Wednesday, July 6, 2022

HIV-positive woman recovers beyond the ruins of her marriage

Speaking boldly and confidently, Leabaneng Masedi, 52, tells the story of how a fairytale marriage has turned into a nightmare marred by domestic abuse.

Emotionally torn, Masedi has had to go to the courts when family intervention failed. She is expecting her estranged husband to start paying maintenance towards their home, which he has since moved out of. It appears he is not returning.

On the eve of the Sixteen Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence (GBV), Botswana witnessed one of the cruellest acts yet when a woman was sexually assaulted, eventually dying at the hands of her assailant. It has set a bleak backdrop to Masedi’s story.

Masedi’s home is anything but peaceful. This community builder, HIV/Aids and gender activist saw her husband turn his back on the marriage after four years of bliss.

With nostalgia, she recounts how her husband stood by her in their highly publicized wedding at the peak of the stigma against HIV positive people. Masedi had found love with an HIV negative man while she was positive.

“We got married in 2005, my husband was loving, caring and respectful towards me,” she explains. “There was mutual respect in our home and my HIV status did not bother him a single bit.”
The bubble burst, however, when she noticed that her husband’s movements became peculiar and suspicious and communication broke down.

Masedi claims that she turned a blind eye, hoping things would get better and not wanting other people to know of a her marital woes.

For obvious reasons, Masedi and her husband had never had unprotected sexual intercourse and she was adamant that they continue this way. “We do not have any children together because of my HIV status and the fact that he was negative,” she says. “But then he started demanding that we put the condom aside and start going at it without one,” she says, revealing the sense of shock this gave her.

She stuck to her safe-sex policy, but this drove a wedge further between them, until her husband moved out of their homestead to shake up with another woman.

This devastated her emotionally and affected her financially as she was unable to maintain her household with the paltry pay from the ‘Ipelegeng’ scheme.

Yet she remained undeterred, determined to live her life to the fullest. She sought assistance from both families and when this failed, she turned to the District Commissioner for reconciliation.
When called for this intervention, the man failed to show up with her at the offices, opting to show up at a later date, false information on Masedi’s whereabouts, she says.

Appeal to the District Commissioner’s office had failed, so she then sought recourse at the Magistrate Courts. Now she wanted her estranged husband to pay towards maintenance of their household.

“My husband’s behaviour is costing my personal development because since we are married in community of property his presence is required,” she says, citing an incident where the Landboard authorities required his presence to get a title deed for their home.

Despite these setbacks, Masedi has emerged as an even more enthusiastic community leader. Her passion is to help young women to avoid subjecting themselves to any form of abuse. She believes women’s dependence on their male counterparts is a root cause of abuse.

Currently, she is advocating for the creation of an out-of-school facility where youths can convene to share constructive ideas and participate in volunteer programs which will keep them off the streets, away from drugs and hopefully HIV infections.

“Women need to stop tolerating abuse with the sole intention of saving face,” Masedi says. “No form of abuse is better than the other, be it physical, emotional or financial.”

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