I think I can be forgiven if I declare that I really believe that the society I live in is somewhat full of misogynists-men who hate women and female chauvinists and slut-bashers; women who treat other women with disdain. Well, here is why I say so. It takes a commercial sex worker (who my society loves calling prostitutes or hookers) and a male client (whom I would like to call the sniffing dog) to commit an act of prostitution. The client hires the commercial sex worker, and then the two have consensual sex. But guess who is labeled-the woman. Guess who is arrested if they are caught together- the woman. Guess who is arrested for loitering for purposes of soliciting for sex-the woman. As if the man did not want exactly the same things that the woman wanted too.
Let me give you another example. Boy meets girl, boy likes girl, girl likes boy. Boy and girl have sex. Who gets pregnant-girl. Who is responsible-both. Who should have been more responsible and had insisted on using protection-both. But if they were in school most schools will expel the girl and the boy will continue with his education despite the existence of policies and laws that encourage giving support to such girls. Girl will be ostracised for being loose and boy will receive pats on the back for impregnating her-he is a man after all and has proved he can ‘father’ children. Boy will deny responsibility and deny he ever had sex with girl. If girl decides she cannot take care of the baby and would not be able to bear the responsibility alone and decides to abort, boy will be the first person to report her to the police so she can be arrested. Abortion is illegal in Zimbabwe.
Boy will spread the news about how girl is an unfeeling creature who killed her own baby before it was even born. Girl will again be ostracised by society, men and women included.
If girl feels strongly about abortion, decides not to abort, keeps the pregnancy but decides she still is not ready for the responsibility and informally gives the child for adoption by leaving the baby on the doorstep of an orphanage or formally gives the baby up for adoption by choosing a couple that wants the baby; the same boy and society- by and large- will castigate her for being unfeeling and cold. How can a woman give up her own child for adoption? They ask.
If girl decides to keep the pregnancy, give birth and keep the baby, then all her life she will be referred to as ‘the’ single mother. The derogatory term in Shona is “mvana ine mwana wayo.” Mothers will not want their sons to marry such a woman and in most cases if she finds a man who loves her and marries her, she always has to contend with the monsters-in-law, especially the sisters in law and the mother in law. Men will assume that she is easily available for nothing more than a romp between the sheets.
Anyway to tell my story, I was reading the Herald-online of the 15th of June 2012 when I came across this headline: “Lawyer demands US$3 000 maintenance.” As the story goes, the lawyer is a single mother, Zimbabwean, based in the United Kingdom who has been taking care of her son single-handedly for the past 14 years. However the father of her son is a known individual, running a very successful transport and fuel business, which all in Zimbabwe know has big money and profits.
The lawyer requested $3000 maintenance for her child per month from this filthy rich man who probably spends that much on beer and whisky or small houses (concubines) every month. The man refused to pay that sum and said he can afford to pay $200 only because he has a big family of 7 other children and that his business does not make that much money.
Apart from this man’s attitude, the comments that readers of this article also made left me livid, for a lack of a better word. Here are a few that especially made me furious:
KuDiaspora zvinhu hazvichafaya! Dzoka kumusha kana zvanetsa….but you risk becoming one of the unemployed 80%! Life in the Diaspora is not working for you anymore. Come back home but you risk becoming one [part] of the unemployed 80%,
Usamupe shagi iroro. Ari kuda kupihwa mari yekunolazwa nedzimwe boyz. Ngaachengete mwana akanyarara. Ari kuda murume kupfuura zvese zvemaintanance zvaari kutaura. Who doesn’t know kuti varume vanonetsa kuwana kuDiaspora. Do not give her that money. She just wants to get money that she will spend with other men. She should take care of her child and not complain. Infact she wants this man more than the maintenance and is using the maintenance claim as a front. Who doesn’t know that men are hard to find in the daispora?
All these years where was the mother, [the] recession yamukwadza [has affected her]. The father should demand parental rights 3 days a week and request the judge to force amai ivava nemwana [the mother and the child] to return to Zimbabwe so that the father will have a relationship nemwana wavo [with his child] since she said he has Zimbabwean citizen[ship].
You do not just harvest where you have not sown like the MDC.
Well here are some facts to all these people who made these comments:
- A man should not pay maintenance because he wants to; he has to pay maintenance because it is his responsibility to do so. The same way a father who lives in his home should take care of his children, so should a father who impregnates a woman anywhere. He fathered the child and he must take care of it.
- Women do not ask for maintenance because they can not afford to take care of the children alone. Yes, there are some women who will desperately need that help and without it would not manage. But all women have a right to claim maintenance as a matter of principle. If you bring a child onto this planet then you must be responsible for that child’s upkeep. If you know you can not do so, then giving up the child for adoption is a far nobler decision as the child will be with people who want him/her and will have his/her best interests at heart.
- A woman has the right to claim for maintenance from the father of her child at any point that she feels she wants to. Her reasons for not making the claim earlier are her own. Maybe she was too traumatized by the ordeal of his rejection to want anything to do with him. It may be that she could afford to take care of everything and now she can’t. It may be that he could not afford to take care of his child and she actually felt sorry for him. It may be a lot of reasons and none of them matters. What matters is that in the case of this woman lawyer, at this moment the man can afford to take care of his own child, he ought to have tried doing so all his life and should be ashamed for even trying to talk his way out of it.
- In every situation, where adults have wrangles over the welfare of their children, the best interests of the child are the priority. In other words, whatever circumstances work best to give the child the best care, best welfare, best peaceful and safe environment that promotes his/her growth physically, emotionally and mentally should be the one that he/she should be given as a matter of choice.
- Also, visitation rights by a father who has no custody or guardianship rights over a child are not a precondition for a claim for maintenance from a mother who is taking care of the child. There are some men who pay maintenance but do not want to see the child at all. In this case, should the man want to see his child then he would have to work out an arrangement with the mother to see the child. The mother has created the best conditions so far, for her child to have a life. The decision to move to the UK was probably in the best interests of her child because had she not done so she would not have been able to take care of him- and the father has not contributed a single penny to the life of this 14 year old. Surely demanding that this child be brought back to Zimbabwe to live here permanently may not be in the best interests of the child.
All those who think this woman is being vindictive or that she is being a gold digger should try taking of a child for 14 good years with no help from anyone else. They should go through the stages of giving birth to and bringing up a child from 0 to 14, all alone and if they still think it is a stroll in the park they can come back to me and convince me that this woman is making an unreasonable claim. Why is she expected to continue suffering in silence? Why is her claim being questioned at all when it is her right to claim maintenance and the right of her child to be taken care of by his own father? If I were this woman and if I knew the amount of money this man makes yet he has not done a single thing for his 14 year old child since birth, I would claim a reasonable sum like $3000 per month too.