In my opinion, there’s no difference between a battered wife and a drunkard’s wife. For one, both suffer some form of abuse (psychological/ emotional/ physical etc). Two, both just sit there and do nothing about their predicament. And three, both hope and pray that their husbands will change…, someday. If I had to choose between the two, what wife I had to be (with the assumption that I couldn’t leave the marriage on my own volition), I’d probably choose to be the battered wife. I know it sounds absurd, but think about it. With the first injuries I sustain, at least I would get a P3 form, a good lawyer, a court case and a story on the newspapers that his relatives cannot argue against. With that, I’d file for divorce and push a little harder to get full custody of the kids. But that’s me. Because really, what would you accuse your drunk husband of? Neglect? But what if he provides for the family? Causing a disturbance? Being drunk and disorderly? The neighbours seem to have no problem with him, though they don’t know that he pees in his sleep, on the matrimonial bed he shares with his wife. The things women bear in the name of love and wife..,?Unbelievable.
So the only thing one is left with is to accuse him of neglecting his conjugal duties. And that’s what the women of Murang’a and other rural areas did when they couldn’t take it anymore. They wanted children, clearly there were none in the classrooms, or in the playing and herding fields. They finally had evidence! All their husbands would do is drink all day, come home drunk and eventually, impotent. Whether it bothered the men that they were married without children is yet to be known. Perhaps they accused their wives of being barren, which is not uncommon among married couples. The wife is the first suspect. And when doctors clear her of all charges and suggest her husband gets checked too, he isn’t willing. “Be patient my love, even Sarah in the Bible had to be patient for God to bless her with children, and through her a nation was born.” So the wives live under the suspicious eye of their mothers-in-law and the ridicule of relatives and friends. Such is life…,
While the government came to the aid of such women, especially the wives of illicit brew consumers, there was only so much it could do. Mututho came up with a bill, it was signed, became law and is now enforced to the tune of 5pm to 11pm or 2pm to some other hour. Has that had any significant impact, really? Who’s checking on the standards of some of these brew? The police? KEBS? Who’s checking on our individual standards? Our lifestyle choices? Our character?
During my trip to Kisumu and Kakamega, I witnessed with my own eyes how liqour stores run on a 24hr schedule, 7 days a week. I visited a homestead where the men and women, despite their high level of education, are drunk by 6.30am. A home where despite being a guest, I had to keep an eye on my belongings because brothers and sisters steal from each other and each others’ friends to feed their habit. Needless to say, my jacket somehow disappeared. And even with this feeling of discomfort and insecurity, I had to leave “something small”, before driving out of the compound. The drunkards deeply appreciated 20shs. What alcohol can 20shs buy, you ask?
The government can only do so much. Will they set up special wards in our district hospitals to treat this “disease” of drunkenness as they have done for the drug addicts at the Coast? And who will get admitted there? How many men can admit they have a drinking problem? How many get offended every Friday and Saturday, when you tell them they are drunk? And how many say they drink because of poverty? If you’re so poor, why not spare the little you have to start a small sukuma business or a shop like that 60year old woman in Banana, who on Sunday, lost a husband and son to illicit brew. At 60yrs of age, why should somebody’s wife and mother have to wake up before 6am, to get the deliveries into her tiny shop – milk, bread etc – and sit there in the cold, perhaps suffering from mild arthritis and osteoporosis? Now she’ll use what little money she has to bury her husband and son, and foot the hospital bills of the other son who lies in Kiambu District Hospital, happy to have survived the illicit brew of the day, but with a plan to begin drinking Tusker.
The government can only do so much. And perhaps my own mother realized that early in advance. I come from a family that loves to drink and party. We go hard, and every small occasion is reason enough to pop lots of bottles. Birthdays, graduations, births, or a guest from abroad. While we tried to keep things orderly, it soon got out of hand. Some drunk a little more than they should. It wasn’t long before we bore the emotional, psychological and physical scars that come with the over consumption of alcohol, forcing my mother to take a stand. She vowed that there shall never be alcohol consumed in her home ever again. She threw out the bottles and gave away the crates. She set the rules, and we have had to follow them. She’s not my dad’s favorite person when it comes to parties, but he’s had to comply. And though we kids have all moved out, we know better than to come over with alcohol or smelling of it. And seeing how much pain we caused her, we’ve come to learn our limits in the outside world. At the risk of being unpopular or straining her relationship with my father, she stamped her authority. What will it take for other wives to do something in their own homes? Because, honestly, the government can only do so much.