A memo from the infamously authoritarian government of Eritrea in east Africa — the Department of Religious Affairs, to be specific — is sending “ripples of shock throughout the country,” according to Ventures Africa, as it orders men to marry at least two wives or face life imprisonment with hard labor.
The memo, written in Arabic, has been translated as follows:
Based on the law of God in polygamy, and given the circumstances in which the country is experiencing in terms of men shortage, the Eritrean department of Religious Affairs has decided on the following:
First that every man shall marry at least two women and the man who refuses to do so shall be subjected to life imprisonment with hard labor.
The woman who tries to prevent her husband from marrying another wife shall be punished to life imprisonment.
The “men shortage” is a result of casualties during the civil war that broke Eritrea away from Ethiopia over 15 years ago.
AFK Insider suggests the memo could be a prank, perhaps the work of activists seeking to parody the heavy-handed proclivities of Eritrean government, although as of Tuesday, there was insufficient evidence to either verify or debunk the message. The document has been circulating on social media as a scanned image. Its authenticity seems like a matter the Eritrean government would want to clear up promptly, one way or the other.
Some of the responses would be better described as bemusement than “shock,” with NewsDay reporting Kenyan men asking if they could “change their citizenship immediately and take advantage of the new laws” in Eritrea.
Ventures Africa helpfully notes that while several African nations have legalized polygamy, and the Koran permits it, the Koran also “categorically states that polygamy must not be forced upon anyone and should only be practiced when convenient for the parties involved.”