Not many people will stop to think about the economic and financial abuse some men go through in the name of providing for their lovers because society has cast them (men) into the role of providers. If you are a woman and have taken an expensive gift from a man you do not love or have any intention of ever loving, you have financially abused that man.
Some women have perfected the art of economic abuse – making sure that they control the man’s access to his resources, leaving him powerless to provide for himself and the other members of his family.
An emasculated man cannot command respect in his community, let alone in himself. This can lead to gender based violence (GBV) against the woman who has placed him in such a condition and, in extreme circumstances, abandonment of his family if he can no longer provide for them.
Yusuf Oundo Banya’s common-law wife broke him financially (and continues to frustrate him economically), built a house and rentals using money she took from his businesses, and had a baby with another man. Now, she wants him to sell the house they once lived in so that she can get half of the proceeds, although she did not contribute a single cent to buying the plot of land or the building expenses.
Banya trades in rice spices in St Balikuddembe (Owino) Market. A few years ago, the business was doing so well that he was supplying traders in northern Uganda and the DRCongo. Now, a shadow of his former self, Banya has fallen back on the alimony he was ordered to pay by the Chief Magistrate’s Court at Nabweru and can barely look after his eight children.
Surprisingly, Banya is calm, considering that Olga Nassali*, the woman who destroyed him financially, works a few feet away from him. If he is bitter, he hides it well. “In the beginning she would just pass by my stall, looking the other way, but now, probably out of shame, whenever our paths cross, she kneels to greet me.”
The damsel in distress story is all too familiar. If you are a man, you have probably been approached by a single mother shedding tears, telling you of how life has become too much for her to handle alone. That is the trap Banya fell into.
“I met her in 2002 when she came to sell tomatoes on one half of the stall next to mine. The business was not good and when she got pregnant, she did not return. In 2004, when I began expanding my business and acquiring more stalls, I offered to rent to her half of the stall at Shs100,000 every month.
In Owino, a stall is basically a table. The owner of the table rents out the table to one trader who may sublet the table to two other traders. It is not uncommon to find three traders displaying their merchandise on one table.
As Banya’s business grew, he bought land in Ndejje, Wakiso District and built a house for his family. Every day, he would bank Shs50,000 in Dfcu Bank.
“In 2008, Nassali approached me, asking for more money for her stall. She said the man who had impregnated her had abandoned her. She cried a lot about how hard it was to fend for the child and I felt sorry for her. Later, I asked if she was being honest that the man had abandoned her and she assured me they were not in contact. Instead of increasing the rent I was paying her, I decided take her on as a second wife and look after her. She agreed.”
Banya rented for her two rooms in a respectable neighbourhood and in 2010, they were blessed with a baby girl.
The turning point
Banya had been paying his sister’s tuition at Kyambogo University, and when she completed her studies in 2013, he helped her set up a savings and cooperative organisation (sacco) in the market. He marketed the Sacco well that he became its face. When his sister went away on maternity leave, her partners embezzled the money, leaving Banya to face the angry clients.
“I had to leave the market in a hurry,” he says, adding, “I could have been lynched. I left Nassali in charge of my stalls. She had to deal with my clients and suppliers. I coordinated the businesses on phone from my home.”
In 2014, when Nassali got pregnant again, Banya decided to build for her a house and bought land in Katooke, Wamala at Shs14m. However, the day after the couple signed the land documents, his world fell apart.
“We went for an antenatal visit at Rubaga Hospital. As part of the routine, we were tested for HIV and while my result was negative, she was HIV positive. I had heard of discordant couples but I did not really believe such a situation could occur. She was immediately placed on medication (antiretroviral therapy). I was given a box of condoms but I had taken so long without using condoms that our sex life became difficult. My love for her decreased but I decided to give her the best care.”
A second test at Joint Clinical Research Centre (JCRC) confirmed the results. Banya hired his siblings to take charge of his stalls while his wife remained at home. Meanwhile, he started construction on their land in Katooke. Nassali had a normal delivery but the baby died after one month.
“I wanted to buy a pickup truck to help in transporting my spices, and I had Shs17m on my bank account. She convinced me that instead of buying the truck, I should complete the house. Building had reached the wall plate section, and within 12 days, the house was complete. I also bought the neighbouring plot of land at Shs8m.”
Nassali returned to work in Owino and took charge of her husband’s stalls but then, Banya began to realise that she was not eager to talk about his businesses. He discovered much later that she was no longer sending the daily Shs10,000 upkeep to his first wife in Ndejje and was not making daily Shs50,000 deposits into his bank account.
“She changed towards me all of a sudden. Because I could not enter the market due to the Sacco issues, she effectively blocked me from my businesses. She refused to give me a single coin, saying she was saving the money for our future use. She fired my siblings and hired her own workers. Frustrated and broke, I went to my village in Gayaza, bought a piece of land and hired boys to make bricks for me. That was my only source of income throughout 2014. I advised my first wife to fend for our children while I sorted myself out.”
After a bitter family meeting, in January 2015, Nassali agreed to return the businesses to Banya. However, she sold off all the stock and left him with a debt of Shs7m. She connived with the market authorities and took ownership of all his stalls, setting up a rival business. She left Banya with only his original stall. While he was in the village, she hired a truck and took all the property from their home, leaving only his clothes.
“That was when my eyes were opened. I learnt that in a period of two years she had built a big house and rentals in Bombo town using my money. The local council chairman of Katooke advised me to report the matter to Kawempe Police Station. The child protection and family unit tried to reconcile us, in vain. Nassali instead abused the officers. However, they later retrieved my property from Bombo, but she refused to hand over my cheque book and land titles.”
Trying to seek legal redress
Banya dragged Nassali to the Chief Magistrate’s Court in Nabweru but the court ruled that she should retain the property. Twice, she has dragged him back to the same court. The first time, she wanted alimony, and Banya was ordered to pay her Shs100,000 every month besides catering to their child’s school fees and other needs.
Six months ago, she dragged Banya to court again. She wants him to sell the land and house in Katooke and give her half of the proceeds.
“I offered to give her Shs7m if she returned my land titles. Instead, she demanded that I pay her Shs25m in exchange for the title or that she gives me Shs20m and I leave the land. How can I let two plots of land go? That is the inheritance of my children!”
The case is still in mediation. Nassali has since reconciled with the father of her first child who had abandoned her, and they live together in the house she built in Bombo.
Banya, after a long struggle with the market authorities, began working in Owino again in November 2017 at his original stall. He is back to zero because Nassali took over all his clients. He can barely afford to educate, let alone feed, his children. His son, who was supposed to sit Primary Leaving Examinations this year, failed to do so because he could not pay the school fees.
“All my money is gone. I have a debt of Shs7m. I never went to school, but through my sweat I had built a successful business. How is it possible that the person I loved has taken everything from me? I keep on blaming myself for not chasing her away when she tested positive for HIV. That should have been an indicator to me that she had another man in her life, but I was blinded by love.”
Banya believes only his religion keeps him sane. Whenever the bitterness threatens to overwhelm him, he goes to the mosque or sits at a shop and drinks a 1.5 litre bottle of water.
Even now, as we look at each other on the third floor of the building next to Dfcu Bank on Kafumbe Mukasa Road in Kisenyi, trying to block out the unbelievably loud din of Owino Market, for a few minutes Banya seems lost.
“Islam tells me not to harm those who do bad things to me, but I don’t know…I don’t know… Sometimes I fear that she might try to kill me. Maybe she thinks I want to kill her because she only leaves the market after I have left. Never before.”
* The names have been changed
Economic abuse against men
Men fall victim of economic abuse because marriages nowadays have become business ventures. A woman will only accept a marriage proposal after assessing how much property the man has. That is why we have so many instances of GBV. As a result, children have been forced to grow up in abusive or broken homes.
In 2017, this organisation has handled 250 cases of economic abuse against men. The problem is, while women claim part of the property, usually, the documents have only the man’s name. We always try to mediate and reconcile the couple.
Men are vital in the fight against GBV so we try to calm them down. Reconciliation is always best because if you take a man to court for his property, you do not know what his anger can make him do. The laws enacted by Parliament, such as, the Domestic Violence Act) should favour both parties in a marriage. Lauben Muhabuzi , Executive Director, Men’s Protection against Domestic Violence