Talking to a friend I met on a recent trip abroad, I grew angry over the subject of our conversation. Although she was not from Malawi, she was just as close to being Malawian with her experiences. She narrated her marital ordeals and the familiarity at which most elders in developing countries believe is the only way to a successful union. They always insist one stays in a marriage in spite of any troubles. I sensed my friend dreaded the conclusion of our programme, to face yet another day with an abusive husband. With nowhere to go or anybody to back and support her, she was trapped with this maniac who society had given permission to do with her as he pleased. Even kill her if he so wished.
Her story begun on a rather unpleasant not as she chased one of the participants. She claimed to love this fellow and made a career out of achieving her intention to bed him even as the man refused and rejected her advances. She never relented until the last day. She even attempted a hit on another participant to — in her own words — spite the rejecting man. Again, she hit a blank wall with this one. That was when I decided to understand this woman and what may be possibly driving her lusts. I realised it may be a case of low self-esteem, confusion, anger and giving up on life. I know there are people who are always determined and go-getters, but hers was extreme.
She abandoned the marital home for four years to start life on her own to escape her husband’s abusive tendencies. They included physical and emotional abuses which almost got her killed. She, allegedly, was beaten to a pulp and her report to police and family members fell on deaf ears. Even after she moved, she claimed her uncles tormented her with phone calls every day, accusing her of prostitution and demanding she returns to the marital home. The only family member who understood her plight was the mother, but in such a set-up, she had little say. She is now back and trapped. She continues to live with her man whose love she claimed has long gone.
While there is no excuse for my friend’s actions and basing from a one-sided portrayal of events, I am against the idea of forcing women to cling to abusive or unhappy arrangements for the sake of good family values or bringing honour to families. Shouldn’t it be about according women choices to choose and the freedom to follow their hearts? When will societies embrace such notions and families accept that women are individuals with rights to choose rather than cement abuse with wedding songs that include kapilire, unka iweko! Just when does or should perseverance go? Should we wait until a death occurs?
This nonsense must stop. If a woman wants out, she must be permitted. Sadly, even with evidence to show her pain, she is asked to linger on. We need mindset change and not rush to judge. I judged my friend, but she had a story to tell and nobody is listening. Nobody listens when we tell these women kumenya ndi mankhwala a banja. Let’s listen. n