Elleness Maliko from the central Malawi district of Dedza finished her Wednesday last week without much ceremony. But she ended the day in pain, losing a baby in a fight with her husband over sex.
Her day was normal. She shelled maize, went to the garden and took a bath just before going to sleep at about 8pm.
Since giving birth to a baby boy, Levias, on September 25, 2012, she has been sleeping on the living room. But on this fateful day, she joined her husband, Mbalame Dalirani, in the bedroom.
She went to bed in the small, grass-thatched one-bedroom house perched about one and a half hours outside Dedza Town in Kumayani Village, T/A Kasumbu. But what was to happen in the bedroom, cordoned by a pink stained curtain, was to change her life, her babyâ€™s and her husbandâ€™s.
â€œWhen I tried to catch some sleep, he pressed me for sex and I told him that it was not on as the baby was still too young and this made him irritable. He struck me in the dark twice and one of his blows landed on the baby which was sleeping between us close to my bosom,â€ said Elleness.
Baby hit and dies
Elleness, 18, said the baby cried just once and briefly, and it seems no one knew that it had been hit.
â€œWhen I woke up, the baby was cold, its legs spread apart and rigid. I asked him [the husband] what had happened to the baby and he became defensive,â€ she said.
Her cries woke her aunt and soon the homestead was thronged with people who came to witness the tragedy.
One of those that came was Gostino Chapita.
â€œWhen we were handed the baby, we were shocked. It had a bruised forehead and dried blood around its nose and mouth. People were angry and it looked like the husband wanted to bolt, so we called the Inkata to contain him. They called the police who came and picked him,â€ said Chapita.
The Inkata is the localsâ€™ version of neighbourhood watch or community police.
More drama followed
As the commotion intensified, the father of the husband arrived and was caught sprinkling some concoction on his son, apparently to make the accusations miraculously go away.
This angered the crowd who made sure that he, too, was arrested.
Police went away with father and son, cuffed with one handcuff.
Destination: Dedza Police Station.
Husband claims innocence
Nation on Sunday went to Dedza Police to speak to the husband, whose relatives said he is 13 years old. But a police officer at Dedza said it was a way of trying to lessen his crime and that he should be about 19.Â
Dalirani emerged from his cell looking relaxed; only his hair looked unkempt. He spoke slowly and precisely into the recorder.
â€œWe had a quarrel at around 7 oâ€™clock in the evening after she turned me down. I hit her in the head twice and we went to bed. I turned my back on her and the child, only to be woken up at 4am. My wife asked me what I had done to the child,â€ he said.
Dalirani said although he hit his wife, they had made up by the time they were going to bed, with the mother still breastfeeding the baby
He said he still loves his wife and is in great pain at the loss of the child.
The husband also denied that his father was spraying him with concoctions to ward off the charges. The medicine, he said, was to ease the nightmares and sleepwalking problems he has that sometimes see him waking up outside his house.
End of marriage?
The wife, however, said she is done with Dalirani and vowed that she will testify against him in court.
â€œShe should rot in jail. I have no pity for him because the child wanted to live too. I suffered a lot for this baby and he was only my first,â€ she heaved.
Since they were married in December, 2012, the two have not had it easy. The wife and her grandmother, Nafolani Chisale, described Dalirani as abusive.
â€œWe thought it was a youth thing and waited for it to end, but, apparently, we were wrong. The husband would beat the wife a lot. Sometimes, he would strip her to the bone and taunt her that her deceased mother would come to dress her up,â€ said Chisale.
At the heart of the death of little Levias lies sex. Nation on Sunday asked Chisale how soon a man can resume sex with his wife who has just given birth.
She said two months after the babyâ€™s birth is permissible because the wounds would have healed by then.
Resumption of sex after birth is a touchy issue. Some cultures demand that a husband can only resume sex with his wife six months after childbirth.
This has been described as dangerous as husbands take it as a licence to cheat and, therefore, fuel the spread of HIV.
Dedza Police spokesperson Edward Kabango said post-mortem results showed that the baby died of head injuries.
Kabango said Dalirani has been charged with murder.