Picture by Clifford Derrick
Alcohol, poverty and spousal violence
As the world celebrates 16 days of non-violence against women, I am reminded of my early days in the rural life and how alcohol abuse and poverty ensured that we ware entertained by two couples who fought over trivial issue on a daily basis, but only after a booze binge. Writes Clifford Derrick.
Who to blame
Alcohol abuse has been attributed to spousal abuse in some studies over and more particularly within the poor families.
Some studies have also recommended increase in alcohol prices as a method to reduce the spousal abuse. But increasing the prices , may not necessarily decreases alcohol intake. In fact, it worsens the situation because, people will continue spending more to get satisfied or their will resort to cheap but lethal local brews. Alcohol intake and spousal abuse is more predominant among the poor couples who consume cheap and lethal local brews especially in remote rural areas or slums within major cities.
I grew up in Usori village, Kisumu District in the Nyanza province, one of the poorest province in Kenya . As a child, it was a common scene among some of our neighbors to be involved in an unending brawl among them after heavy consumsion of local brew called changaa. There was these couple by the names Charles Onuko, now deceased and Domtila Kusa. They were peasants without any stable income and depended on collecting and selling firewood to feed their eight children. They had one chair and a table in the house and could sometimes spend a whole day and night without a meal.
Their night started earlier due to lack of kerosene to lighten their house and only depended on a fire stick as a source of light. Yet, surprisingly, the couple never missed three interesting things on a daily basis: alcohol, brawl and a heavy fight. Their relationship was characterised with un ending conflicts which could only be ease after some little gulp of the hard liquor. But the situation would be worsened if both of them over-indulged. Reason? The couple would start bargaining in public on trivial issues such as who does not contribute positively towards their economic and social well-being.
Contest over the laudest voice
Their arguments would even degenerate to the level of who is to be blamed for their unhealthy bedroom affairs. And the situation would worsen to an extent that each of them would be shouting ugly stuffs from their mouths, perhaps for the public to judge who among them had the loudest voice, not necessarily the silent point or arguments. Though in the final analysis, Kusa would overwhelm Onuko for she was faster and clearer in her articulation while Onuko had the disadvantage of being a stammer.
Once overwhelmed, Onuko’s favorite line would be…we luera, we luera, we luera dhakoni, dhakoni weluera (Don’t back-chatting me you woman, you woman stop back-chatting me). And the argument would turn physical and would last for hours. The next day, they would be friends again at the sunrise and throughout the day only for them to renew their arguments at the sunset.
A brawl at the Cool Place shebeen
Last year, November 2006, while in Grahamstown, South Africa, I had a nostalgic experience when a couple who had been drinking very happily in one of the Shebeen called the Cool Place, turned against each other and repeated the same scene I was accustomed to more than twenty years ago. Interestingly, the day was significant because women were marking the beginning of 16 days protest on violence against women.
Price has little effect
Ironically, it was hard to tell from the fight who was netting violent against whom between the old lady and the old man. One certain theme was the influence of alcohol. Interestingly, they consumed local not expensive brew, a confirmation that increasing the price of alcohol may have very little effect on people’s behavior
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