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Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Family Justice, Djibouti Style

I had to wait a day to post this entry for fear you'd think it was an April Fool's joke. The other day, one of my coworkers requested a day off because he had to take care of a family problem. Once his commander heard the problem, he immediately gave him permission to go. It turns out that this guy's brother had been guilty of domestic violence against his wife. Therefore, according to Djiboutian custom, the guilty party's family had to administer justice to him. This is why the brother was leaving for the day.

Well, the punishment consists of the following. First, the guilty party has to go to the family residence. He also has to bring his own rope to be tied down with. Once he's tied down, he will be beaten with sticks by all male family members. Then, a sheep will be sacrificed and its entrails will be drained onto the guilty party's upper body. I have to ask myself at this point, what did the sheep do wrong? I think this is a way of purifying the body after such a heinous act. Anyway, after all of this, the perp has to make a solemn pledge never to commit the crime again. I don't think anyone would doubt his sincerity!!

I know it sounds barbaric, but if you've lived here a while, you realize that these customs have developed for a reason. The punishment is so severe that the wife's family is satisfied and there's no risk of conflict between the two families. The husband can't complain because it was his own family that punished him. The courts are happy because they're overworked and ineffectual anyway.

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