BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE...The Story of African Wives

To Maselina Arata*, 32, the possibility of enjoying sex like most married couple do in some other parts of the world is all, but a pipe dream. Her husband, totally dictates to her when, how and how long she gets to enjoy these basic conjugal rights. This scenario is replicated across thousands of families in Kenya, where men truly rule with an Iron fist.

The sleepy village of Bakarani is situated 6 Kilometres from the Mombasa City Centre. When I visited the village late October, I found robust villagers, mostly women whiling away the hours, while their husbands were out eking a living. However, the picture before me was a clear misrepresentation of what transpired between the ungodly hours of around midnight. Maselina Arata* is a tailor, who learnt her proffession from her late mother. I found myself drawn to her, not because of her beauty, nay, but because of her welcoming smile. I decided there and then that she is the one to kick-off my feature of the area. "I was married to my husband 7 years ago," she narrated,"I had just been impregnated by my former boyfriend, who denied the fatherhood. I had no choice but accept to be Andrea's* second wife." She paused for a while here, enough for me to register a tinge of sadness in her eyes, as she looked out across the horizon. Maselina's predicament is repeated day in day out across the vast continent that is Africa. Many women find solace in getting married, albeit to much older men, who frequently abuse them. I asked Maselina how she copes with her marriage. "In all honesty, I don't love Andrea." She pauses, "but what do I do? My parents are long gone, I did not complete school and there are no jobs." It is like nature has conspired to place her and others on the highway of eternal helplesness. Maselina went on to tell me that her husband sleeps with her anytime he wants, even when she is in the middle of cooking lunch for her three kids. The truth is, she is not alone. Dama Kanja is 21. Yet she has been married for the last six years. This gives you an impression of how tender she was when she owned her own home. For her, things are a little better in that she is the first wife for her husband, a great honour among many African tribes. Apart from that, there are no other reasons that can make her proud of her marriage. " I do not enjoy my sex-life." This admission shocked me. For it has been known to be an almost impossible thing for an African woman to open up her heart when asked such matters. I prodded on. "He is not adventurous in bed. Even when I need him, he sometimes does not touch me for a whole month. The reason is he comes home drunk most of the time, dozzes of and falls on the bed and sleeps" Dama then goes on to narrate how she removes her husbands shoes, clothes and prepares him for sleep. Inspite of all these, African women are gradually gaining emancipation, thanks to an influx of western NGO's and other women rights bodies. In as much as the fight is directed towards alleviating HIV/AIDS in Africa, it will do us a lot of good to educate the masses on those unnoticed little dramas being played out in the bedrooms. Once we get rid of these, maybe, just maybe, we can stop the urge that these women and many more have of getting real sexual satisfaction outside their marriages, and in the process risk contracting HIV/AIDS. THE WRITER IS A RADIO PRESENTER WITH RADIO SALAAM MOMBASA, KENYA.