I carried out some research on the reporting of matters of sexual infidelity because the manner in which the media publicized the watsapp messages of the communication between Faith and her lover Tonderai left me extremely unsettled. I was not surprised to find that Zimbabwe newspapers both online and in print report on sexual infidelity in an unprecedented manner.
For example: http://ireporterstv.co/video-of-a-zimbabwean-married-woman-caught-red-handed-cheating-with-another-man/http://teamzimbabwe.org/pics-drama-woman-caught-cheating-with-husbands-best-friend/
An article on Newsday published in 2013 reports on the shooting of his wife by Irvin
These days the extended family has lost its function due to industrialisation,” he said.
Nyabiko said the extended family was our society’s support system for marriages to last and this had been destroyed because many people had now moved into towns, destroying the traditional set-up.
“As a result, marriages are disintegrating. We must reintroduce our traditional methods whereby people are socialized into the norms and values of their social systems which are tolerant to our cultural social structure,” Nyabiko said.
Fred Misi, the national chairperson of Varume Svinurai said women were generally to blame because they do not remain faithful to their spouses when they lose their source of livelihood.
“First and foremost women must be content with what they have.
“If a man gets retrenched you’ll find that the wife will start cheating or even leave the man. Nowadays women are also working and you’ll find that they will start having affairs at the workplace,” Misi said.
Misi added that men had a tendency to bottle up issues pertaining to infidelity because they do not know how to react when they discover that their spouses are cheating.
“Conflict resolution in the home is practically impossible because extended families are now staying far apart. The other thing is that men do not have an emotional outlet so they end up
Being violent if they find their wives cheating. Unfortunately, someone may die, but even the Bible says sleeping with another man’s wife is like taking a burning log and putting it on your chest,” he said.
Misi said that the Domestic Violence Council had recognised infidelity as the number one cause of domestic violence, especially by women.
This article pretty much sums up majority of sentiments held by Zimbabwean men where women and infidelity are concerned. Women are to blame. They cheat and they are the reason marriages are breaking up. It is interesting to note too the total omission of the basic fact that a woman might cheat, not because of material possessions as Misi implies, but because she may be sexually and emotionally neglected. It is a fact that many African men even the so called educated ones are clueless when it comes to intimacy with women. It is not their fault because they are a product of the societies in which they were raised. Women were raised in the same society but somehow women evolve and are open to change in a way that many men are not. Therefore while it is not their fault they know very little about women it is their RESPONSIBILITY to learn where they can, seek counselling as a couple or alone, rather than stay stuck in the same misery and blame relationship failure on women. This also alludes to the fact that men themselves see marriage as a transactional union where the man gets exclusive sexual rights over the woman, but he is free to have sex elsewhere. Misi says “women should be content with what they have” and by virtue of his belief system he cannot then say men should be content with what they have because well, men can have whatever and whomever they want to have.
- The solution to the problems that intimate partner relationships face today lie not in the restoration of cultural norms and practices as suggested by Nyabiko. As he rightly states these worked before industrialization and urban migration. This therefore means that unless we regress and become all rural there is no way those norms can be restored.
- There is a need to learn conflict resolution in a way that is authentically mutual and not based on one partner giving in for the sake of peace. That peace is usually short lived because anyone who feels their power is being usurped and they have no agency will eventually rebel. It is usually women who give in for the sake of peace or the kids, or to keep the marriage, and it follows that it is women who will rebel.
- There is a need to redefine marriage in each individual marriage and for couples to set their own rules and standards of what is acceptable or unacceptable behavior. In its current form marriage involves the woman being resorbed into her husband’s family in which she is at the bottom of the totem pole. She is not considered in major decision making even when it impacts her life directly and the “expectations” of the family trump her own dreams and vision for her family unit. This is one major reason why men and women in marriages drift apart rather than get close. The imposition of external standards and expectations is harmful to marriages because these uniform standards require that there be a certain type of woman or man fit to meet those them. THIS cannot work to create healthy relationships that take into account the needs, dreams and desires of both parties and the children they co- create. To redefine marriage means to rethink gender stereotypes and norms if not for our happiness but for the health and happiness of the children we are raising. Fear is at the root of this reticence to change and transformation but sadly it is the cause of stagnation and paralysis, disconnection and ultimately the marriage breaks down.
- Men need to be more attentive to the needs of women and vice versa. Men need to invest more in themselves emotionally so that they have something more to offer women other than their money or their penises. Men are brought up NOT to actively take an interest in things important to or affecting women. This lack of interest most often means that a man can be married to a woman for decades and only know her superficially. This lack of interest also affects how men raise girls and why often girls crave male attention which they do not get from their fathers. Invariably they will seek it in all the wrong places.
- Marriage is a patriarchal construct in which traditionally men are the head, the leaders, the decision makers and women and children are essentially their property. The laws governing marriage have gone a long way in redressing this in many parts of the world. However in Zimbabwe and other African countries where we have a dual legal system that is not harmonized, traditional laws embedded in culture and buttressed by religion often supersede constitutional laws where women and marriage are concerned. This is why Patrick’s relatives are able to treat Faith in such a deplorable manner and get away with it. Under constitutional law in many places Faith would never have been subjected to such treatment and her sisters in law would have had absolutely no bearing on proceedings between herself and Patrick.
My hope is that Faith will find peace and pick up the pieces of her life knowing that there is a sea of humanity supporting her and empathizing with her. It has been heartening to witness both men and women who condemn the act but do not judge the person based on her gender and who are able to see the context which created the perfect set up in which infidelity happened. Faith was called a hure. Nothing new there also. To this I say: I too have been called a hure in all sorts of spaces some unexpected and some totally predictable. A Hure is a human being, and women are no longer left diminished by being called whores. That is all.