, confirmed this responsible of the center.

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For the Antemoro, especially from the commune of Ampasimanjeva in district of Mananjary, the traditional culture gives a last chance to the twins. The parents do not kill or throw babies away directly. First, they try to demystify baby i.e. the father put the babies at the entrance of a barn. All the cattle pass through the door so, if the babies are not killed, they keep the twins. However, most of the time, the babies are not lucky. Secondly, they keep one of the babies and throw the one away, especially that the twins are a boy and a girl. They keep the boy.

Capture

 “Madagascar has 18 ethnics group but there are only two ethnics who consider that twins are malediction. The difference between the Antemoro and the Antambahoaka is that the latest one  kills or throw away the twins openly”,   declared Mr Mika

A challenge for an impossible fight

 For the moment, the challenge is very important to end this practices. Locally, the people are jealous of its culture. The situation is so difficult.  In the town where there is hospital, the situation is also most disappointed.  The parents ask to the doctor and the midwives to find people who can receive the twins. « There are cases that we have to contact association or NGOs because they refuse to take babies.  However, the Antambahoaka ethnics group start to change the mind. Some parents keep their babies and leave the village.” affirmed the directorate of the hospital of Mananjary, Dr Randriarison Maurice. “During the antenatal control, the parents have two reactions. For the conservator family, they are very sad when they know that they have twins. But for people who don’t respect the traditional custom, they are so happy because, they have two babies in one time.” said the doctor.

The hospital of Mananjary

Respectful of this culture, the Malagasy government does not anything in spite of national and international law who protect human and family right. It is clear that killing or throwing the babies is a criminal act, according the articles 1, 3, 5 of the Universal Declaration of the Human Rights. These articles state that:   “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”; “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person”, “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”  http://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/

Madagascar has also a special law concerning the children’s right and the parents are not allow to reject theirs children. The only accepted rejection is mentioned in the Article. 80 of the law N° 63-022, November 20th, 1963 on the filiation, which stipulates: “The rejection can be pronounced only if the dismissed knowingly violated the family honor or seriously failed in the duties of assistance, assistance and respect which he owed to the rejecters”. So the violation of this law is prosecuted in court.

But, the local situation is really complex and difficult.  “Normally, to reject the children is illegal, but in Mananjary, this custom has a supra-legal value so it is impossible to prosecute the parents. Nor policemen or Gendarmes, nor judges have the right to arrest or to condemn the parents. Custom has important value than law”, pronounced the Lawyer, Me Franconio Denis.

Twins abandoned by their parents, recovered in a reception center. They are five months old

The traditional leader, Mr. Nicole André categorically refuses the changes:  “Our Ethnic group doesn’t keep twins, we don’t raise them. They are a malediction. We shall never accept that twins have a place in our society. Historically, they are responsible of their mother’s death during the period of war.  When the adversaries attacked our village, the mother could not escape because of the twins. She was massacred by the enemies, as well as the children. For us twins are cursed. Personally, as father and as guardian of traditions, I don’t need twins and I am ready to evict the members of my family who try to keep twins or try to take care of twins. ”

In these case, human right activists and the Malagasy Authorities have to move and to deploy all possibility to save these children who are already living in the hell from their birthday

The palace of the traditional leader Nicole André. Usually, the twins have no right to enter inside the “Tragnobe”

A world of hope

Historically, following to the witness of the Mayor of Mananjary, Mr Victor Marolahy the reason of this practice is based on a story about a mother who gave birth to twins. During the war period, when the enemy attack the village, they cannot escape because of the two babies. They are captured and the mother was killed. So the local population wasn’t accept and wasn’t appreciate the situation. For the Antambahoaka: mother is a source of life so, nobody have right to kill a woman. They consider the twins as the responsible of the death of their mother and they consider twins as malediction. The Antambahoaka are convinced that twins bring us death.  To conclude, the twins are considered by this ethnic group as animals and they don’t deserve to be buried in the family tomb.

But, currently, five organizations work in the district to save the twins. “These Centers mobilize the parent to keep babies alive and to send at the center. They nourish and take care of children. They help also the parents. As you know, we are poor, the parents profit also the financial contribution given by the Center. So the customs changed slowly”, testifies the Mayor, Mr Victor Marolahy.

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Victor Marolahy, Mayor of the Urban commune of Mananjary

They receive the abandoned children and keep them. Some association try to find host families, others try to keep them and negotiate with the parents. This is the case of the Association Marie Christelle Fanatenane. They have 78 children in the center. Its main assignment is to convince the parents to recover and to feed the twins. In counterpart, the center provide financial support to the parents. After 20 years of sensitization,  dozens of families were accepted to recover 78 twins. “Our Challenge is to give hope to twins, to help twins to integrate in the society who try to marginalize them and we convince the parents or the society to accept twins too.  But our main challenge is to remove this customs, to break this taboo.  It is not easy, that why, we contact and invite all people who fight for the human right to join us.   I can say that our efforts have a positive results and impacts because all people who works for us, even if they are Antaimbahoaka, have this determination to help twins.  Our objective is to remove taboos. I am not shame to tell you that we shall never give up, because this is the reason of our existence,” said Mr Mika with a strong hope.

Lack of parental love is enormously affecting the abandoned twins in the center

Interviewed on this custom, the parents do not comments. Some parents refused to discuss. Some extremist and conservator fathers menaced us during the report. Elida Justine, a mother who accepted to talk, explained that, she was afraid of her husband and her parents. So she decided to give her children to a host family in Antananarivo. « It ‘s so difficult because, I have no right to visit my children. I have to wait, but I don’t know for howlong. Maybe when they shall be majors. I prefer to abandon my  my children, instead of killing them.  It’s very hard and I often regret it but it’s our culture, and Ihave to submit », testifies elida.

The children are still waiting for the decision of their parents

 

By Riana Raymonde Randrianarisoa