Extra marital affairs and gender based violence


By Jill Mangachena

COMMOTION arose at Huruyadzo market as a woman went around the market hitting her husband after finding out he was having an extra marital affair.

The 33 year old woman identified as amai Shanty, who resides in St Mary’s Chitungwiza said she found out about the affair after she had gone to the market fetch her husband so that he can eat.

“My husband really loves to drink but he has a tendency of drinking on an empty stomach then come back home later shivering. I was worried that it would happen again so I went to fetch him so he could come home and eat. I was not here to spy on him,” said amai Shanty.

Onlookers were laughing and giving out comments as they watched the unfolding drama.

“I saw a woman running around the market hitting and pulling at a man’s shirt and at first I thought that it was a prostitute but upon learning the truth I felt sorry for her. Men who live in this area always do that and what’s worse, they look for women older than their wives,” said a passerby identified as Henry Mabuto.

“These prostitutes use juju. What else would a man want with a woman older than his wife? Just look at the wife, she is even prettier than the prostitute,” continued Mabuto.

According to amai Shanty, her husband left home in the morning after asking her to prepare some food for him saying that he was going to a bottle store at the Huruyadzo to drink beer for a little while and then come back to eat. But when he did not come back for the meal she decided to go and fetch him so that he could eat.

“When I found him at the Bottle store, he was talking to a woman who was asking if he had bought her the things she had asked him to buy for her. Their conversation and the items he had to buy for her made me realise they were having an affair. I got angry that is why I hit him,” said amai Shanti.

Upon being asked why she does not leave her husband if he keeps on cheating on her amai Shanty said, “I love my husband, besides who would take care of my children if I leave him.”

Amai shanti continued to say that it has been a while now since she started suspecting that her husband was having an affair and that it is not the first time that he has cheated on her.  She also said that that her husband gets jealous if she tries to find ways of looking after herself and her kids.

“At one point in time I tried doing cross border trading but he followed me there. Ane n’anga yake yaanonditsvaga nayo yonditeera ikoko,” she said.

Amai Shanty’s story sheds light to the daily perils of women not only in Zimbabwe or Africa, but over the world.

The Zimbabwe Demographic Health Survey of 2015 found out that nearly 50% of married men admitted to having had sexual relations with someone other than their spouse in the last 12 months preceding the research.

Most women in Zimbabwe are involved in polygamous relationships. Their spouses may not be actually married to two or more wives but are having extra marital affairs.

 Chitungwiza Community Development Network’s Programmes Manager, Mr Admire Mutize is of the view that more married men than women have multiple concurrent sexual partners.

“While both men and women can have multiple partners, the number of women is actually lower than that of men. But then promiscuous women also do it to the maximum. Take sex workers for example, while men who pay female prostitutes for their services might be many, a single prostitute can have multiple partners for just one night.”

While most people make it socially acceptable for a man to cheat on his wife, it is a different story altogether when it comes to women.

“When a woman is caught having an affair most people judge and see her as immoral. They can label her “pfambi” “prostitute” “iwule” or worse,” said Mutize.

“But men can get away with it because people have been nurtured into the belief that masculinity for men can be proven by the number of sexual partners they have. “Varume imombe dzemashanga,”” continued Mutize

Some women gave reasons why they may remain indifferent to their spouses’ infidelity.

 “World statistics show that there is a higher population of women than men thus most of us women may accept sharing a man in the belief that it is better to have one than nothing at all since men are few,” said 32 year old woman, Sibusiso Moyo.

Others cite women’s financial dependence on men as the reason why they cannot leave their husbands.

 “If my husband cheats on me I think it is just better for me to look the other way because he is the provider. I have no means of financially supporting myself, so if he still brings food onto the table at the end of the day why should I complain?,” said A 41 year old woman identified only Mai Mercy.

Sometimes it is actually men rather than women who condone polygamous practices.

Some young women said older women encourage them to keep quiet and maybe try to be better so as to impress their husbands.

“My husband cheated on me and when I sought advice from an elder woman in the hood I was told that maybe it was my fault that he was cheating and I should try to be better and be a good submissive wife,” said a woman who refused to be named.

A 79 year old Chitungwiza resident identified only as sekuru Matare said: “Initially in the African tradition it was not only normal, but a good thing for men to be infidel or to engage in polygamous practices while women were considered to be owned by men, supposed to submit and be faithful to their men. Men from my generation were told that when you marry a woman she must know the second one is on the way and a third…”

The Bible also has several passages that conform to the traditional African practice of polygamy.

Pastor Victor Mavezere of the Seventh-day Adventist Church said: “The Bible condones divorce but it also condones unfaithfulness at the same time. God fearing women are put in a dilemma between whether to divorce their unfaithful husbands or remain in that relationship.”

Mutize said: “It is this kind of attitude towards polygamy and unfaithfulness that is resulting in the continuous spread of the HIV/ AIDS pandemic. It’s not that women are uneducated but society looks down upon women who try to protect themselves by using contraceptives or through divorce, saying they are rebellious.”

“Women must stand for their rights and society should become aware that it should not be a norm that men can be unfaithful. If these social norms do not change women will continue being deprived of their rights and freedom. More so sexually transmitted diseases like HIV/AIDS will continue to spread like veld fire in our societies,” continued Mutize.