The role of marriage and sexuality in nation building

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THE roles of marriage and sexuality in Shona culture are for nation-building.
Marriage in Shona culture is a union between a man and a woman who belong to different blood lineages.
Lineages in Shona tradition are identified by totems as symbols of the history, culture and values of a lineage.
Each marriage in Shona tradition is entered into after establishing that the man and woman who intend to marry do not indeed belong to the same totem or blood lineage, and that there are no fatal historical feuds between their lineages to prohibit them from marrying.
The decisions and advices reached from the findings are factual and wise, not emotional or defamatory.
The man and woman who intend to marry ignore them at their peril.
Those who uphold them help channel their marriages and sexuality towards the continuity of their lineages.
The other important role of marriage and sexuality in Shona culture is to help forge blood ties between the lineages of the man and woman who intend to marry through the children they beget, for the continuity and expansion of their lineages.
Blood ties are metaphysical and spiritual in Shona culture.
Once they are entered into, they cannot be broken or reversed.
Children are their biological manifestation.
The blood of their parents’ lineages flows in their veins and cannot be exorcised.
Failure to beget children in Shona marriage puts the continuity of the lineages of the spouses in danger of extinction.
Refusal to marry or have children also puts the continuity of the lineages of the lineages of the spouses in danger of extinction.
Homosexuality poses the same dangers of human extinction.
It does not contribute to the continuity of the lineages of the partners in a same sex marriage. Adoption of children of unknown totems or blood lineages puts the identity and continuity of the lineages of the adoptive spouses in danger.
So are infidelity, adultery, promiscuity and prostitution.
They beget children whose totems as symbols of the history and customs of their lineages are unknown, and where known, may be in conflict with the survival of the lineages of those who beget children outside marriage.
Motherhood and fatherhood within a marriage are sure ways of begetting children for the perpetuation of Shona people and identities of their lineages; for the totems and blood lineages of the children they beget are not to be in doubt.
The prohibition of sex outside marriage in Shona culture, regardless of the so-called approved age of consent to sex, or gender, wealth, poverty, social status, or political power, saves to channel Shona sexuality towards marriage as a creative force in nation-building.
Property relations in Shona marriage
Property in Shona marriage plays the same role of perpetuating the survival and continuity of the lineages of the couples in Shona marriage.
A wife’s property in Shona marriage is distinct from her husband’s property.
There is no ‘in community of property’ in Shona marriage.
The property that a woman brings into the marriage belongs to her and her lineage.
The property that she acquires in a marriage also belongs to her and her lineage.
She decides which property goes towards the upkeep of her marriage, her children and husband’s lineage relations; and which property goes towards the upkeep of her parents and relations in her lineage.
This arrangement is understood and upheld by both spouses and their lineage relations.
The same applies to the husband.
He decides which of his property goes towards the upkeep of his wife and children, his parents and lineage relations; and which of his property goes towards the upkeep of his wife’s parents and lineage relations.
The husband’s first contribution towards the upkeep of his wife’s parents and lineage relations are the cattle or money required by his wife’s parents and lineage relations for them to give him a wife.
Some of the cattle or money is used by her parents.
Some of it is used by her lineage brothers to marry wives to beget children for her lineage. The responsibilities of the wives that her lineage brothers marry using her husband’s cattle or money are to replace the gap that she has left in the family or lineage and play the role that she played in her parents’ home and her lineage.
Spouses’ duties in a Shona marriage
A wife’s duties towards her husband and his lineage relations are those of a wife.
The whole lineage of her husband, including women and children relate to her as their wife. Her duties towards them are those of muroora.
A husband’s duties towards his wife and her lineage are those of a husband.
The whole lineage of his wife, including men relate to him as their husband.
His duties towards them are those of mukuwasha.
Son-in-law, daughter-in-law, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, father-in-law and mother-in-law do not describe the relationships in Shona marriage.
Motherhood in Shona marriage
Included in the property that a man gives to his wife’s parents and lineage is a cow.
It belongs to his wife’s mother.
It is called Mombe ye Umai which means the ‘Cow of Motherhood’.
It must be fruitful and multiply to symbolise the fruitfulness and continuity of the Shona through the procreation of their wives.
Its infertility or death before it procreates portends a metaphysical threat to the continuity of the Shona people.
When this happens, it must always be replaced by one that will procreate.
The cattle that it procreates belong to the line of mothers as guarantors of the continuity of the Shona as a people.
Way forward
The roles of marriage and sexuality in Shona culture are derived from a worldview and philosophy of life drawn from a long and complex process of social, moral, ethical, religious, spiritual and economic interactions among the Shona and other African people in their bid to conquer extinction and survive for all time.
Zimbabweans and their government may take a leaf from the roles and functions of marriage and sexuality in Shona culture as formidable creative forces for the survival of Zimbabweans as a people and nation on the world’s historical stage; or come up with better alternatives they think would help channel the sexuality of Zimbabwean people towards nation-building, instead of spending time personalising issues and hailing insults at each other.

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