Lingui, the Sacred Bond


As certain members of the Supreme Court consider how to justify reversing Roe v Wade, a film from Chad makes the case for Roe v Wade. Directed by Mahamat-Saleh Haroun, Lingui, the Sacred Bond focuses on Maria (played by Rihane Khalil Alio), a 15-year-old who was raped by a neighbor. She has become pregnant and is therefore not allowed to attend school in N’Djamena, the capital of Chad. She then goes through a period of personal stress, including anger from her mother Amina (Achouac Abakar Souleymane) because she tried to keep her pregnancy a secret. Teenagers her age ostracize her. She tries to drown herself but is rescued, whereupon daughter and mother overcome their differences, and Maria confesses that she wants an abortion, which their Muslim faith will not allow. She does not want to be a single mother like her mom, whose husband deserted her at a young age. A physician tells them that he would lose his medical license and have to serve five years in prison if he performed an abortion, but he says that he could do so privately for 1 million Central African francs. Her only financial resource is profit from her business of buying used tires and then using the wire component of the tire to construct a metal stove, a very daunting task, but the profit is hardly enough to raise 1 million francs. The only way to raise that amount of money is to beg to for sex with a neighbor, Brahim (Youssoup Djaoro), who earlier asks to marry her; but now he turns her down. One day the physician is arrested, so Maria must seek a midwife (Hadjé Fatimé goua), who cautions that abortions can have fatal complications. Mother and daughter go ahead anyway, and the abortion is successful. The midwife refuses payment due to their shared lingui (the term for the sacred bond uniting women in a patriarchal society). Maria confesses that Brahim was the one who raped her, so Amina ambushes Brahim and hits his head with a board, causing blood to flow. (In a subplot, the midwife also performs fake genital circumcision.) At the end of the film, Amina and Maria leave town and join a new community, and Maria is back to school. The film appears to have a happy ending, but that a single woman should expect to encounter the same discrimination anywhere else in the country. The Political Film Society has nominated Lingui, the Sacred Bond as best film on human rights of 2022.  MH

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