Cell phones wrongly blamed for marital problems

Date: January 1, 1970
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Mobile telephones have taken Zambia, and most of the region, by storm. Almost everywhere, you can see people of all ages, genders, and income levels using the new technology. Yet people, especially men, are now blaming cell phones for increased marital problems and breakdowns, and challenging women’s right to privacy.

In a recent incident in Zambia, Lackson Musonda Bemba of Lusaka’s Kabwata Township battered his wife Manda, who he left half-dead, after she refused to disclose her cell phone pin number. So many women in Zambia are being battered and divorced by their husbands everyday due to similar reasons. For whatever reason, wife battering is wrong.
Moreover, while men are the ones pointing fingers, it is often this gender that are th eons who are engaging in extra-marital affairs. Yet we rarely hear women insisting that men give up their phones!  Some men have no time for their wives. Many husbands, who opt to spend their free time drinking beer in bars and taverns, or even with their girlfriend, leave wives at home for long hours.
There is no doubt cell phones are here to stay. In 2004, Zambia had about 300,000 cell phones in circulation, just a year later, the number jumped to 946,600.  In South Africa, almost there are enough cell phone subscriptions for almost half the population of the country.
It is unfortunate that with the advent of this technology, it has become an issue in Zambia, especially among men, questioning whether women should be able to enjoy total privacy and ownership of cell phones. However, is it really justified for men to start demonising cell phones, which have so far proved to be the most effective tools of communication worldwide?
It’s time that individuals take responsibility and realise that cell phones do not create problems associated with troubled marriages. People need to change their attitudes, be open to each other and truthful to spouses, to avoid being caught up into the cell phone trap.
The invention of the cellular phone has brought with it many solutions to our global communication problems. People in Zambia and elsewhere can now communicate with their families and friends in other parts of the countries at anytime. Yet, men and women need to learn how to truly communicate, as well as respect each other.
Moreover, infidelity did not actually start with the arrival of this wonderful gadget, the cell phone, but existed since time immemorial. If anything, it has become so common in our society nowadays to hear of unfaithful mates in marriage (whether cell phone ownser or not!), both for men and women.
Moreover, there is nothing wrong with an individual, regardless of gender, wanting to have a secret cell phone code number. There are many factors, which prompt people to have secret code numbers.  
Among the notable ones are to protect the abuse of talk time by other people who use other people’s phones without getting permission. Talk time is expensive. Another reason is for privacy purposes, and everyone has the right to privacy.
It is therefore not right for men to start blaming cell phones for the breakdown of marriages and whatever marital problems they were having with their spouses.
Lack of communication between married couples is the biggest problem. If partners had time to know what their partners were doing, there could be no such things.
In fact, cell phones should be perceived a blessing in a home because they had potential to cement marriages, by increasing communication. Where there is no mutual communication, it is difficult to know what the other partner is doing or is being troubled with. As a result, many affected individuals end up falling in the trap of committing adultery in their quest to seek for comfort.
Cell phones have actually come as a savior to many people in various sectors of the country and it is imperative for every Zambian to treasure them and get connected to Celtel, Cell-Z and MTN mobile phone services providing companies.
Finally, men in Zambia should be advised that women, be married or not, have absolute right to enjoy ownership of this new technology-cell phones. Depriving them of that right would amount to discrimination against women.
Blaming something like an inanimate object is the easy way out. Even with all of this new found and growing technology, which allows people to talk from anywhere at anytime, marriages will only grow stronger when we see men and women learning how to really communicate with each other.
Hone Liwanga is a journalists and member of the Gender and Media Southern Africa (GEMSA) Network in Zambia. This article is part of the Gender Links Opinion and Commentary Service that provides fresh views on everyday news.

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