Since the issue of DNA tests to confirm the paternity of children came up again, the fireworks have been on. Some women are fighting back. One shocking argument they put up is that wives are only beating husbands at the game of infidelity. Some accomplishment, you would say.
Their argument takes me to the various types of marriages that are predominant in Nigeria: Christian, Muslim, civil and traditional marriages. In Christian marriages, the couple exchange vows, including the vow of mutual fidelity. Once you exchange that vow of mutual fidelity, you are both bound by it.
Any sexual liaison with another person is infidelity, period. Some men argue about the African man and his freedom to “move around,” but that is just blowing hot air because you sign off that freedom when you willingly “come here (church) to enter into marriage without coercion, freely and wholeheartedly.”
Also, if you go for a civil marriage, you take a vow of mutual fidelity. If you commit adultery, it means you having broken your vow. You can also not take a second wife while still married to your first wife because that will be bigamy; you can go to jail for that.
I do not know much about Muslim marriages, but sources say vows are not exchanged the way they are exchanged in Christian and civil marriages. The sources also say that the Qu’ran condemns adultery, but I have a little issue here. Unless you catch a Muslim man in the act, he can claim that he and the lady are only courting. The courtship can lead to marriage because his religion allows him to marry more than one wife. It will be difficult to pin adultery on a Muslim man.
In traditional marriage, no vows are exchanged. Let me particularise on Urhobo traditional marriage that I am familiar with. All that happens is that the bride is handed over to the husband, after payment of bride prize, and admonished to take care of her. Then prayers are offered for fruitfulness, prosperity and long life, that is all. Nothing is said about mutual fidelity.
But among the Urhobos, it is taken for granted that the wife will be faithful. In fact, before the advent of Christianity and western culture, which diluted the cultural practices, Urhobos had what we call erivwin (an affliction). If a married woman committed adultery, erivwin would catch up with her if she did not confess. First, her children would die one after another. If she still refused to confess, she too would die.
If another man patted a married woman’s buttocks, she must inform her husband because it was as grievous as actual sex. Even innocuous-looking acts like another man holding a married woman’s hand must be reported by the woman to her husband. If not erivwin would catch up with her.
Meanwhile, the man is not required to be faithful and erivwin did not catch up with him over sexual liaison with other women. The culture allowed and still allows him to have concubines and many wives. Technically, you cannot accuse him of infidelity.
What am I saying? When the women argue that they are retaliating, retaliating against which men? From all indications, you can only retaliate against men who got married in the court or registry. They are the ones who took vows of fidelity with you. The Muslim men and those who got married traditionally took no vows of fidelity, so can you retaliate against someone who is not bound by any vow of fidelity?
As the lawyers say, you cannot build on nothing. Every man is encouraged to be responsible, but you cannot wish away religious and cultural practices. In any case, statisticians are no longer firm and uniform that more men cheat than women in Nigeria. Some say that the number of more married women who cheat on their men is more than the number of married men who cheat on their wives. There is currently confusion about which gender is number one.
But even if unfaithful wives are retaliating against unfaithful men, that is not the issue that has been trending. The issue on ground is paternity fraud, where Nigeria is reported to currently occupy an unenviable second position in the world. If you argue that women are cheating because the men are also unfaithful, wonderful. In cheating, some of the men father children and hide them from their wives.
So both men and women are guilty of infidelity and giving birth to children outside marriage. Fine, but are the men passing on the children they fathered outside marriage to their wives as the wives’ biological children? That is the crux of the matter. Currently, research findings say that 30 per cent of children do not belong to the men, who think they are the fathers. Who supports such fraud and evil?
The more reasonable women talk about forgiveness. They say remorseful wives involved in paternity fraud should be forgiven by their husbands. For Christians, Our Lord’s Prayer says that unless we forgive our neighbour, who offends us, God will not forgive our sins. I stand firmly by that command, but it is easier said than done.
I always advise people, especially couples, to refrain from acts that make it extremely difficult for the aggrieved party to forgive them. Do not cross the red line. God will hold your spouse liable if he/she fails to forgive you. But also know that God will hold you liable for not acting in love. Any woman acting in love will not pass the products of her infidelity to her husband as his children.
That is cruel and reprehensible. Victims of paternity fraud must decide what is best for their sanity, which hopefully will include forgiving their wives. Someone said he would forgive his wife, but does know how he would continue to live under the same roof with her, eat her food and sleep beside her with both eyes closed. “That kind woman fit kill person.”
Along the same line of forgiveness, some women say that once the woman apologises and shows remorse, the husband should let bygones be bygones. Fine, if the women say so, but I want them to empathise, put themselves in the shoes of their husbands, then they will appreciate better the enormity of this supreme betrayal. Some men only found out 20, 30 and 50 years later that the children they regarded as theirs all their lives are not their biological children.
Some people argue that the some women did it because their husbands could not father children. You do not take unilateral decisions on fundamental family issues. The woman must discuss with the husband to come up with a solution that is right and legal. Paternity fraud is the height of wickedness.
Hear me well, there is nothing wrong in raising other people’s biological children. People help to educate the children of poor relatives. Some couples also adopt and raise other people’s biological children as theirs. Just let transparency be your watchword.
I do not support male infidelity, but this retaliation argument is very stupid. I have not seen any marriage that got better via retaliation.