About the Book
Title: Forever There For You
Author: Chioma Nnani
When NADINE is confronted with the reality of her failing marriage, her first instinct is to work it out. She has had it drummed into her that marriage is ‘for better, for worse’. Walking out is just not an option – her faith would condemn her and her culture would make her a pariah.
The combination of Nadine’s background, education, social standing, friendships, faith, experiences and past relationships is meant to equip her to become a success. Failure is alien to her and love means forgiving at all cost.
As she tries to survive and make the most of the curves that life has thrown her, she discovers that ’success’ is a subjective term, and ‘happily ever after’ is something that you have to discover and define for yourself …
Nadine raised her hand.
“Yes, Sister Nadine.”
“I was just wondering,” she began, uncertainly, “what would your advice be for a woman who is being abused by her husband?”
“Abused? How?” asked Sister Angela, leader of the Women’s Fellowship.
“Well, her husband beats her and … rapes her too.”
“Sorry?” went Sister Edith, looking concerned.
“Rapes her?” Sister Eileen’s eyes almost popped out of her head. “How can her husband rape her?”
By now, the eyes of everyone in the Women’s Fellowship were on Nadine and she tried to breathe easier. She could have sworn she could detect some hostility in some of them.
“Well, that’s what she said,” Nadine hastily tried to backtrack.
“Who is this woman?” Sister Angela demanded to know.
Nadine shook her head. “I can’t … I mean, client confidentiality.”
“Oh,” Sister Eileen said, pityingly.
“Is she a Christian?” asked Sister Alex, assistant president of the Fellowship.
“I … think so.”
“First of all, dear,” Sister Eileen, keen to dispense sagely advice, cut in, “A woman cannot be raped by her own husband. The Bible says that a woman’s body belongs to her husband. That’s like accusing a man of stealing from himself. As you know, that is not possible.”
“But what if he only enjoys himself after he’s beaten her?” Nadine protested.
“Then, she has to adjust her behaviour.”
“How?” Nadine wanted to know.
“Hang on,” called a very uncomfortable-looking Sister Jackie. “I’m still trying to get my head around your suggestion that a woman cannot be raped by her own husband.”
“Well, can she?” asked Sister Charlene.
Sister Jackie was determined to ignore any attempts at intimidation, whether subtle or overt. “Yes, she can.”
“How is that possible?” Sister Charlene challenged.
“This is not the Stone Age, so it is possible. In actual fact, in 1991, a man was successfully prosecuted for raping his wife.”
R v R. Nadine knew the case. She remembered how she had thought it strange, when she learned about it. Now the fact that she was in the same situation was the very definition of strange.
“Even if it is documented, this is not a feminist rally or a criminal law class. Our basis is the law of God and the Bible is our standard,” Sister Agnes asserted.
“Fair enough. Where does it say in the law of God that a man is allowed to beat his wife?” Sister Edith countered.
Sister Jackie looked at her gratefully. She had begun to wonder if she was the last sane person in the vicinity. She had no problem speaking up when it was necessary – and in this case, it was absolutely necessary – but she was disheartened that she appeared to be the only one. She did not believe her skin colour had any bearing on her stance, but she was concerned that all the other contributors to the conversation who held a contrary view, were black. It wasn’t that every other woman in the room was black; some of the women who were either white, or looked like they could have been of Asian heritage, just sat quietly. She was unable to figure out if this was because they secretly agreed with the women whose voices were loudest – she desperately hoped was not the case. Or because they were cowed into silence – this was more likely – by the aggression of the more vocal members. Jackie could not help wondering why arguably educated women seemed incapable of conveying a message without sounding like they were auditioning for the role of a mentally unstable character in Tyler Perry’s Diary of A Mad Black Woman. Did they realise they came across as belligerent? Or was that intentional – to paralyse any dissenting voices into muteness? She didn’t want to go down the race route, but these women were of the same colour. The age range was mid20s to early 60s. Was it just an issue of varying levels of education – not literacy, as there was no illiterate amongst them – and degrees of exposure? So, she was relieved to see that Sister Edith, a black woman in her late 30s, did not agree with them.
“Obviously, the Bible does not tell men to beat their wives,” resumed Sister Agnes.
There’s a relief, Jackie thought to herself, grateful that human beings had not yet acquired the ability to see the contents of others’ minds. In hers, they might have seen a jar of undiluted sarcasm; not exactly a Christian virtue, or a fruit of the Holy Ghost.
“Then what are we saying? It’s not OK for a man to beat or sexually assault his wife but …”
“A man cannot sexually assault his own wife,” insisted Sister Agnes, “when a woman gets married, she is no more her own person. Her body and all she owns belong to her husband. Her husband is free to fulfil Scripture with her whenever he feels like it.”
“And she has no choice in the matter?” Sister Edith asked, looking as flabbergasted as Sister Jackie felt.
“Exactly,” Sister Agnes asserted triumphantly.
You have got to be kidding me, Jackie thought.
Sister Edith did not look impressed, but Sister Agnes did not care and was keen to educate her. “That is why they are called conjugal rights.”
“That is ridiculous. It’s just … cultural bias.”
Sister Alex looked hurt, but Sister Edith continued, “Like Sister Jackie noted, we are not trapped in the Dark Ages, where people can get away with any crime as they wish. And this is London, not some African village where that kind of … reasoning reigns supreme.”
“The Word of God is what reigns supreme, whether we are in London or Africa,” Sister Ijeoma intoned.
“We are civilised human beings and there are certain things we should not tolerate,” insisted Sister Edith.
“We cannot be too civilised for the Word of God. That is what causes problems,” Sister Eileen was adamant.
“No, what causes us problems is us adhering to cultures and traditions that make no sense. If we were in Nigeria or Ghana, I’m ashamed to say I wouldn’t be very surprised. No, I don’t approve but …”
“It is God’s Word that should give us approval, not the other way round. God does not seek our endorsement, no matter how unfair we believe a situation is,” Sister Agnes said.
Did she mean to look and sound so smug? Jackie wondered.
“I hear you. But you’re not hearing me,” Sister Edith said, feeling herself start to get agitated. This must be what it felt like to talk to a brick wall. “This is the 21st century. This is London. We’re in the midst of civilisation. How can anyone be defending this man’s actions? Reality is, he has failed as a man. Any man who hits a woman, should not be celebrated.”
“Would you rather that we shot him?” sister Charlene asked. She could barely refrain from raising her voice and she was starting to get irritated by the distraction that Sister Edith was undoubtedly causing. She was not about to take correction and concede that she did not know everything and that her ideas about civilisation were just silly. Her harping on was starting to affect the mood of the meeting and hinder the flow of the Spirit. It was not in the character of the Spirit of God to strive with any man, or woman for that matter; and Sister Charlene knew she was not the only one who did not appreciate Sister Edith constituting a nuisance.
“That is a criminal offence,” Sister Edith shot back.
“It’s a good thing you’re aware,” Sister Agnes said under her breath, but not so low that it went unnoticed by Sister Edith.
“In this country, there are certain laws that must be obeyed. You cannot shoot people and expect to get away with it. Because it is a crime. In the same way, it is foolhardy to rape and beat someone, even your spouse, and expect to get away with it. Rape and assault are crimes. Very serious crimes. For goodness’ sake, we are not in Africa where that is the order of the day in marriages.”
“Sister Edith,” Sister Ijeoma sounded placating. “When you talk like that, you sound like you have a problem with Africa.”
Edith’s eyebrows shot up warningly. “What do you mean?” she asked, clearly struggling to keep her voice under control. In a minute or so, with the way the cow – sorry, fellow Christian sister – was going, Edith just knew she would be tempted to attempt to strangle her. These people thought they knew so much, but their mindsets were obviously still locked in calabashes in the Stone Age. They didn’t understand reasoning; maybe they would understand an angry outburst? They were practically … no, they were actually advocating violence in a marriage.
“I’m just saying,” continued Sister Ijeoma, blissfully oblivious to Edith’s state of mind, “that you sound angry and bitter. Like you are angry about something that a man … an African man may have done to you.”
“I am not angry or bitter or whatever it is you want to call it. The problem with some of us is that when someone speaks the truth, we don’t like it. We prefer sycophancy. We prefer to hear and perpetuate lies, even if the lies keep us in bondage. In fact, it seems the more bound the lies keep us, the better we like them. And we have the audacity to blame the British. We call them the colonial taskmasters. Well, they are not in our African countries anymore, so we need to get over it. And some of us may have come here, but we are still slaves. Slaves in our mentalities. Some of us have refused to let go of the strongholds in our minds, the ones that tell us that stupid customs should have pride of place in this century. Domestic violence might be a … cultural ideal in Africa, but …”
“Cultural ideal! It’s not a cultural ideal,” protested Sister Eileen.
“Well, it continues to happen, because abusers are allowed to get away with it. It’s not prosecuted, because it’s not abnormal. As bad as that sounds, it is the truth and you know it. In truly civilised places, domestic violence is a crime!”
Chioma Nnani is an award-winning author, who also contributes to business, lifestyle and literary publications. One of Africa’s most fearless storytellers, she is a 2016 CREATIVE AFRICAN Awards finalist in the category of “Best Fiction Writer”, and a DIVAS OF COLOUR 2016 finalist. Chioma has also been nominated twice for a UK BEFFTA (Black Entertainment Film Fashion Television and Arts) Award in the “Best Author” category. A talented ghost-writer who is known for “being able to get into your head and under your skin, before writing down exactly how you’re feeling”, Chioma has been named “One of 100 Most Influential Creatives in 2016” by London-based C.Hub Magazine.
She holds a Law (LLB) from the University of Kent and a Postgraduate Certificate in Food Law (De Montfort University, Leicester). She is the founder of THE FEARLESS STORYTELLER HOUSE EMPORIUM LTD (a premium storytelling outfit based in the Federal Capital Territory of Nigeria, where she lives), typically contributes to lifestyle and literary publications, and runs the “Memo From A Fearless Storyteller” blogazine at www.fearlessstoryteller.com for which she won the 2016 BEFFTA (Black Entertainment Film Fashion Television and Arts) Award.
Amazon (Kindle): United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Netherlands, Japan, Brazil, Canada, Mexico, Australia and India. It is also available on Smashwords, Kobo, Apple, Barnes & Noble (Nook), Okadabooks, and major online stores. Okadabooks is mainly for buyers in Africa.