Small House is a term used to describe the girlfriend or girlfriends of a married man. It is a secret sexual relationship where the girlfriend acts as a second wife and in the process receives a number of benefits such as living expenses, a monthly allowance, shopping sprees, dinner dates (and the list goes on) as would be done within a monogamous relationship. Due to the nature of the relationship, condoms are rarely used and some of them go on to produce children. In most cases the children do not take up their fathers name due to secret nature of the relationship between their parents.
HIV/AIDS is still rife in Zimbabwe and is a big issue that people within these relationships have to contend with. Some men may have more than one small house and the small houses themselves may have more than one person with whom they are having a relationship with. This leads to a web of unprotected sex which could mean the death of them all if one of them becomes infected with HIV. This practice has been dubbed by some as the key drive of HIV/AIDS and it is not hard to see why.
With the current economic situation in Zimbabwe it has become harder for the average Zimbabwean to look after his family let alone maintain his small house. When the maintenance money stops being paid out the relationship ends and people just move on quite easily as there usually isn’t any emotional connection. The small house sees the relationship as a transaction in which she is exchanging sex for money which is a viable source of income given the high rate of unemployment in the nation. There are women who actively seek men with whom to have this kind of relationship with.
The downturn in the economy can be seen as a blessing in disguise if in fact the small house syndrome is a key driver of HIV/AIDS. On the other side of the coin, the downturn has lead to an increase in prostitution which plays a role in the spread of the virus.
Even though having a small house has been seen as something of a norm, a sad thing about the whole situation is the destruction it causes in peoples lives. There are the faithful wives who find out about their husband’s infidelity or even worse, contract HIV and then there are the children born from the relationships who may feel ‘lost’ or never get the chance of being part of a ‘real’ loving family unit. Whatever the case may be, my hopes are that the practise continues on its downward spiral because of the morality and health issues it brings to the table. Is such a feat possible with the way it is ingrained into society?