Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Order in the court

Southern Sudan is attempting to build a judiciary that follows internationally-accepted standards of justice but also respects, values, and maintains traditional tribal methods of meting out justice. David got to visit one of these customary courts. He said we could post his account on the blog.

I got out to watch a customary court in action today. Way too cool. If Jerry Springer saw this, he'd be televising it for the entertainment of the unwashed masses. At least they'd be getting some cultural exposure. Come to think of it, there was a pretty large group of unwashed Jubans there watching the proceedings for sheer entertainment value. Consider the scene: open air setting for the airing of a domestic dispute; the husband was a lush and bum who never helped the wife with
money or anything, even when the baby got really sick; so when the baby died, the wife's family blamed the husband and beat him to a pulp; when he got out of the hospital, he showed up at the baby's funeral only to be beaten to a second bloody pulp; the wife goes home to Ma and Pa's tukul, and six months later marries another guy; the husband feels aggrieved by the bigamy and by the beatings; the wife feels ill-used and justified in finding a man who will be a decent husband to her, etc.; husband complains about all that he's given her; wife counters that he's given precious little, in fact, he still owes 8 goats to his in-laws as part of the "bride price" back from when they were first married (the "dead-beat son-in-law"); wife's mother and two brothers testify against bum son-in-law; husband's father -- obviously a bum himself -- testifies on behalf of his bum son destroying all credibility with the outrageous claim that his son had been giving the wife 30,000 dinar a month; second husband claims to have been unaware that his new wife was married already (despite the fact that she has several children), and says he only married her to help her out of her difficulties (crowd snickers at that); tribal chief asks wife which husband she want's to keep (she says No. 2), chief asks what about the kids (wife says she'll let her two husbands sort that out between them); VERDICT (get this!): 50 lashes for the bum and he's still gotta pay the 8-goat bride price he never made good on; 30 lashes for the second husband for marrying a married woman; woman gets off scott free -- having suffered enough, we suppose. Is this great theater or what? We didn't stick around for the lashes; not sure I've got the stomach for it. We saw the whip, though!

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is sort of unbelieveable. Thanks for the account. Is this what David is supposed to change?

David said...

Yup.

Nathan said...

Though jurisprudence would probably dictate changing things, I'm sure Hollywood would prefer that you leave things exactly the same; what great plotlines. As Alicia notes, it is interesting how much of what we think of as crimes and punishment are colored by our cultural experiences...