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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 February 2006, 02:34 GMT
Zimbabwe play tackles adultery
Steve Vickers
BBC News, Harare

A well-received Zimbabwean play has challenged how a woman should react in situations of adultery.

Hot water bottle
Mia can rely on her hot water bottle
Despite a widely-held view in the country that wives should accept that their husbands will stray, expectations are beginning to change.

Hot Water Bottle is a one-woman performance featuring Tinopona Katsande, a television soap opera star with a raunchy image.

Twenty shows were held over two weeks at Harare's Theatre In The Park, and the content drew strong reactions from those who watched.

The play is set in a bedroom, with Mia in her nightdress.

After falling asleep she receives a call from a workmate who has seen her husband, Douglas, out with another woman.

As confirmation, she finds condoms in the pockets of her husband's jacket.

Choice

Then come hours of anguish and soul-searching while waiting for him to return, and at times she wonders whether it is all her fault.

I have been the loyal and respectful wife - not any more
Mia
"For what, Douglas, why, why? Forgive me Lord, if it was me that did wrong to my husband, forgive me."

But she decides that she is better off with a hot water bottle as her companion and that she will confront Douglas on his return.

He eventually comes back in the early hours of the morning, and Mia vents her anger.

"Go and bath Douglas, how dare you come home reeking of another woman, into my bed, get up, go and wash."

Reaction

One woman who watched the performance quipped: "After watching this I think I'll postpone marriage for another 10 years, or maybe cross over and be a lesbian."

"I'm sure a woman wouldn't cheat on me as much as that!"

HOT WATER BOTTLE BENEFITS
Faithful
Guaranteed hot time in bed
Easy to keep happy
Doesn't answer back
Cheap to replace
No risk of disease
"Because of the anguish and stigma of divorce, a lot of women put up with unfaithful husbands just to keep up appearances, although there's nothing left in the marriage."

The play left many men feeling uncomfortable.

"If I was in the same game as Douglas, I'd definitely change, and I'd like to bring some of my friends along so that they can learn something," said one young man.

But another woman expressed a more traditional view.

"It's good to let the husband feel that he's head of the house, to allow him back and to ask for forgiveness," she said.

The shadow of HIV and Aids hangs over the play, but as in Zimbabwe, which has one of the highest rates of HIV infection on the continent, it is referred to obliquely.

A culture of multiple partners is considered to be a significant factor in the spread of the virus and at one point in the play Mia sobs: "Don't let our child become an orphan".

Later he demands some gratitude for having used condoms with the other woman.

Influences

Hot Water Bottle is the stage debut of 27-year-old Katsande.

She spent 10 years in the US, and her exposure to American culture is one of the reasons why she questions the way that many Zimbabwean women tolerate unfaithfulness.

Audience
The play challenges traditional male attitudes in Zimbabwe
"Mia is the Zimbabwean woman coming up now, she's gone to a good school, and she's travelled," said Katsande.

"She now has a dilemma trying to deal with what society and culture is saying and what she knows and believes in.

"I went to university in California, and coming back here I know that I won't stand for this, although everything else in society says that this is the way it is.

"I love being here, but I can't live like this. It's not right and we have to let men know that if they cheat they'll be replaced by the hot water bottle."

Polygamy is still widely practised throughout Zimbabwe, and there is a recent urban phenomenon of "small houses", where a married man will rent out a flat for his young girlfriend.

The play was written by a man, Noel Marerwa, and Katsande found that the script was easy to relate to, even though she is not married.

"My sister-in-law commented how ironic it is that a young, single woman with no children can show what's happening to married women," she said.

"Mia got into marriage believing that it was one-man, one-woman, so you can't say that Douglas has a right to cheat.

"Isn't marriage and relationships about what the two of you make it?"


Do you think men have a right to cheat on their partners? Is unfaithfulness tolerated more in Africa than in other cultures and should wives accept it? Would you confront your husband, wife or partner if you knew they were straying? Is it time to confront adultery and its role in the spread of HIV/Aids on the continent?

Let us know your views using the form below.

A selection of your comments will be published below and broadcast on the BBC's Focus on Africa programme on Saturday 26 February 2006 at 1700 GMT.

Your comments:

Adultery should be a crime in every country, it's torture of the worst kind. What woman enjoys washing for a man so he can look good for someone else? Thousands of women die long before they draw their last breath because of adultery and it should stop, right along with polygamy. People should respect their partners more because that would help them keep their zippers up! What always amazes me though is that it's women who have affairs with men, do they never think of themselves as the wife or life partner?
Ncumisa, South Africa

Excellent play. Bring to Zambia immediately.
Jacob Mwale, Lusaka, Zambia

In most societies men have always considered, and still do, that they have a right to sow their wild oats. I don't think any amount of such plays will change the basic male attitude which is prone to seek new pastures constantly. In African societies, it is this attitude that has contributed to the spread of HIV.
A Sathyamurthy, Coimbatore, India

Adultery is a more rooted problem with men and women not dealing with the problems they face daily and finding an easy way out. It is easier to run than face the problem together. Be honest and both partners will survive, and hopefully the marriage will too!
Bill, Canada

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