Monday, February 14, 2011

Father-daughter 'bonding' (Zimbabwe)

Very typically, the media ignore mothers when it comes to the sexual abuse of their daughters by the father. It's even more rare to hear from an African mom. She may not parrot all the politically correct lines expected in the west these days, but this is an important voice. And I agree with a lot of what she says.

Father-daughter ‘bonding’
TAPMAN HARARE - Feb 11 2011 17:09

Good day to you, Zimbabwe. I hope you had a good and pleasant week. Mine was fairly mundane, until I attended a dinner party hosted by a good friend.

At the party, the very horrifying and contentious issue of child abuse dominated the conversation for a while.

Daily, there are cases of children being abused by their relatives, and to make matters even more complex, fathers are sexually involving themselves with their daughters, in much the same manner as they should with their wives.

Not only is this happening in Zimbabwe, as is evidenced by the famous Josef Fritzl case, a man who sired children with his daughter, having kept her hostage for over two decades.

Apparently this has now become so prevalent that many families are seeking church counselling.

A pastor at one of these churches said as mothers have lost our cultural values and it is our fault because we are demanding equal rights. He said in these homes the “Beijing Convention” rules supreme.

Let me explain his point. After nine months of carrying baby girl in the womb, many months of morning sickness or rather all-day sickness, colossal weight gain, swollen feet, an enlarged nose and finally labour or “operation”, hey, I deserve a break, and maternity leave ain’t gonna cut it.

So in this day, where the extended family system is no longer as functional and as tight as it used to be, straight from hospital, it’s home to hubby.

During the weekday, the maid is there to help with baby, the cooking and cleaning, whilst at night and over weekends, it’s hubby’s turn to help. After all, he is the father of my daughter and he should play his part.

Besides, I also go to work to support the family, and am therefore sharing his so-called responsibility. It’s a fifty-fifty partnership!

Hubby proceeds to comply, happily or grudgingly, whatever the case maybe, and assists wifey with household chores including changing his girlchild’s diapers, bathing and feeding her.

Older children, he went on to say, rush into big daddy’s arms to give him a huge bear hug, and smack a big kiss on his lips.

Interestingly, on the other hand, son shakes dad’s hand or nods his head, because man-to-man, it’s not cool to show such sissy emotions. In the family room, daughter sits on dad’s lap and he tickles her silly.

Hey, why not, after all we are in a new millennium where fathers and daughters are supposed to bond, and in any case, this is the same father who bathed her and looked after her while mother was occupied, either at work or having “a girls’ night out”. Wow, that’s great, all is well and good in the neighbourhood, or is it? What is father really doing with or should we say to your/his daughter?

One day, while mother is away, father looks at his daughter, and vividly remembers seeing his girlchild in her birthday suit, young and adorable.

Somehow he begins to see a woman, much like a younger version of his wife. On that fateful day he weakens and sadly partakes of the forbidden, untainted fruit.

Meanwhile MotherBabygirl is oblivious and happily brags to all and sundry “My sister hoh, FatherBabygirl is a God-sent, wonderful, modern and loving man!

He helps me in the house and spends a lot of time with his daughter. In fact he even baths and feeds her.”

The pastor’s point is that men being extremely biologically attuned (to put it mildly), will give in to temptation, especially when there is absolutely nothing in his way.

There are no barriers, nothing is taboo, and in his mind, he is free to do as he likes because no one is there to safeguard against such things.

Worse still, mother is ecstatic with the whole arrangement, as in her mind, never in a million years would her husband do such a thing, no ways, not FatherBabygirl.

Such stories happen in the movies, not in real life. When it does come to light, mother is so hurt and embarrassed, especially after all that bragging, so to save face and her marriage, it becomes the dreaded family secret.

Culturally, fathers are not supposed to see their daughters undressed, let alone change them or bath them.

Fathers are not allowed to play with their daughters the same way as they would their sons — it is just not done.

Our values dictate that making use of the extended family system is best. Mothers should turn to their sisters, aunts or grandmothers for help rather than their husbands or male relatives.

Mothers are supposed to stay put, nurture children and look after the home, while fathers financially cater for their families, serve as the disciplinarians and defenders of the home.

However, the reality nowadays is that, it takes two salaries to make ends meet.

In addition, because the extended family structure seems to have fallen away, mothers have no option but to rely on day care centres and child-minders during the day.

What then is the way forward, given the rise in incidents where children are being abused by their fathers?

Is it in fact true that mothers are at fault, or is it that the perpetrators need serious help?

Are we saying that mothers should never take “time-outs” because they can’t count on their husbands? Is the answer to go back to inculcating our cultural values for our children’s sake, even in a society where the roles have somewhat been altered?

I don’t really know, but if you do, e-mail or post your comments online. Until next week, in my world of horrors, take great care.

Tapman is the pseudonym of a local writer and all views expressed are personal