9 December 2012

Madagascar: When the Enemy Is Among the People You Trust

Bozy and Lejao were married legally on 16 June 1978, and they have seven children; five boys and two girls, the youngest is 17. Lejao is a team leader in a big company, yet up to now, he has never told his wife how much money he makes. Bozy is a woman who is active, and earns money in various ways: she acted as an estate agent selling pieces of land, she collected litchis, and etc. Thus, they could enjoy quite a good living standard.

Yet for some reason, Lejao never helps with the household expenses. Every morning he buys some rice and the groceries for their meals, but he does not pay any of the other expenses (such as charcoal, electricity bill, utensils, clothing and etc.).

Lejao is an adulterer, and he buys very expensive furniture for all of his girlfriends, but has never purchased anything for the couple's home.

After their first year of marriage, Lejao had a child with another woman, but Bozy did not complain because she believed that "you cannot disclose your marital life." Their relationship worsened so much that Bozy decided to look for a permanent job. She went back to study and was later recruited as a civil servant in 1999.

Lejao had so many girlfriends that most of the time he was not at home for a long time. Very often these girlfriends were looking to fight with Bozy, but she never retaliated. She also never argued with her husband during their 25 year long marriage.

In 2005, Raketaka, Bozy's sister became Lejao's girlfriend. Raketaka tried everything to make Bozy and Lejao argue so that they would split up. Bozy endured it all though because she thought that she had to bear everything to ensure the future of her children. Their relationship worsened even more because Lejao started to beat her in addition to not contributing to the household expenses. Lejao was a karate-man. He tried to pick a fight with all of Bozy's friends. Sometimes Bozy had to be escorted around because Lejao was making death threats to her as well.

Bozy filed three complaints with the police after Lejao abused her violently. The doctor granted her a medical leave for disability for 15 days due to the wounds she suffered. In the end, nothing came of the complaints.

Five years ago, since nothing happened with the complaints Bozy lodged so long ago, she started to revolt whenever Lejao beat her up. Lejao was no longer beating her as frequently. Lejao would just move in with one of his girlfriends. Peta, their eldest daughter, managed the family budget because Bozy never managed money. What really makes Bozy sad is the fact that Peta does not seem to care about her siblings and thinks of her mother as an enemy.

In 2008, Bozy organised a family gathering from both sides to try and put a stop to Lejao's unbearable behavior. She also wanted to address Peta's attitude that encouraged their children to argue with their mother. Lejao, however, did not follow any of their advice.

Later on, Peta moved out to live on her own, and she took all the furniture that she liked with her (even though it was her mother's home and furniture). Every week, Peta brought some food to her siblings. Bozy accepted that since Peta was her daughter.

In 2009, Lejao got angry and returned to destroy all the furniture in the couple's house including a freezer, two radios, some glassware among other things.

Since it was Bozy who purchased these things, she lodged a complaint to demand that Lejao reimburse the cost of the damaged goods. Nothing came of it. Lejao boasted then that there was nothing she could do. Peta followed her father's behavior and destroyed the furniture in her mother's home when her mother or her siblings tried to give Peta advice.

She also reduced the quantity of food that she brought to her siblings. Every Sunday evening she just brought three kilos of rice without any other daily basic commodities (no soap, no sugar, no salt, and etc.). A friend of Bozy's advised her to ask for a contribution to the household charges at the Court of justice, and she won the trial. Lejao then got furious, made an appeal and asked for divorce. He also sued to all the people he thinks helped or advised Bozy.

Last October 2009, Lejao broke into Bozy's bedroom, in front of his children, and took all of her valuable things. Bozy filed a new complaint and is waiting for the issue to be resolved. Bozy went to the Listening and Legal Counseling Center (CECJ) because she did not want to break up her marriage, and she endured everything in the interest of her children. It is so hard for her to see her husband with her daughter Peta standing in court, testifying against her, in order to avoid paying contributions to household charges.

The CECJ is taking care of the case, advising Bozy so that she can stop the violence she endures. Lejao and Peta need to be aware of the laws related to marriage and the sanctions they may get due to the violent acts they are committing, which are offences as far as Malagasy laws are concerned.

Yolande Céline VIA lives in Madagascar. This story is part of the "I" Stories series produced by the Gender Links Opinion and Commentary Service for the Sixteen Days of Activism on Gender Violence.

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