Alvine Kapitako Opuwo-Just recently, 16-year-old Zerihongua Muhenje had an intimate relation with her 56-year-old husband for the first time. Even though this was the first time she bedded her quinquagenarian husband since she was married off to him when she was only 8 years old, the timid Muhenje revealed to New Era that she only agreed to the sexual encounter because “culture dictates so.” The experience was an unpleasant one, she relates, adding that her ‘husband’ who has many children and is also married to another woman who is his age mate, is abusive. “I don’t love him,” she paused with her eyes depicting great sorrow. “I just want to be home. He is abusive. He makes us work the whole day without giving us food,” added the teenager, who allowed for the use her name, and demanded that her picture be taken and published. Muhenje recently travelled to Otavi where her husband lives with his family. “I have my own room. His wife accepted me because our culture dictates that a man can marry many wives,” related Muhenje, who has never been to school. For her hand in marriage, the man’s family paid one cow to her family. She has no ambition of going to school. “I attend the school for adults (literacy),” related the young girl who was in the company of other young relatives. Muhenje’s uncle, Ukondjerua Kavari, who is 41 years old, did not appear bothered that his niece is married to a man who is 15 years his senior, and 40 years older than the teenage girl that is his niece. “Our culture dictates that a man can take for himself a wife while she is young. There is nothing I can do, [this] is something that we found here,” said Kavari. Kavari added that a child is not forced to remain married to her elderly husband. However, the family may not return the cow even after the child refused move in with her elderly husband. “If she wants, she can go. We don’t force, when a child refuses to get married to the man who chose to marry her she can refuse,” explained Kavari. He also did not seem bothered that Muhenje, whose parents died while she was young, did not go to school. Meanwhile, Popa Mbendura, a 14-year-old relative of Muhenje was also ‘engaged’ as a child. “I have never met my husband [yet],” she said, explaining that she too will become a victim of child marriages, which are so rife in this part of the country.
2018-02-21 09:01:11 7 months ago