Lesotho: Forced into marriage that I did not like and ended up contracting HIV…

Date: September 9, 2014
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I am a Mosotho woman and I was raised by my grandmother. I was born in the late 60’s during the time when there was political fighting in the country. My parents died during the 1970’s curfew and I was left with my younger brother and we had no choice but to move in with our grandparents.

Times were hard and at that time I was the eldest of the children we stayed with, so life became difficult for me because my grandmother forced me to drop out of school at a young age to help her take care of my younger siblings. We used to wake up early in the morning to till the land for the production of maize. As time went by, things became more difficult and my grandmother arranged with a family to marry me to their son who had been to the initiation school, contrary to my approval because she said that she was no longer able to feed us.

I do not want to remember that fateful night when a bunch of men came to my house and snatched me and took me into the darkness. I screamed but no one could help me. I did not even know which one was my husband because this was an arrangement made by my grandmother. There were about four men; the route that we took was through the donga as it was in the mountain villages and very dark indeed. As we were crossing the donga, one man said, “I think it’s time to get my payment” and all the others agreed. I did not know what they were talking about, but before I could think, one man pushed me down and they started raping me, one after the other. When they were finished, I did not have the energy to move so I refused to walk. They carried me on their shoulders like a bag of clothes. This time I had stopped crying but deep down I was developing a great hatred towards my grandmother and these people who were doing these dirty things to me. I felt dead inside; I thought death would be the only solution to my problems.

After some time we reached the village and I was left in one of the huts until the morning. The first person I met in the morning was a woman who asked who I was and about my parents. I kept seeing different people coming and going. In the afternoon I was shown the house I was to have for me and my husband. That is when I saw who my husband really was because he took me there. After a week with this man, remember I said that he was not working, life began to take its shape. It was difficult to get food, so I was forced again to go and till the land.

We stayed together for about a year and things were ok. After that, this man found work on the mines. I thought our lives would change for the better but contrary to my expectations they did not. We had one child by this time. My husband went to work. He would always come home after three months but he would make excuses that they were paid very little money or sometimes his money would be stolen by the tsotsi’s, so he would come home with nothing. Life became more difficult every day, because now there was a child to take care of.

One day when I went to town, I noticed my husband with another woman and he did not seem to be going home. I did not talk to him with the hope that he would come home and I would talk to him then. He did not come home. It was the usual time for him to come home, so when he arrived, I did not waste time. I broke the news that I had seen him in town the other day, but he had not come home so I needed an explanation. Instead of giving answers, he started accusing me of being a prostitute; I should tell him why I went to town without his permission. That day I was beaten like a dog. When the parents came to ask why, he told them that I was having affairs with other men because I went to town without him knowing. The parents sided with him and there was no case. Our child grew up in this kind of situation.

There came a time when my husband was retrenched from the mines. He did not come home immediately after that but stayed with a woman with whom I discovered later he had children. After some time, when the money was finished, this man came home with nothing; only himself. He did not have any money to survive for even a month, he had finished it with the other woman and then she had thrown him out. As a respectful woman, I accepted him and also for the sake of the kids. He seemed not to have accepted the situation that he was living in now, he became very arrogant, shouting at everybody. One day he lost it, we argued for a long time and then he went out and when he returned he was holding a big stick and he started asking me to repeat what I was telling him so that he could show me my parents. Within a blink of an eye, he started beating me. At this time my parents were no more, they were dead. The neighbours tried to stop the fight but he was totally out of control.

I found life so difficult staying with a man who never supported me or helped me to raise the children, but I had to take care of him. Again, instead of accepting me, he continued to beat me every day in front of the kids and the neighbours. I could not stand the humiliation. I decided to leave him and go home. At home my grandmother did not accept me saying that it would disgrace the family so I should go back and sort out things with my husband. I went back to my husband.

He continued with his abusive words and beatings, and this time he kept telling me that I should remember that he had never said he loved me. Our parents had arranged the marriage so I was his property, he could beat me whenever he liked. I could not bear the painful situation I was staying in. There were two children and they were old enough to see what was happening. That was more painful to me. After some time I became sick, I started developing pimples around the body. When I visited the doctor, to my shock, I was told I had been infected with the HI virus. I hated life even more. The support group that existed in the village gave me enough counselling to see life differently and that was when I decided to leave the man forever.
We later divorced, and I am living a better life now. I work at the market, selling fruit to raise my kids. Since then I have never bothered to know the whereabouts of my husband.

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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