Madagascar to tackle taboo on twins

Sun Oct 12, 2008 6:23am EDT
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By Fanja Saholiarisoa

ANTANANARIVO (Reuters) - A victim of superstition on her Indian Ocean island home, 29-year-old Zaely never knew her twin sister, who was raised by somebody else.

They were born in southeast Madagascar's Mananjary district, where locals believe twins bring bad luck. Unlucky parents are forced to give them up, or be ostracized by their neighbors.

"I have looked for her, but with no result," said Zaely, who makes a living selling handicrafts.

Local taboos, or fady, are a major part of daily life on the giant island nation off Africa's east coast, which has long fascinated anthropologists with its unique mix of cultures.

Some Malagasy people exhume the corpses of long-dead relatives as a sign of reverence, for example. But while most fady appear quite harmless, some can be cruel.

"I had to abandon my twins 10 years ago," said Voahirana Ruphine, a 40-year-old teacher. "I have not seen them since."

Since 1987, two Mananjary orphanages have received 236 abandoned twins, officials say.

But Madagascar may now be cracking down.   Continued...