Heidy has eleven siblings and lives in extreme poverty. Their house is built in the outdoor corner of two other houses that meet, and form two of their inner walls. By adding two more walls and a tin roof to the construction, they have made a small home for themselves. The children have attended a few years of school and some are still going, but it is impossible for the family to pay for books, clothes and tuitions for all of them.
The other day when chatting with Heidy’s mother, we asked a little bit about why they decided to have so many children, they obviously cannot afford it. Her answer was quite simple: “My husband never allowed me to use contraception, he said that I would cheat on him if I did”.
Instead of trusting his wife and treating her as an equal, Heidy’s father chooses to not allow his wife contraceptives to control her sexuality. By doing so he believes that any unfaithfulness would be revealed and that will prevent her from having other partners. Of course he’s not seeing beyond the end of his nose, since she could have cheated on him any time she wanted as long as she used a condom with the potential other lover.
Heidy’s mother does not react strongly to her husband’s behavior. From her perspective it seems quite normal, probably for the same reasons that he does not think it through; it is part of a cultural pattern of controlling women. The result in this case is a vicious circle of poverty and abuse of power.
We continued to talk and it appears that after being constantly pregnant for 12 years, an American woman had come to visit them and managed to convince the husband that it was a good idea that his wife went through surgery so she would not be able to get pregnant again.