Mr. Bitchless | The Rise of Bastardy in Malawi

“To tell the truth, one did become used to it”

-Franz Stangl

Stangl, who served effectively and efficiently as a Commandant of Nazi concentration camps at Sobibor & Treblinka, expressed the above quote in an attempt to exonerate his troubled ass from purported mass killings that characterized the Nazi regime on the prelude to the Second World War.

In the same manner that Nazi officials, according to Franz Stangl, became used to horrible wailings of their victims, Malawians, according to Mr. Bitchless Mambo, have become acquainted to the scourge of bastardy that is spreading like wildfire throughout the country.

Before the dawn of the 21st Century, bastards were a rare breed in Malawi. Having gone through successions of regimes that promoted strict adherence to conservative Eurocentric morals, Malawian adults shunned from producing bastards. In addition to the state, the church also took advantage of its influence to propagate the belief that bastards are a product of sin and therefore destined for a life of misery and anguish. Then, bastards used to be a subject of ridicule in a community. Sort of an eyesore within a family. For this reason, it was incumbent on every dignified citizen to refrain from producing a bastard.

During Kamuzu’s reign, for example, Malawian parents’ worst fear (apart from being accused of usurping against the Ngwazi’s bullish ideals was to have bastard grand kids. This prompted parents to ensure that their maturing children, particularly girls, refrained from engaging in activities that would lead to bastard kids.

Signaling a laxity of parental acumen and intrinsic immorality within a particular family line, the presence of a bastard was an issue to be avoided at all cost. For this reason and afraid of a quick journey to grannyville, parents and guardians would develop multiple contingency plans in case their maturing children were to get pregnant/impregnate out of wedlock.

Of these contingency plans, abortion usually topped the list. Afraid of being detected by their voyeuristic neighbors, parents would administer such abortions stealthily and hastily using rudimental methods and unapproved concoctions, which usually led to life-threatening complications. Most girls who survived this ordeal, having suffered unspeakable horrors in their gonads, survived at the cost of losing their ability to have kids again. By a stretch, Mr. Bitchless thinks that this explains why Malawians tend to associate abortion and barrenness.

Other popular contingency plans included: shipping their pregnant ward to the village, marrying her off prematurely, and pretending that a grand child is their last born kid. Having seen all these options in practice, Mr. Bitchless can attest the length that Malawian parents were willing to go to tame the rise of bastardy in this supposed god-fearing country – where 114% of the population believes in God.

But since 2000, the reality on the ground has changed. The turn of the century has seen a sharp increment in the production of bastards in this country. Bastard sons. Bastard daughters. Bastard nieces. Bastard nephews. These days, bastards are everywhere. Mr. Bitchless likes to joke that, as of 2017, every Malawian is related to or knows a bastard somewhere.

How did social acceptance of bastards come to effect in a country that is otherwise overly resistant to change? Mr. Bitchless does not know the answer for certain. But, as usual, he can speculate.

The first factor that has facilitated the acceptance of bastards is the proliferation of Pentecostal churches. Unlike “traditional” churches such as the Presbyterian and Adventists, Pentecostal churches dwell on the notion of unlimited repentance. Over the years, defying Deuteronomy 23:2, this notion has convinced religious Malawians that having a kid out of wedlock does not warrant permanent condemnation.

The second factor is NGO’s questionable agenda to force teenage mothers back to school. Apart from improving Malawi’s shambolic adult literacy level while perpetrating congestion in classes, this agenda has helped to soften Malawians’ perception of teenage mothers and the bastards that they produce. In essence, this move has helped to humanize people caught up in the infamy of bastard production.

The third and most influential factor that has aided to normalize bastardy is social media. Social media is a privilege that producers of bastards down in history will always be envious about their present counterparts. Instagram, for example, gives producers of bastards an unlimited platform to publicize affection to their bastards in coaxing ways. By gazing at and liking these carefully selected photos, the public is gradually conditioned into thinking that bastards are a norm and something to revere.

The last two factors, which are sort of intertwined, are the rising cost of living and the war on polygamy. High cost of living, which translates to high cost of running a family, means people are less inclined to marry in an event of an unplanned pregnancy. On the other hand, polygamy’s loss of popularity has triggered the baby-mama pestilence. These days, when a committed man impregnates an unattached woman, he faces less pressure to marry that woman for polygamy is, apparently, a worse transgression than sleeping around.

While it is a fact that most bastards become unstable citizens, Mr. Bitchless has nothing against them and the people that produce them. Neither does Mr. Bitchless believe that bastards are less human than “legitimate” children. Loads of bastards have contributed immensely toward human (or should I say Eurocentric) progress in history, a fact that serves to indicate that bastards are also human. Rather, in this post, Mr. Bitchless simply wanted to account for the truth on how Malawians have become used to bastardy over the past two decades.

 

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