This isn’t a hate story. It is a love story. A story of good intentions behind misconstrued lessons. A story about people who loved this girl so much and in a bid to make sure she gets the best, they put her in a prison so she could be safe from all the things they didn’t think were best for her. So here goes…

They told me I must stay a virgin until I met a man worth opening my legs to. They said his worthiness will be confirmed by the ring he puts on my finger. That virginity was the currency that could buy his respect throughout the marriage, the only way to keep him faithful, the only way to make him feel honoured as a man. So I grew up and met Romeo. I loved him so much I wanted to open my legs for him but I couldn’t. I was too scared of the regret that would follow. I was scared that Romeo would not marry me, that he would leave me for someone else and I will be unable to move to the next man. Even if I did move on, I was so scared that the next man would never respect me because I had had Romeo before him. That he would not be faithful because I had not honoured him the way he deserved. That he would never trust me because I wasn’t pure.

Portrait of loving family with young daughter

Now I am locked in this prison struggling with all these ideals. Throughout my short life, I have seen husbands cheat on the virgins they married. I have seen men disrespect the virgins who ‘lost’ their virginity to them and women who married virgins stuck in marriages with no trust. So I knew what they said is untrue. But would they lie? They loved me so much, I knew that. Why would people who love me that much lie to me? To protect me, maybe. But from what?

I know I was not born for any man. I know my responsibility on earth is not to stroke male egos. I cannot understand why it’s so important to everyone that a girl makes all her sexual choices based on the need to make some man feel honoured one day. But I still do not open her my to anyone before marriage because it was pumped into me for 22 years that that’s the right thing to do. The only way a woman should live is to be valued.

They made me memorize lists of things to do to protect myself from rape and abuse. They said I should wear my buibui and cover everywhere so I do not arouse men’s sexual desires to attract rape. They said I should not go out at night, not go to men’s houses or put myself in any situations to attract rape like drinking in clubs with men. But I saw reports on the news so often of children as young as three years old who were raped. I read a story in the newspaper about a girl who was dressed in a buibui but was raped and killed anyway. Had they said that if she wore a buibui it could not happen? So why did it happen to that girl anyway?

Victim of sexual abuse

They made me cook and clean as the men in the house idled on the sofas. They told me that I cannot be like them because I was a girl. No matter how educated I was, I had to be good at cooking and cleaning, that was what determined whether I could make a good wife and mother. No man would marry a girl who cannot clean and cook well. So I learned house chores very heartily because I was the type of girl who aspired to be the best at everything. Then one day I saw one of my neighbour’s wives brutally beaten by her husband and I could not understand. That woman cleaned and cooked better than everyone I knew, why was it not enough?

I wondered why I was taught how to be a better mother all my life while my brothers were never taught how to be better fathers. Why they emphasized on my beauty as if it was another currency to earn me more favours from my husband and society yet I saw really pretty girls abandoned, mistreated, or unmarried.

Overworked, cooking and cleaning

They told me men are evil. Not directly, but that is all I heard every time they told me to cover herself with a leso whenever my uncles were around. Every time they told me not to stay in a house with any man alone. Why were my uncles even a threat? It must be a problem all men have. The way they often said men are dogs and beasts but they wanted me to bring home a man I could live with forever before I turns 30 so I could be considered a successful woman. Why did they say men are beasts if they still expect me to live with one forever? How do they expect me to be comfortable enough with a man to marry me if I have to stay cautious throughout to ensure my safety.

Why did they do this to me? Was this some type of lying game to them?

Now I know that the people who loved me destroyed me and made me so unhappy. They are the reason I am unsure of my choices and live in fear. Why couldn’t they just share the entire truth or tell me both sides of the story? If they had shared both sides of the story, maybe I would not be in this prison entirely. They could have just said that I deserved the respect I gave to men irrespective of my virginity. That marriage just happen when two people like each other irrespective of beauty, virginity, childlessness. That, if a man wanted to cheat on you, they just would. It is about choices, not my respectability. They should have said that if I was disrespected in marriage, I should walk away instead of all that nonsense about strong women who persevere to make their marriage a success.

Abusive man hitting a woman

They should have told me that cooking and cleaning are life skills that everyone should have, the same way schooling and making money was. That how much my husband honours me depends on him and not on me in any way. That I can honour my husband in a million ways depending on how much he deserves the respect. That sometimes things happen that you have no control over so I could stop feeling insecure all my life, looking over my shoulders for any predatory men. That some people are just rapists irrespective of what I wear so I could comfortably dress the way I wanted to. All they could have said to fix this is that my life should not center around men, it is my life.

Still, I understand that they said those things because their fear of society was greater. Fear that I might not fit in and fingers will be pointed at them forever for it. That I might have sex with many men and they would call their daughter a whore. That I might end up unmarried and they would consider me worthless. That I might divorce my husband and they would laugh at them for having a failure for a daughter. This knowledge and understanding is still not enough to get me from the prison they put me in and used me to seal the doors. It is not enough because every time I try to open the doors and leave, society pushes me back into that prison.

Freedom comes with self-discovery

And they call me a witch, a stupid girl, a poorly brought up girl, a potential murderer, a men hater, a gender war sociopath; all because I try to leave that prison. I understand why they thought this prison was the best place for me. I love them for looking out for me in the way they believed to be best. Still, I blame them. Not because they put me in a prison, or because they are the reason I get called names. No, but because they are the reason I sometimes believe those names when I am insulted. Because you are the reason I doubt whether my chains are the worst thing. Because they lied they were right when they were wrong. Because they lied to me for years and still do.