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Image of a Bed on Fire
Image of a Bed on Fire | Photo courtesy of Amy Dav on Flickr at "davadavadav"

In an act of domestic violence, husband shoves woman onto burning bed in Zimbabwe

Evening set in. With no electricity, a candle lit the room. It fell onto the bed, which caught fire, as we continued fighting. As the entire bed burned, he violently pushed me into it. My clothing instantly caught fire.

Milca Chereni from Zimbabwe thrown into fire
Interview Subject
Milca Chereni, 28, lives in Beitbridge, Zimbabwe with her husband Obert Matibiri and her two children, ages 9 and 4. Milca was visiting family in her native village. When she returned, a domestic dispute with her husband erputed, leading to her being thrown into a fire. She is currently hospitalized and in recovery.

Orato obtained witness verification from the journalist of the account.
Background Information
According to UNICEF, 43 percent of adolescent girls in Zimbabwe report their first sexual experience was unwanted and unplanned. The national Gender Based Violence hotline saw a 40 percent increase in calls to the hotline during COVID-19. About 94 percent of those calls are from women. Of girls under 18, 33.7 percent are in child marriages compared to two percent of boys under 18.

Some progress is being made with the launch of the High-Level Political Compact (HLPC) on Ending Gender-based Violence and Harmful Practices by the Government of Zimbabwe (2021). Shortly after, a new state-of-the-art forensics laboratory was erected at Zimbabwe Republic Police. Significant work remains to be done.

*Trigger warning: story may contain content including written or visual that may be graphic or sensitive in nature.

BEITBRIDGE, Zimbabwe ꟷ One month ago, my husband burned me alive.

As I lay in this hospital bed and my body attempts to heal, I am consumed by pain. The cold of winter makes the pain even worse.

It all began when I heard a rumor my husband cheated on me. The emotional pain of his affair remains with me, but it cannot compare to the physical pain of being shoved into a fire.

Wife questions husband about potential affair

On May 24, 2022, I arrived in Beitbridge where I live. Beitbridge is a town in the province of Matabeleland South.

I had been away, visiting my home village in Zimbabwe. Two days after returning, someone in the neighborhood approached me and said a rumor was circulating. My husband had a secret affair with my neighbor during my absence.

It seemed unfair to accuse my husband of cheating based on rumors. I went to the neighbor to ask her if it was true, and if she was in love with my husband. She refused the allegations, so I asked her to come to my home. I wanted to understand from her and my husband what happened.

By this time, the rumors had escalated. One person in Beitbridge told me someone saw my husband providing her with food parcels.

I felt skeptical about the entire story, so I urged her to come with me to my home. I wanted to gain a clear picture based on what each of them would say with all of us together.

Husband shoves wife into bed, engulfed in flames

Back at the house, with my husband there, I asked them both for the truth. They denied dating but confirmed buying each other food. It made me angry.

I asked what circumstances led my husband to buy food for her. Their answers did not convince me. I began fighting with her. It seemed clear they lied to me and could not admit their affair out of embarrassment.

A few minutes into the fight, my husband intervened, and the woman left. I told my husband I no longer had interest in him and began packing my bags to return to my home village. I told him, “I’m leaving now.”

He refused to let me leave and snatched away my phone. A fight broke out between he and I. I wanted my phone and my freedom to leave. He repeatedly said I could go nowhere without his permission.

Milca Chereni shoved into a fire
Milca Chereni remains hospitalized after being shoved into a fire by her husband | Photo courtesy of Milca Chereni

Evening set in. With no electricity, a candle lit the room. It fell onto the bed, sending it ablaze, as we continued fighting. As the entire bed burned, he violently shoved me into the fire. My clothing instantly caught fire.

A survivor, woman remains hospitalized

As my husband watched my whole body burning, he ran away and left me to die alone. I began rolling around on the ground and pouring soil onto my burning body until the fire extinguished.

I felt the excruciating pain of being burned alive. As the flames consumed me, I started to lose hope, even as I poured the soil onto my body.

When the fire extinguished, I ran to my friend’s house who hired a taxi to take me to the Beitbridge Provincial Hospital.

Now, a month later, I remain in the hospital as my body and my mind attempt to heal from this horrific ordeal.

Gender based violence continues to be a serious issue in Zimbabwe.

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Takudzwa Changadeya is a Zimbabwean journalist.