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CAMEROON: Why Do Women Always Pay the Price for STIs?

After contracting a sexually transmitted infection, Sally Maforchi Mboumien is working to change attitudes that unfairly place the burden of treatment and prevention on women.

I envision a society where every woman can freely take charge of her sexual life without fear of judgment or intimidation.

For the fifth time since I have been married, I found myself infected with a sexually transmitted infection.

After I came back from the hospital that day, I could barely sleep. How was I to tell my husband? He never believes such infections concern him. Despite many fights on this issue, my husband's stance remains that infections are my business. He doesn’t understand that I am talking to him about them so that we can find a solution.

This time, I was not just angry because I had the infection again, or because I had to buy the drug treatments by myself. I was angry at myself for letting him infect me over and over again. I went to a close friend that morning to unburden my heart because it was truly heavy.

After I finished narrating my ordeal, my friend looked at me and said, “It is well, sis.” She told me that in the arena of marriage, women are very vulnerable and still, society will not allow us to speak up. She told me her own story which left me speechless.

She was a virgin when she married, and she has not known another man except her husband. Five years ago, she was diagnosed HIV+, which greatly alarmed her. Her husband’s response to the situation was very wicked and inhumane. He blamed her and scandalized her for infecting him, and called her a prostitute. Ironically, when their health situation became very bad, she discovered that her husband had been diagnosed two years prior to her own diagnosis. He refused to take antiretrovirals.

I left my friend’s house even more confused than when I went there. I kept asking myself, why should women pay the price?

My mother was in the living room when I got back. I barely noticed her because I was so absorbed in my own thoughts. She said, “Mamon, can you share with me what is bothering you so much?” After I finished telling her my troubles, she said, “Are you through narrating?” I nodded, and she laughed and went straight into the kitchen to get me food. I felt insulted and offended and became angry immediately.

I realized I had judged my mother wrongly after she shared her own experience with me. She told me that the situation for women regarding STIs is especially horrible in polygamous marriages, like the one she was in. In that setting, a spouse is never free from STIs because it is a chain. She told me that her decision to not have sex with my father caused family members to hold meetings with her. Her refusal was an act of self protection: My father was never willing to go to the hospital for check ups, and he refused to even acknowledge that STIs are a concern for his family. My mother said to me, “My daughter, I asked myself, ‘What use is it to be having intercourse with a man just to spend huge amounts of money later for treatment?’”

My mother helped me to understand that this is an issue many women of her generation face. The story made me very angry, but her last words gave me many sleepless nights.

“You people of this time,” she said, “you have knowledge, freedom, and many health facilities, and yet you still suffer like we did in the past.” She then told me that after refusing my father, she never suffered from an STI again.

These remarks of hers made me wonder where this oppression of women’s health rights is taking women in our communities. Many have died because they had no right to express their views about having safe sexual intercourse with husbands they suspect are infected.

Will it be an abomination if women are able to make decisions concerning their own health? Is it fair for promiscuous men to be allowed to spread STIs of all sorts? Can discussions of the importance of condom use go beyond government campaigns on HIV prevention to include discussion of all STIs? We must change this discourse.

I envision a society where every woman can freely take charge of her sexual life without fear of judgment or intimidation. It is for this reason that my organization is visiting women’s groups to provide education on STIs. These infections, which affect both men and women, can be both prevented and treated, like most diseases. They must not be viewed as only a woman’s problem, and we must stand up to the men in our communities to equalize responsibility.


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Comments

Dear Sally, Thanks for touching this very sensitive topic. Yes! I strongly agree that women  must stand up to the men in our communities to equalize responsibility.Many women suffer from this issue, you are doing a great job,.keep on dear.

Sophie Ngassa

Founder & Director at CYEED

http://www.cyeed.net/

Thanks so much for touching this sensitive issue. My grandfather married up to 28 wives and my father had seven wives.

So I understand this issues. What some women go through is sad

 

Olutosin Oladosu Adebowale Founder/Project Coordinator Star of Hope Transformation Centre, 713 Road, A Close, Festac Town Lagos-Nigeria https:

Masa Dear,

I don't know STI. I'm not yet married, but I heard three newly married friends had some infections. Three of them were vergins when they got married. Someone told me..it's very simple, can be cured easily...they call it here.."A bride's sickness"

What I read from you makes...anybody confuse. Why are men become so harsh to their spouses? What I see from West African Movies, the wives are scarring their me. What I read on WP, men are mistreating their women. I don't know whom to trust. May be the dramas are...a wish for West African women. Looool

Guys shouldn't call their wives that way, and the innocent women don't deserve that.

Prostitute!!!! I can't bear it at all.

Sorry

Lily

Mulatwa Mosisa

Thank you for being brave enough to use your voice to create awareness on this issue based on your own experience.

Needless to tell you to keep on, cos u sure are...

Iya

Hello mumy sally, I have read your story and the plan of action there to, indeed I have just the same case with you. Men always feel save and exempted when women are diagnosed of STDs. Its also alarming that many of them are diagnosed positive for this but they stay quite, yet don't even treat themselves. Mum more grace, our society is in dying need of this project. Let the heavens be your limit.

Dear Sally,

I really liked your post and learned a lot from it. Thank you so much for your bravery and for posting. It's very hard to change entrenched and ingrained habits like the ones you describe but it sounds like your organization is doing its best to effect change for future generations of girls and women. Your work and your post are both inspiring!

I also like the image at the top of your post and think it's very effective.

Thank you again for sharing, and my best wishes to you,

Julia

Wow... Mummy sally I'm sure you have taken out words from the mouths of some women and girls.. I hope they take full control of themselves, value their health and follow your advice so they don't face it again together with single ladies let's all be wise and make wise decisions

Dear Sally,

This is a very emotional and sensitive piece. you held me till the end of this write up. I have always known you as a brave activist. Together we will someday emancipate ourselves and our sister. 

Courage sister

A story indeed sally this story has instil in me the courage not to be frightful in such a situation becos at times one hide it for fear of a broken relatuon ship health is better thank u

Waow!!!! Mum sally I feel like breaking down to tears when I tend to realized the agony face by us women cuz of the stubbornness and arrogance of men who don't want to believe they themselves aren't safe from these diseases..... But I believe together we stand in creating awareness for women to speak then shall our world be a better place for us.....keep the good work rolling mum!!!

Hello sally,

Your story is the sad reality so many women are dealing with. It is more annoying when the main culprits show no remorse or shame by blaming and putting their partners through such sordid experiences. Imagine the emotional trauma women deal with in situations like this. I encounter women with this kind of frustrations frequently and its not pleasant. Thanks for sharing.

 

Ese

Hello Sally, Am so very sorry you had to under go all these in the name of marriage. We are living in a society where men are always right even at the detriment of the lives of women in matrimony. When you complain they will tell you the bible says the man is the head and a woman must be submissive thus king Solomon was a polygamist.Hence infidelity remains a societal norm. What pleases me most is your courage and the ability to over come the situation. You are such a powerful woman of values. The way you are using your life experiences to educate and inspire other women will go a long way to make a great change in their lives and future. So let's together put our voices as one and make a better world for the women . May God help us come out from all these inhuman tortures from the hands of men. From Florence Ngah

This is a very sad story but a very real problem especially in developing countries.  I have watched as my mother battled with it, my aunties too. And some of my aunties have succumbed to HIV/AIDS.

Women need to have a way of dealing with this.  Thank you for sharing your story.  I pray many women get to read it and know that they have a chance to make a choice in regards to their sexual health.  

Abigael N. Mutua

The battle drawer

My dear Sister I always admire you for your wisdom and kind heart, you are an inspiration and power for all those women who are still facing such behavior of men, I do not know why men blame women for everything but with your efforts we will see a change very soon , much love my dear  

Sister Zeph Founder & Chairperson ZWEEF

Winner of World Pulse Lynn Syms Global Prize 2014