Some years ago, Gumeys, a word used among the Somali community has been used to demean unmarried women who were twenty-five years of age and above. These group of women were ridiculed and seen as rotten mangoes that were not to be picked by any man.
Men usually married the younger women because they thought, they could reproduce healthier babies. Marriage objectified women as baby making machines and therefore, seeking companionship was another thing, few marriages were based strictly on reproduction and raising children.
Few Somali men would attend or help during childbirth but most stayed away from the woman as it was considered a taboo. A man cooking for his wife and helping with house chores was also considered a taboo in the community, this was shared by most African cultures.
Although, it happened in the past, it still happens in some households where the demeaning of older unmarried women is rampant. Most of them suffer from a low self-esteem and mental illness as the societal pressure supersedes their independent thinking and their values.
Few days ago, there was the new marriage rule prepared by the clerics in Ijara, Garissa County where they dictated the wedding budget for women. Many Somalis took to Facebook rejecting the proposal but men seemed to be enjoying the attention and the lower cost of weddings. In my quest for searching about “Gumeys” context and people’s opinions. I came across a post on same topic;
“ How many have gone to Ijara to marry the spinsters (Gumeys). I hear it is ‘get a lady born from 1981 to 1990’.” reads the post.
The author of the post clearly used the context of Gumeys and compared it to the proposed budget.
Another one also posted similar post on the Garissa County facebook page threatening girls about getting married to any clan or the consequences where he said;
“…Some of these guys you are throwing dust at in Facebook might be your destined fathers to your kids but out of the blind love for your Qabil(tribe) you start bashing him and thus you become automatic spinster (Gumeys). The same goes those who are married, you are where you man is. Stop fighting him because he doesn’t support your tribesman. We are tired of counting and responding to deserted women on Facebook.”
I also come across with a post towards Gumeys stating that women advocating for feminism are old unmarried women (Gumeys).
“ All the women who drive the feminist agenda are either an aged ‘gumeys’ who missed a guy or a divorcee turned inspiration speaker” reads the post.
In this era of civilization, old and negative criticisms should have been a Neanderthal reasoning but encountering men who still ridicule unmarried women in this era shows that the Somali community have a lot to adjust to incorporate communal beneficence of culture.
The word Gumeys( spinster) objectifies women and reduces them to puppets, Gumeys depicts that at a certain age, women must have to get married. The name spinster (Gumeys) and its critics has caused many women go into rush marriages that led to domestic violence and rampant divorces.
Spinster or “Gumeys” has caused mental instability to many Somali women who cry in silence. Patriarchy has maintained its roots in Somali culture, but no woman would thrive in it. Gender inequality is evident but men should join women in fighting off negative adage naysayers.
Opinion article by Maryan Hajir
- January 5, 2020