An Armenian Journalist's Notes

Tuareg women…


Photo from National Geographic

Thanks to one of my loyal and intelligent readers, I learnt about tuareg women and here is what I want to share with you. Well, you might have heard about tuareg people, they are Islamic African seminomadic, live in the Saharan and Sahelian regions—southern Algeria, western Libya, eastern Mali, northern Niger, and northeastern Burkina Faso. Well the word “seminomadic”  means that they travel with their herds on a seasonal basis but also have a home area where they grow some food crops. And here is what I wanted to share about touareg women.

Tuareg women- young and old, vassal and noble -look and act like aristocrats. They seem not just independent but occasionally overbearing: They leave their husbands and return to their parents on the slightest pretext. All matters of inheritance pass through the female line, which is one reason the men find divorce so difficult, and why many Tuareg men prefer to delay marriage until after their mid-twenties, and content themselves with non-Tuareg concubines.

Traditionally, women are held in such respect that they are seldom molested, and rape is vanishingly uncommon, punishable by death.”Men and women toward each other are for the eyes and for the heart, and not just the bed” is a common Tuareg aphorism. After marriage, a Tuareg woman is expected to keep a number of male friends who are encouraged to visit her tent even while the husband is away.

In a society with unsubmissive females and males so often away for extended periods, there are many curiosities of belief. Gustav Nachtigal found that “no Tuareg doubts for a moment that a child can ‘sleep’ in the womb for many years, or even forever. This pious faith gives a frivolous wife a welcome and convenient pretext for representing to her husband in a respectable light any increase in the family that might have taken place in his absence. The embryo of the child was conceived before he set out on his long journey but God then neglected to waken it on time to effective life, to birth. In such a case, indeed, a husband may be unable completely to suppress his doubts, but against the possibility there is nothing to be said.”

From the book – Sahara: A Natural History, Marq de villiers and Sheula Hirtle

Photo source here