Oct 25, 2019, 2:33 PM
Alead story on the Monday edition of The Point captioned “Back-way migrants urged to return, marry women” has produced an array of public reactions, both locally and internationally.
While condemnations of the views expressed by the tourism minister were not in short supply, others also saw the statement as positive reflection of what obtains in Gambian society today.
In the story, Minister Bah called on The Gambia’s backway migrants to return home and marry as many wives as they can in order to ease the burden of rising single women on Gambian society.
In a follow up interview with the BBC Focus on Africa programme aired on Monday, Mr Bah said that he was urging those who left the country that in case they want to marry, they should come back and marry their own Gambian women: “If they can afford to marry more than one, why not, they should marry more than one”
Bah said that when he mentioned that the religion preaches and teaches men to marry up to four women, “it was only fair that men who can afford to marry three to four wives should really do so because our women also have rights to a husband”.
Serious demographic issue
“This is comedic, and uncouth, in the way he [Hamat] expressed it, but it is a serious demographic issue,” Kebba Samateh, a Diaspora Gambian posted on his Facebook timeline.
“Hamat is clearly no sociologist! I wrote and talked about this issue on the radios, as the ‘Backway Syndrome’ issue escalated over the years into time bomb that is about to blow up! Who is going to marry all those eligible young women, when an estimated 4 out of 10 ( in some parts) young men are either stuck in asylum camps in Western Europe, dead, or in Libya, as a result of the ‘Backway Syndrome’?” Samateh argued.
“Honestly, Honourable Minister, I think you should have given our youth a better reason to return home. I expect you to tell them what awaits them if they return (jobs, trainings, etc.). Remember this young people risked a lot to reach their destination and most of them are breadwinners of their families,” said Lamin K. Saidy, an activist for the group Safe Hands for Girls.
Yacca Ceesay, a Gambian based in Italy, wrote: “Hi Honorable Minister, you are right but remember many boys are yet still in Gambia when they want to marry them (young women), it is so difficult. Can you ask them about that? Why do they want only the ones in Europe?”
Amadou Jallow, Tanji, said: “Mr. Bah, please tell your government to create job opportunities for the ones at home first to help them support their lone wives and forget about encouraging others to marry more wives when they cannot afford their daily basic needs. Therefore, leave those migrants in their peace of minds because they are there to fetch something better for their families.”
Ndey Sarr, French-Gambian activist, could not also hide her displeasure with Mr. Bah’s comments.
She said a French journalist asked her if there is men shortage in The Gambia. “Of course I told him no. If Hamat Bah’s government do not have plans for our country’s youths, let them be honest to say they don’t or if they are looking for a chance to encourage polygamy, let them say so.”
Be fair to the minister
Kejau Touray, another Diaspora Gambian in Sweden, said most [who have] taken offense at Hamat Bah’s statement have foreign wives and husbands.
“To be fair, Hamat Bah has a point with our male youths wasting in Europe and [going] after other women…who will marry our women? No wonder we have men shortage.”
Hamat also posted on his Facebook page yesterday morning, saying: “I call on all party members and sympathisers to be very open-minded with all criticisms and negative comments geared towards me because of the publication made on The Point newspaper. However, the beauty of democracy is to have different opinions.”