Siinqee: Women’s Customary Law in Oromia
Siinqee is a stick (Ulee) symbolizing a socially sanctioned set of rights exercised by women. The Siinqee is a special stick, which a woman who gets legally married will receive on her wedding day. My informant describes the Siinqee as ‘a woman’s weapon’, symbolizing the respect and the power that a married woman has. The Siinqee stick is given to a woman in order to protect her rights. My informant explained that: ‘if a woman has a Siinqee she has to be respected, nobody should fight with her’. Here, it is very important to note that Siinqee is applicable to women who have been married in accordance with the Gadaa system. If the marriage is concluded outside the rules and regulations of Siinqee, like in the cases of marriage by force (butta), the woman does not enjoy the protection accorded by Siinqee. On the other hand, if a woman is married based on Siinqee, like in the case of kadhacha (marriage based on agreement between two families), she has full rights to enjoy her privileges under Siinqee.
The word Siinqee is thus often used to describe various mobilizations conducted by women. As Kumsa states, when there were violations of their rights, women left their homes, children, and resources, and travelled to a place where there was a big tree called Qilxxu and assembled there until the problems were solved through negotiation by elder men and women. According to Kumsa, married women have the right to organize and form the Siinqee sisterhood and solidarity.
Kelly explains this more and states that:
A man who violated women’s individual and collective rights could be corrected through reconciliation and pledging not to repeat the mistakes or through women’s reprisal ritual. A group of women ambush the offender in the bush or on the road, bind him, insult him verbally using obscene language that they would not normally utter in the direct presence of an adult male … pinch him, and whip him with leafy branches or knotted strips of cloth. In extreme cases, they may force him to crawl over thorny or rocky ground while they whip him . . . they demand livestock sacrifice as the price to cease their attack. If he refuses, they may tie him to a tree in the bush and seize one of his animals themselves. Other men rarely intervene.