"War in the home'' marriage and mediation among the Gurage in Ethiopia
Ethiopian ethnic groups exhibit highly autochthonous cultural norms and values that are embedded in their traditional beliefs, systems, and religions. This study shows how, at the grassroots level, the Gurage ethnic group in Ethiopia, uses culturally legitimate forms of conflict resolution practices to mobilize and reinforce gender hierarchies, and how the discourses of culture, custom, tradition, social stability and cohesion are connected to gendered power relations. The study provides an analysis of how discourses of culture in African contexts influence, and become a compelling framework for both men and women to define themselves in institutions of marriage, and in related practices of conflict resolution and mediation.Drawing on a rich body of Southern African theory and analysis and by deploying it in relation to marriage in the Ethiopian context, the research shows that customary practices of conflict resolution have been one of the central Ethiopian definitions of authentic culture. Ethiopia, unlike the rest of Africa, reveals many complexities in exploring popular mechanisms and institutions that are very convincingly ''pre-colonial''. At present, these are manifested through cynicism towards western culture, reluctance to readily embrace it, and an accentuated sense of national pride shaped through the struggle against hovering ethnocentricism, imperialism and neo-imperialism. The research explores the dynamics of power that influence married couples' decisions about where and how they should resolve their martial disputes, and in selecting between the formal justice system and customary mediating mechanism. First-hand information was gathered from women and customary leaders, via participatory methodologies, and the data served as input to explain why and how discourses of culture are being mobilized so powerfully to reinforce gender hierarchies in Ethiopia. The research findings evidently show how ''culture'' is ''made real'' and authentic for Ethiopians, particularly for members of the Gurage ethnic group, through the dealings of popular cultural practices: the resolution of marital conflicts. I argue that marital conflict resolution in Gurage is an elaborate practice that validates patriarchal agenda, overseen by male elders, to regulate problems within individual marriages. The research problematised the recognition of ''customary practice'' in the Constitution as alternative systems by presenting the limited rights Gurage women have as opposed to the ''freedom of choice'' that is granted in the Constitution. The case reveals the difficulty of having two laws that have different understanding of human rights.