Telecommunications Policy

Cell Phones in Somalia Redux: Voluntary Brides Edition


Since yesterday's post about telecom regulation in Somalia was such a hit, here are some excerpts from a classic 2009 Reuters article about how cheap mobile phones and service are changing social mores in the country:

Somali courtship was different in Hassan Aden's day. When he was a teenager, you gave the girl's parents 11 camels and an AK-47 assault rifle as bride price and then waited respectfully.

Now, the 55-year-old said, a mobile phone service that seems to be the only thing working in the failed Horn of Africa state is helping drive a rise in elopements, pregnancies out of marriage and a steady erosion of Somalia's conservative values….

"I don't think I'd be sane if it were not for the 'Qudbasiro', free-of-charge secret marriages," the unemployed secondary school graduate told Reuters, sitting cross-legged on a ragged mattress and sending a text message with his phone.

"I've divorced nine women already. Voluntary brides and cheap phone services—it is the only life we have."

"OMG! Is that Maxamed's dick??" Awaale said, as she took her first spin on Chatroulette

And it's not just the men who benefit from cell phone-enabled illicit love:

"I am very proud. I would not have these three kids if it were not for the cheap calls and elopement," the 20-year-old told Reuters, covering her face with a scarf.

She said her sister lived a "dog's life" being beaten for seven years after being married to an old man against her will.

"She suffered. But you can just dial a number or pick up a ringing phone. You make an appointment then elope. Life is so easy if you are lucky."

NEXT: You Can't Libel the Dead, Nor Can You Reveal Their Off-the-Record Comments

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  2. I believe that may be the first instance of a four-letter word being used in alt-text around here. Episiarch will be so pleased with our new intern.

    1. Oh, I am.


      1. For one thing, we spell our first names differently.

    2. I think the gutless spelling “Maxamed” cancels it out.

      BTW, a Google image search of “The Prophet Muhammad” produces about 1,450,000 results. I declare jihad on Google.

      1. The Cro-Magnon rape jokes I can let go (although, if someone could explain the origin of that to me, I would be thrilled), but when you impugn my knowledge of Somali orthography, you’ve gone too far.

        1. There is a person also named Steve Smith who posts here occasionally who is a sort of squishy lefty quasi-troll, and the STEVE SMITH voice comes from mocking him. Here is his website (the pictures of himself that he chose to put on it are…amazing). One of the others can probably find you a link to the thread where this meme began.

          1. Wait, so this isn’t the STEVE SMITH, but just some Steve Smith? I feel cheated.

            1. Well, if he would just post a picture, we can see if he looks like bigfoot and continue the meme.

            2. You know the people at Reason got an application from someone named Stephen J Smith and they just HAD to hire him. Dear Steve, bet you never thought you’d get hired based on your name.

        2. Steve, SugarFree used his archivist skills to answer this question a while back. I started the rape part of the meme, I believe.

          1. Although there was that incident with somebody named Bellicose Bradenberg, who seemed to be furious that I had stolen his credit for starting the STEVE SMITH RAPE GARRRR thing. I still don’t know what was up with that.

        3. Wiki: Finds of spun, dyed, and knotted flax fibers among Cro-Magnon artifacts in Dzudzuana shows they made cords for hafting stone tools, weaving baskets, or sewing garments, and suggest that they knew how to make woven clothing. Apart from the mammoth bone huts mentioned, they constructed shelter of rocks, clay, branches, and animal hide/fur. These early humans used manganese and iron oxides to paint pictures and may have created the first calendar around 15,000 years ago.

          So Neanderthal is better for connoting a primitive outlook.

          1. Neither are correct. STEVE SMITH is a remnant sub-species of Gigantopithecus.

            1. Neither is correct.

              1. I wish I could give your address to STEVE.

        4. Steven,

          Even Matt Welch is not above using the joke: The Reason Cruise, and the Steve Smith Challenge

          I find it baffling that no one took you aside before you started posting and explained about the shaved, rapist Sasquatch that is your near-namesake. He even has a Twitter feed. This was irresponsible of the editors.

          So just ignore the STEVE SMITH stuff, it’s not about you. Rest assured that we, the vicious Hit & Run commentariat, will seize on a reason that is uniquely you as cause to slander, defame, and spew utter hatefulness.

          But not me, of course. I’m delightful.

          1. Hahaha He even has a Twitter feed.

            I almost bought it until I looked at the “Following” section. Jezebel and Feministing totally give you away SF

          2. It takes years to even pretend to understand the commentariat.

  3. I don’t like this trend of STEVE SMITH becoming a person.

  4. Anyone else feel like Stephen Smith is reporting on Somalia because its the only place he can afford to live on what reason pays him? Maybe we should have a fundraiser to get him his own pirate force.

  5. Life is so easy if you are lucky…and so hard of you are stupid. All in all, good for these ladies in the “failed state”

  6. “But you can just dial a number or pick up a ringing phone. You make an appointment then elope. Life is so easy if you are lucky”

    OK, I get that part. But this part is a WTF!?!?!!:

    “I am very proud. I would not have these three kids if it were not for the cheap calls and elopement,” the 20-year-old told Reuters, covering her face with a scarf.

    20 years old and 3 kids with (apparently) no father in sight?

    1. What’s not to like?

    2. That is bizarre. A very different culture, I guess.

      1. Ahem. Ever seen the Jerry Springer Show?

    3. About a year before we met, I spent six weeks on a moon where the principal form of recreation was juggling geese. My hand to God. Baby geese. Goslings.

      1. Wash, you’re still alive?!?

    4. From the article: They have banned elopement in the areas under their control. But for Halima Osman, a Mogadishu mother-of-three, the mobile phone helped her run away with the love of her life.

      Context is everything.

    5. She may be saying that she has three kids from a single husband, to whom she is married, but who would not have been able to afford the bride price if they hadn’t eloped thanks to using a cell phone to plan said elopement.

      Or maybe she is happy about being promiscuous. Some ambiguity here.

  7. 20 years old and 3 kids with (apparently) no father in sight?

    Not at all uncommon in the good old US of A. And its not like the sperm donors skip out. The mothers don’t want them around after they’ve made their delivery.

    1. Also, it is not as if Somalia has a welfare state to mooch off of.

    2. As long as the community is non-white.

  8. When he was a teenager, you gave the girl’s parents 11 camels and an AK-47 assault rifle as bride price and then waited respectfully.

    Who in their right mind would trade a Kalishnikov for a wife?

    1. Nobody in their right mind. prolly a cheap chinese knock off anyways. Camels up the waszoo tho.

    2. Depends on the quality of the wife and of the camels and AK-47. That may or may not be an excessive price to pay for pussy.

    3. Payment of the weapon may be more symbolic than valuable. It’s not like AKs are hard to get in Somalia.

    4. The bride price is the exact opposite of a dowry for very good reason. In Africa women do ALL the work, from cooking, to farming, to selling wares on the side of the road. Men sit under shade trees and chat all day. For this reason, women are very useful to have around, and so instead of paying to get them out of your family, you pay to bring them in.

  9. See what sexting can do to a society? Rampant voluntary marriage. I never let things slip this far in Arkansas, I tell you what.

    1. There’s an app for that.

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