Written by CorpsAfrica/Malawi Volunteer Ms. Hope Mawerenga
Recently there have been discussions on a controversial issue; a church in Malawi spoke strongly against polygamy. This did not sit well with the people in the part of Northern Malawi where I’m staying because it is their tradition to marry more than one wife. Some people agree with the idea of abolishing polygamy, but there are fewer people in support of it. A chief in the area even said the church could leave his land if they keep at it. Because most people here really respect what their chiefs say, people supported his proposition.
One day I decided to have a local chicken meal at a restaurant where I noticed two men inside seated together. I sat in the corner and ordered my food. I badly wanted rice with local chicken, but the two men had just ordered the last available rice. So, I settled for nsima. As I waited for my meal, four more men entered the restaurant and sat close to the other men. I can’t really recall how it started, but I just heard one man say, “one wife is not enough to satisfy me, she gets tired and I need to relieve all this strength I have”. Immediately I was interested, but also very uncomfortable in the restaurant. However, I was also hungry, so I sat and ate my nsima.
The friend of the first man who spoke refuted the statement and said, “that’s a selfish mentality, do you always have strength for your woman or do you sometimes get tired and she understands?” Very quickly all the men got into a heated debate about whether it is justifiable for a man to have side pieces just because his woman is sometimes tired from all the work she has to do in the home. The first man insisted that sometimes you don’t need to marry this second woman, but you can just call her up when you’re really pressed. The five men disagreed quickly, and one man even gave an example of men who are rapists. He asked, “would you just have your way with a woman you are walking past just because you have that itch?” To my utter shock, the first man said yes.
After hearing that statement, I forgot my food and turned my full attention to these men.
His friends were just as shocked as I was and called him weak. One said, “only weak men go out to look for other women, it is only weak men who can’t control their need for sex and such men do not deserve a wife to begin with.”
I couldn’t join in the conversation, but I was so impressed at the five men who felt that it is disrespectful to leave your home and wife and go find another woman. The first man, after their long debate, looked ashamed that he was rebuked by his fellow friends in a restaurant. I can only hope he has a changed mentality due to this conversation. The risk he would put his wife, family, and himself in by having multiple partners is not worth it.
I may never see those men again, but I was happy to be in that restaurant at that time and witness something I feel is so rare.