Of Culture And Closets: The Faux Partners In African Marriages

imageAll African societies unite on the mantra of ‘marriage ideal’…unions between men and women. They also agree in their abhorrence of same sex liaisons. Most ideologies are shaped by either religion, tradition or modernism. Interestingly, in as much as all three facets differ in their tenets on how humans should live, they all agree that marriage or romance should be of heterosexual orientation. The fact however is that, homosexuality exists in African communities. Another truth is, many people who prefer same sex relationships go into marriages of convenience with unwitting partners of the opposite sex. Another given is that, some cases of domestic abuse and murders stem from these marriages. It is common knowledge that domestic abuse has adverse consequences on victims and society as a whole. Therefore, if marriages of convenience impact the on health and wellbeing of people, then truth should be told.

Tales From The Closets…

Shola recently divorced her husband Tunde. Her reasons? Tunde was hardly home and was aloof towards her. She reported that he “rejected her”. She suffered a great deal emotionally because she felt abandoned by him. To worsen matters, a man tagged Tunde on Facebook as his boyfriend, and had pictures to prove it. Tunde’s lover is English and probably didn’t conceptualise how gay issues are perceived in Africa.

Annabel and Daisy are going on holiday together…again. To their husbands, they are two friends going on holiday to take a break from family life. In reality, the two women are lovers. They had been in a relationship for years, but married men. Annabel’s husband had a stroke and requires physiotherapy. It didn’t deter Annabel from meeting up with Daisy and leaving her husband to care for himself.

Mariam was from Somalia. She married at a young age, but soon learned to be a wife and mother. She had two children within three years of marriage. After the birth of her second child, her husband attitude changed towards her. He became distant and stopped all physical relationship with her. He became aggressive and hostile. One day, Mariam came home early from work, and caught him in bed with another man. When she threatened to tell people about it, he battered her to death.

Patricia is still alive in South Africa, but she is very unhappy in her marriage. Her husband Daniel beats her up at any given chance. Last month she received a letter from a man who told her that Daniel was his lover. When she confronted him, Daniel didn’t deny it. He actually told Patricia that he never wanted to marry anyone, but he did because of family expectations. Patricia is still living with Daniel because of the perceived stigma associated with divorce. Her pastors are praying for Daniel to “change”.

Health Aspects…

A review of the stories show elements of abuse. Tunde emotionally abused Shola because his perceived distance from her, caused her a lot of despair. Annabel neglected her husband’s needs to satisfy her urge to be with her lover. Mariam did not only suffer physical and emotional abuse, she died as a result. Patricia is suffering emotionally.

Studies show that abuse impacts adversely on health, and has a cradle to grave span. Emotionally abused parents are at risk of depression, which in turn may affect how they care for their children. Physical abuse not only has physiological effects on health, it is dangerous to people witnessing it as well. Children who grew up in abusive environment have been linked to mental illnesses and social dysfunction. Moreover, with sexually transmitted diseases mutating into multiple dimensions, it is scary to fathom how many people in these relationships have been exposed to them.


Closeted Africans who abuse their partners tend to attribute their abusive behaviours to frustration stemmed from not being able to be with the ones they “love”. When asked why they went into marriages in the first place, they will disclose that it’s due family and societal pressures.

The questions therefore are; considering that some people are gay and closeted, should Africans still propagate the superiority of marriage? Should single people still suffer from stigmatisation for not being in marriages? Should Africans still dismiss gay culture as a western thing when in reality some of their sons and daughters are in abusive marriages because of closeted partners? Seriously, if going into loveless marriages hurt humans, is it not time to put health and wellbeing first, and ignore individual choices?

My thoughts…

I’m all about promoting health. Domestic Abuse is vile, and if going into marriage will mean abusing other human beings, then people should not be coerced into it. The same society will condemn them when they err. Importantly, having multiple sexual partners exposes to health risks that are not worth it. I think more health promotion efforts should be put into empowering people NOT go into marriages if they don’t want to. On a scale, health and wellbeing should outweigh societal ideals.