Samuel Kadungure Senior Reporter
THE Covid-19 pandemic is radically altering approaches to physical contact, intimacy and family relations, thereby resulting in marriages fraying under the pressure of physical distancing.
The deep-seated dilemma emerged last Friday during a Covid-19 awareness campaign organised by First Lady, Amai Mnangagwa, at Nyakuhwa Primary School in Makoni.
Traditional leaders sought guidance on the parameters of physical distancing after a group of 50 elderly people had received food hampers, blankets, face masks, hand sanitisers and detergents from the First Lady’s Angel of Hope Foundation.
Headman Chikono let the cat out of the bag when he said he had received numerous complaints from young men being denied conjugal rights under the guise of physical distancing. Headman Chikono was seeking clarity on where couples can draw the line.
“The lockdown presents a rare opportunity and inclination to enjoy conjugal rights more, especially for young men in the villages.
“Yet their spouses are denying them conjugal rights citing the need for physical distancing. Numerous young men have approached me with their complaints. How can I handle such cases?”
“They said even kissing a loved one is being avoided. The deprivation of conjugal rights is now threatening many marriages. What are the parameters of physical distancing? What should the sexually-active population do? This is a serious matter,” said Headman Chikono.
Although the Headman’s questions left the small audience in stitches, facilitator Angel of Hope Foundation director, Mrs Chipiwa Mundandanda, had to give well thought responses.
In observing cultural protocol, Mrs Mundandanda asked Chief Makoni to respond.
While confirming receiving similar complaints from his subjects, Chief Makoni said despite being a fundamental human need, conjugal rights must be enjoyed responsibly.
“You can enjoy conjugal rights with your spouse. We do not want covidivorces in this district. We want marriages to thrive and produce ‘corona babies’,” said Chief Makoni to wild applause from participants.
Chief Makoni, however, said it is not a good idea to be intimate with someone one does not stay with.
“I want to make this point very clear. This is not the best time to sleep with someone you do not stay with.
“This is where physical distancing becomes essential to curtail the spread of Covid-19.”
Makoni District Medical Officer, Dr Tendai Nyafesa said people need to be sexually responsible to reduce the spread of Covid-19.
“If you stay with your regular partner and both of you do not have symptoms or likely exposure, yes you can enjoy your conjugal rights. It might actually be a way to have fun and relieve pressure during this stressful period. But if you are away from home, avoid physical contact and avoid kissing,” said Dr Nyafesa, adding that any sexual act must be consensual.
“If it is not consensual, then it is rape, regardless of your marital status.”
Mrs Mundandanda took time to explain how Covid-19 can be prevented.
“Prevention is better than cure. It is for this reason that the First Lady wants Makoni District to be empowered with information on how the disease can be prevented. We do not want people in rural areas to be caught unawares.
“As elderly people, you are authorities in your homes. You are taking care of your grandchildren, and by targeting you we know the message will get home,” she said.
It emerged during the meeting that some people have misconceptions on Covid-19. Gogo Auxillia Zinyuku (65), of Gwende Village, Makoni North, thanked the First Lady for the training and goodies.
“Physical distancing was difficult to observe at funerals due to ignorance. These issues had not been adequately explained to us, and we relied on distorted information from third parties.
“We are now better equipped and will discourage our children and other villagers from attending overcrowded funerals and going into public places without face masks, as well as dressing dead bodies without protective clothing,” she said.
Gogo Shylet Chiukira (68), of Village A, Nyahukwe, said they thought face masks were for those travelling to urban areas.
“We did not know that it is mandatory to wear masks even in rural areas.
“We are grateful for the food hampers. Most elderly people in the district are starving and unsure of where their next meal will come from,” she said.