When Jackline Mwende sought advice on her bad marriage, she was given the same counsel many Kenyan women in abusive relationships will get: stay and fight for your marriage.
The first pastor she ran to for comfort and advice on how to deal with the violence in her family advised her to get on her knees and pray for her marriage.
In Kenya’s counselling culture, especially in church, the default approach is to try and preserve the family.
Ms Mwende was married to Stephen Ngila, 34, who is charged with hacking off both her hands because their union had not produced any children.
A hospital in Nairobi told the couple that Ms Mwende was fertile and healthy but her husband had reproductive “issues”.
Pastor Patrick Kioko of Masii District SDA Church on Monday told theNation that the marriage between Ms Mwende and Mr Ngila had been rosy at the beginning but things started changing towards the end of last year.
Pastor Kioko, who was the best man in their wedding, said: “It seemed there was hope for reconciliation but the man was not ready to mend the union. In fact, he even moved out and rented a room in Masii town.”
He said Ms Mwende was afraid “to be seen as the one who broke her marriage”.
This was escalated to a church hearing because the issues seemed unresolved and the couple was urged to settle their differences and save their marriage.
Pastor Kioko added: “But we noticed the man was determined to leave. So it was agreed that they live in peace in their separate homes and ask the courts to dissolve the marriage. Because, as a church, we don’t end marriages.”
He said the church was planning to bring them together but then the attack happened.
“We were shocked how it turned out even after all the effort we put in. Anger is dangerous in a union and this is something we all should learn from.”
However, according to other relatives, Ms Mwende believed in her marriage and had been advised by another pastor and some of her friends to stay and try to save it.
FROM LOVE TO HATE
Ms Mwende met Mr Ngila shortly after finishing Standard Eight at Kathama Primary School, Machakos County, in 2010, and she says it was love at first sight.
She described her husband as a “kind and God-fearing” man. He was a tailor in Masii town.
“He taught me how to make dresses and clothes. We fell in love during this time and we had a church wedding three months later,” she said.
After making that statement, she moved her bandaged arms over her face and added: “But he gradually became violent and a drunk. He spent more time in Masii town and would come back late at night, drunk and violent. He also chewed miraa. When he attacked me on Sunday, he was drunk.”
And then, in a whisper, she added: “But I stayed because I wanted to save the marriage and my home.”
Tears welled up in her mother’s eyes on hearing her daughter’s determination to save her marriage.
“I pleaded with her to pack her things and leave their home in Ilinge Village because of the constant quarrels, but she said he would change. Then this happened,” lamented Jane Munyoki.