Marriage a fertile ground for infection
I sat quietly among the elders, with the men seated on stools probably as an emblem of authority while us the women sat on a reed mat. The occasion was to give counsel to my male cousin who complained of being denied sex by his wife.
The case at hand was that the man had impregnated two other women and upon the news of his infidelity breaking out, his wife demanded for protected sex, an issue that infuriated her husband and accused her of infidelity.
Having heard from both sides the elders finally spoke, alas, it was the woman to blame.
They blamed her for the husbands infidelity saying it was clear that she forced the husband to have sex elsewhere where they were no ‘sanctions’.
The verdict was that the woman must submit to her husband while the man’s infidelity was treated with kids gloves urging him not do show his promiscuity in public.
My heart bleed as the poor woman quietly and tearfully left the ‘insaka’ without a word and headed back to her matrimonial home, to wholly submit to her husband and submit to be infected with HIV and AIDS.
This is just one of the cases in our Zambian tradition where women always play the receptive role when it comes to sex especially in marriage.
Men always dictate the terms when it comes to sex and a woman’s duty is to submit.
While single women might have some form of authority to negotiate for safe sex with their partners, there is no such a luxury for a married woman.
Marriage has now become a fertile ground of infection.
Traditionally it is unacceptable for a married woman to dictate the terms of sex, her duty is to submit and give a blind eye to her husband's infidelity.
Majority of the marriage counselors go by an adage which say ‘Ubuchende Bwamwaume Tabonaola Nganda’ ( A man’s infidelity does not break a family).
This adage stands as a form of ncouraging women to stick to their cheating partners and make them accept that all men are promiscuous.
While some women have taken bold steps of leaving cheating spouses many are stuck despite facing the reality of AIDS.
Women are forced to stick and submit to men while the silent killer slowly but surely sends them to their early grave because they lack the financial muscle to look after themselves.
Many women have resorted to dating married men because of their financial stability unlike the single men who in most cases struggle financially.
This means behind one successful married man there is a likely hood of him having a chain of women seeking financial comfort and if any of them is infected the rest will be too.
This is what has seeing the number of women with HIV rising compared to that of men.
For women to break free of the HIV/AIDS virus they need empowerment.
They need to be empowered with information, life skills and above all, financially.
But of what gain is it to empower a woman who probably have being already infected? One would ask.
In as much as women should be empowered, it should start with a girl child who will eventually graduate into that woman who might wholly submit to getting infected if she is not well equipped today.
Empowering girls should start with their education. As the world most celebrated leader Nelson Mandela said ‘Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world’ and indeed empowering girls with education, life skills and information can eventually lead to an HIV/AIDS free world.