Lesotho: A painful marriage without kids

Date: September 9, 2014
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My name is Sally. I got married in 1978. It was a beautiful day when I wedded my husband. It was a white wedding. We did not have children for about two years. We thought it was because we were both working and apart from each other. During the third year, we decided to work hard to have kids but it seemed that everything was not fine. We started visiting doctors to find out what the problem was. One day, we were shocked to discover that I could not bear children. I was miserable the whole day, like I had just been told that my husband was dead. We went home silently, looking into the air as if something would change.
When we arrived home, I tried to talk to my husband but he would not answer at all. I could sense he was traumatised by the news. I thought it was because in Lesotho tradition dictates that a man would change into being a father and be respected by others when there are children in the family; a boy child brings more respect. Now if the family does not have a child, it is a disgrace and the woman is always held responsible. I had always dreamed of having many children but that dream was shattered. More painfully so, because it was me who could not bear the children; one can imagine how I felt. Empty and hopeless. I felt as though it was the end of the world because I could not make my husband a father.
After the news, my husband started arriving late at home, drinking excessively. He was in denial. I booked us a counsellor but he refused to go saying nothing would change because the counsellor would not give us children. I tried everything I could but he would not take any help. Our lives changed drastically. It was as though we did not know each other at all. He behaved strangely, using abusive words such as saying that he could not live with another man in the house; he would rather start looking for a woman to bear children. I felt guilty and became a victim of abuse. I did things that I would not have done under normal circumstances.
Every weekend he did not come home from work; he would call and tell me that I should not worry about him because he had gone to visit a woman. I would cry the whole weekend but when he came I would pretend that things were fine. Later he intensified his abusive behaviour; he would bring his friends home to see the man he always talked about to them, referring to me. One day he came home with a very small girl, it was a very dark night and he told me that he had found someone who would take my place in the family as a woman so I should leave his house. I refused and he just snatched me and threw me out and locked the door. I went to the neighbours as my home was far away. In the morning I came back and found him getting ready to go to work. I tried to prepare food for him but he gave it to the dog saying he could not eat food prepared by another man. He encouraged me to go and sell my body because I could not bear kids.
I continued to stay with this man. I would watch him go to bed with the girl whom he called his wife. They used me like a cleaner. They would give instructions to me like a small girl. Now the girl was adapting to the style of ill treating me. One day I smacked the girl on the cheek and she called our husband who came immediately. Upon arrival he did not even ask what happened, he just came straight to me and started beating me up. This time I could not run anywhere because I was ashamed, but one of my friends asked me to leave the marriage because I would end up dead.
One day as I was preparing food, waiting for my husband and the girl to come home after work, two men came in. They told me that my husband had told them to come and collect me. They told me he said that before that they should test me to see if I was a woman and that meant they were to rape me. They raped me and left. When my husband arrived I demanded answers as to why he had sent the men to rape me. He looked at me, surprised that such men had come to our house. Instead of helping me to go to hospital and to the police to report the case he started beating me and accusing me of trying to go behind his back to see if I could have children. I was so miserable.
I stayed with this man until I realised that I was wasting my time. I finally decided to leave my property for this man and the girl. I moved in with my parents and started a new life but as a Mosotho woman I still hold on to the marriage because I feel as though I owe him something. I am currently attending counselling sessions to help me to move on with my life.
This story is part of the “I” Stories series produced by the Gender Links encouraging the view that speaking out can set you free.


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