Gender Focus with EMELDA MWITWA
IN ONE of the recent horrendous murders, between husband and wife, a man allegedly killed his wife because he suspected her of sexting with another man.
Sexting refers to the exchange of sexually explicit messages, images and videos between people of the opposite sex.
So the man in question grabbed his wife’s mobile phone and came across messages she was exchanging with a suspected boyfriend.
In a fit of rage, he allegedly killed her over images of a man he found in her phone. Whether or not the woman was cheating on her husband, no one knows because she is not here to defend the WhatsApp messages which her husband discovered in her phone. Well, this is what the snooping for information in a spouse’s phone can do. The discovery may be good or bad, shocking or misleading, it may confirm your worst fears or create a wrong impression altogether and cause unnecessary friction in marriage.
So then why is snooping on a spouse by perusing through text messages and WhatsApp conversations seen as a necessary evil by many men and women?
Generally, we are told that it is wrong to spy on a spouse’s cellular phone and email account because these are private possessions.
Relationships should be built on trust, therefore spying on a spouse signifies lack of trust of one’s significant other.
Others say perusing through your spouse’s phone signifies ‘evasion of privacy’, contrary to the marriage ethos that husband and wife should not keep secrets from each other.
Those who snoop on their partners through cellular phones and web-based conversations do so based on the marriage philosophy that husband and wife should not keep secrets from each other because they are one.
This thought is emboldened by the belief that what belongs to one’s spouse is as good as their partner’s.
I have often heard women remark that ‘why should I get permission to use my husband’s phone when we are actually one? Why should my husband put a password on his phone to deny me access to it?’
Perhaps this could be the reason why people say that phone snooping is like second nature for jealous wives than it is for possessive husbands.
Well, if a telephone conversation – verbal, pictorial or video – is, according to the telecommunications rules, a private possession of the owner, then snooping for information in a spouse’s phone is indeed invasion of privacy.
For argument’s sake, the Zambia Information and Communications Technology Authority (ZICTA) will not give any jealous husband or wife the licence to snoop through their spouse’s private phone conversations simply because they are married.
Only a court of law can obtain legal access to private telephone conversations if they are needed in the process of litigation.
The point I’m driving at is that snooping on a spouse’s private conversations is indeed invasion of privacy.
But, apparently, phone snooping is a common practice by men although women tend to do it more. Most of the people who spy on their spouses by checking telephone conversations do so because they suspect their significant other of cheating on them.
When a partner becomes indifferent and raises suspicions that he or she is having an extramarital affair, some people will use mobile phones and web-based interactive forums to uncover a supposed secret affair.
Sometimes, it’s the victims of spying that will actually trigger suspicion by the way they handle their cell phones- when the gadget becomes the most treasured possession which no one can lay fingers on.
When someone can’t answer their cell phone in front of their spouse, or one has to carry the gadget to the bathroom, their spouse will definitely get suspicious.
Disappearing from home or finding a reason to go out after receiving a phone call could prompt one’s spouse to meddle into a partner’s telephone conversations.
Some cheaters will put a password on their cell phones to prevent their partners from prying into their private conversations. I have heard a story of a man whose phone was always on silent to avoid raising alarm when he was receiving a phone call from his girlfriend.
When he was home, the man’s phone was either in the pocket or placed somewhere very close to him with the screen facing down to avoid alerting his wife of an incoming call.
He would sneak outside to answer phone calls or return missed calls. However before long, the man’s wife discovered the evil that was lurking in the man’s strange behaviour.
When she got hold of the ever-muted phone, she discovered love messages and X-rated WhatsApp photos shared between her husband and his girlfriend.
No doubt, mobile phones and social media platforms such as WhatsApp and Facebook have made communication easier and interaction of people that are separated by many miles possible.
These are good communication tools which, if used properly, can cement relationships between couples, friends and family members. Social media platforms are in this information age also used for research, advertising and commerce.
However, cheaters have taken advantage of mobile phones and social media platforms because in this era, these tools can transmit pictures, recorded messages and videos by the stroke of the button.
Mobile phones, by nature of being private possessions and creating direct contact of the caller and receiver, can be quite convenient for those having extramarital affairs.
Though it’s not about mobile phones and web-based interactive forums being abused, to me these tools just mirror our decaying morals.
My concern is on the perverted use of ICT tools, misunderstandings that are created and the negative impact on the family.
Perverted use in the sense that some people want to use these tools to flirt with the opposite sex, to send unsolicited messages to admirers and, of course, the exchange of X-rated images or videos.
Because of the rampant perverted use of cell phones and web-based social platforms such as WhatAspp, many marriages are on the rocks. There are many cases of people having been assaulted by jealous spouses, while others have been killed for exchanging X-rated pictures or sexually explicit messages with the opposite sex.
Much as the use of the social media for sexting may be rampant, some of the victims of phone snooping may be innocent of what they are alleged to have done.
For example, receiving a picture of someone of the opposite sex on WhatsApp is no sign that the recipient is having an affair with that person.
Some people, married ones inclusive, belong to group forums on WhatsApp where members can post photos and videos.
A spouse should only get concerned if the messages are sexually provocative or images are X-rated and perhaps sent at awkward hours.
The point is that it is very possible to misunderstand a WhatsApp message especially on group forums. Therefore, snooping for information in a spouse’s mobile phone can be potentially dangerous, although sometimes it may appear like a necessary evil.
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