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Madagascar’s ‘cursed’ twins taboo

In some rural areas in southeast Madagascar, if a woman gives birth to twins, she is expected to abandon them as they bring an evil curse on her family and the surrounding community



Every culture is entitled to its own beliefs. It’s what differentiates and brings some variety to the people that inhabit this continent and planet. The beliefs are also usually there for a reason, even though they may be outdated and irrelevant in present day society.

Some cultural practices, though, are impossible to justify. Whether you look back to their time of conception or you look at their present context.

In the Antambahoaka tribe of Madagascar, twins are considered a curse, an abomination. If a woman gives birth to twins, she is expected to abandon them or face becoming ostracised by the community. Some tribal leaders, according to a report by the Huffington Post, compare raising twins to eating faeces.

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A journalist involved with the filming of a British Channel 4 documentary about this explained that doing away with the practice and belief would be a difficult task to achieve.

“No one is really sure how the taboo began,” journalist Kiki King told HuffPost, “but it is so ingrained in the culture it is almost impossible to challenge.”

One mother of twins named Ursula explained to reporters, “When my mother fell ill and died everyone said that her death was her punishment because she didn’t respect her culture – the ancestors”.

Another woman, Carolin, who had given birth to 3 sets of twins had to move house 30 times because her neighbours always feared her children. She now apparently lives in a tiny tent in what could be best referred to as a refugee camp for mothers who cannot separate themselves from their twin offspring.

In that patriarchal society, it is mainly “the elders” who decide the fate of these children. A group of old men, basically.


When King visited these elders to ask them about the reasoning behind the practice, she received a troubling response.

“They laughed at me and said, ‘to us, asking us to raise twins is like asking us to eat our own shit’. We got that translated by two different experts. That is what they said.”

Another elder told her, “As long as we are still alive we are not going to dilute our ancestral culture…we have a saying – that anyone who keeps twins has no soul” one other elder told King.

According to King, most of the twins in that part of Madagascar usually end up being abandoned but that also increases their chances of being adopted by foreigners. Through centres like CATJA, where the crew filmed, the twins go off to begin new lives in Italy, France, Sweden or Canada.