THE Zimbabwean courts have upheld a ruling that adultery damages should stand as adultery threatens the survival of the marriage institution and the family unit. In the case where a Harare woman was being sued for $25 ooo by the wife of her lover, whom she now has a child With and is living with the Judge felt that the third party in this case was very well aware that the man she was having an affair with was married; hence she should pay compensation to the wife who in this case lost not only the affection of her husband, but the marriage as well. Adultery has and always will be wrong; that is a fact. The ruling certainly took that into effect.
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However; the same ruling also raised a few issues that I want to touch on. I agree with the courts that when couples cheat on each other; what they effectively do is to destroy their families and marriages. The minute one is cheating; they are not only investing outside the home; both emotionally and financially; but they are also opening up the family to the risk of disease.
hiv is a headache in this country. The majority of hiv infections are occurring within people that have sex with multiple partners. This means those who have two or more sexual partners at the same time are most likely to transmit and contract hiv. What makes it even sadder is that in this type of sexual network; some of the involved parties may not even be aware that they are in a network.
Take for example a wife whose husband is in an adulterous relationship with a woman and this relationship has subsisted for two years. Is it realistic to expect that condoms will be used correctly and consistently in this extra marital affair that is two years long? While the wife may suspect it or not that there is an affair going on; it is also unlikely that condoms will be used correctly and consistently in the couple's home. If the third party also decides to sleep with somebody else; then the network keeps expanding and the risks are increased. For this reason; some wives have found themselves infected with hiv and failed to accept their status because they would have been faithful their whole lives. That is why cheating is bad apart from other factors too.
In the ruling; the High Court obviously wanted to send a message to people that cheating is harmful and if one is caught in it; they can be punished for it, which should serve as a deterrent to those who sleep or may want to sleep with married people. While I have always called on men to be faithful to their wives and marriage vows; if the women they approach also turn them down; then there would be no market for those who cannot be satisfied with one woman.
If women who are in relationships with married men or who were entertaining such ideas learn of the adultery damages and suits they may be subjected to; maybe some will have a rethink and just shove off the cheating married men. The same applies to men who also cheat with married women. If the law is tough on it; this may act as a deterrent to otherwise harmful behaviour.
However; because in most cases it is women who seem to be taking each other to these courts; while the man who in this case approaches both women and convinces them to enter into a relationship with him stands by, such punitive actions may only serve to see women abusing each other while the villain stands by and watches.
It also seems to remove the responsibility for one to protect and uphold their marriage from the married man or woman; should it be a woman who cheats placing it on the one they step out with. There is need for Zimbabweans to respect their marriages and relationships. Just last week my focus was on the rise in divorce cases in the country-where I was saying divorce is much better than cheating one's way through a whole lifetime of marriage.
Some people are married and yet are perennial cheaters, which makes their wives perennial victims. Rather than placing responsibility on these people to protect and honour their unions; when married women are told it is fine to go after the other woman while their cheating husband stands by; we take responsibility away from these adult men who behave irresponsibly. In this case I will touch on men because in the majority of cases; it is men who cheat and in a patriarchal society such as ours; it is largely men who approach women for relationships and not vice versa.
Is responsible manhood elusive? Do we really have to send women after each other when someone has cheated? Will this work to stop adultery? How does the money aspect come in; these damages? If one gets damages awarded does that fix the relationship?
Should we not be focusing more on building healthy relationships where couples do not cheat on each other in the first place? Why can't we see campaigns targeting men coming up? Why can't we see campaigns targeting couples coming up? I remember a One Love campaign which called for faithfulness between couples as well as the Be Faithful of the ABC campaign. Are those not the kind of messages we need to hear more of now as marriages and long term relationships become once again the hotbed of HIV?
We have been there before where men were educated and convinced to cut down on casual partners and it worked. Today however; it is not casual partners but long term partnerships that have become unofficial marriages in many instances. In some cases men marry this third party customarily without the knowledge of the first wife. In fact adults will be adults and daily they make choices that we may not agree with. However HIV is a reality and if this adultery culture continues unchecked; more and more people will become infected and many marriages will be destroyed. Do we want to see a return to those days when children literally ended up raising themselves after both mother and father perished?
It is up to us as adults; to be responsible. It is all in the choices one makes. If the choice is to be irresponsible then the consequences are also nasty. Do you have to wait for the courts to deter you from harmful behaviours? What are your thoughts?