Madagascar tackles taboo on twins

Superstition holds that twins bring bad luck in Madagascar.

As a result, 29-year-old Zaely has never known her twin sister after their parents chose to give them up, rather than be ostracised by their neighbours in Mananjary, in the south-east. "I have looked for her, but with no result," said Zaely, who makes a living selling handicrafts. Many other twins have similar stories to tell. Since 1987, two Mananjary orphanages have received 236 abandoned twins.

But while local taboos, or fady, are a major part of daily life which have long fascinated anthropologists, Madagascar is beginning a crack down. First comes a four-year scheme to raise awareness and try to break support for the taboo, including discussions with local leaders, parents and children, combined with media campaigns.

In the longer term, tough new legislation is planned. A new law is being prepared by the Justice Ministry to reinforce the protection of twins, and help those families who are choosing to resist the taboo on their own and are suffering as a result.