|Difret refers to the audacity of a woman to challenge a long-standing patriarchal tradition.|
The word T'elefa, according to my Amharic dictionary, also means "rape," "hijack," and "change the direction of something." The practice undoubtedly changes the direction of a girl's life. Here's how a BBC News report from the time of Aberash's trial in 1999 describes T'elefa:
In Ethiopia's wild south, abduction is a legitimate way of procuring a bride. The practice has been going on so long that no-one can remember how it all began. The usual procedure is to kidnap a girl, hide her and then rape her until she becomes pregnant. Then, as father of the child, the man can claim her as his bride. At this stage, he will call on the village elders to negotiate the bride's price and to act as middle-men between his family and that of his bride.It's hard to believe that this custom of T'elefa has persisted for so long. It's also hard to find any reliable statistics on the practice, especially now that it is outlawed. In his official statement, director Zeresenay Berhane Mehari says that T'elefa "affects over 40% of adolescent girls" but doesn't specify region or ethnic group. According to a 2001 study conducted in a rural district of northwest Ethiopia and published in an Ethiopian medical journal, the prevalence of marriage through abduction was 6.2% (72/1168)." Interestingly, the median age of the abducted girls in that study was 13, with the oldest at 20 and the youngest only 7. So while the movie intended to shock with its subject matter (and it did), it could have easily been more shocking.
What is also shocking (although it's hard to top the abduction and rape of a 7-year-old girl) is that the film was not allowed to be shown in Ethiopia, even after winning awards all around the world. The film was to have its Ethiopian premiere in Addis on September 4, 2014. Everyone was seated and the lights were just about to dim when Zeresenay suddenly emerged on stage to inform the audience that he could not show his film. Here's what he said:
Distinguished guests, ambassadors, we were just told by the police that we have to stop this film because there is a court order on it. We have not been informed prior to this. The Ministry of Culture knows about this and the government knows about this. This is the first time we are hearing it. This is obviously an attack on us and I am really sorry for this to happen and I hope we’ll see you again…Someone posted this moment to YouTube, which I saw just a couple of weeks ago. But censorship seems to move fast in Ethiopia. I just tried to add a link to that video and saw that it had been taken down due to "copyright infringement."
|The charge of copyright infringement is absurd since someone had only filmed and posted Zeresenay's frustrated announcement and the reactions of audience members.|
As I mentioned in a previous post, Ethiopia is ranked 143/180 in the World Press Freedom Index and certainly falling fast. What has become clear is that journalists and filmmakers will need even more ድፍረት (both courage and audacity) to confront the Ethiopian government's increasingly repressive and pervasive censorship.