COHABITATION – A risky western trend spreading to Africa

Over the last 30 years, the number of marriages has considerably fallen, while there has been a remarkable growth in the number of couples living together without marrying. This trend has been remarkably recognized in Europe especially, but it is a phenomenon that does not rule out any part of the world as the theory of “modernism” takes over all of our social values.

Over the last 30 years, the number of marriages has considerably fallen, while there has been a remarkable growth in the number of couples living together without marrying.

This trend has been remarkably recognized in Europe especially, but it is a phenomenon that does not rule out any part of the world as the theory of “modernism” takes over all of our social values.

In Europe particularly in the United Kingdom (UK) cases of people living in marriage relationships in 1993 had fallen to its lowest level for fifty years  and one in five unmarried men and women were cohabiting.

It has been revealed that the stigma attached to cohabiting people today is far less than it was two, three or four decades ago and as a result many couples find it a “no problem” living together. Some regard their relationships as a “trial” marriage.

Cohabitation is now a socially acceptable phenomenon.

In African tradition, cohabitating was unheard of and was seen as a social vice that was totally unacceptable and intolerable.

Among the Bakiga of northern Rwanda and southern Uganda, a girl who was caught having sex before marriage was taken to an island on Lake Bunyonyi and left to die.

Culturally an African girl or woman  was supposed to get married while she is still a virgin. There were people within the community responsible for verification.

These were referred to as Aunties. If they discovered that the girl was no longer a virgin, she was barred from having sex with her man.

The “Anties” were considered experts in sexuality by African society.

Today, the Aunt’s role is no longer recognized as it has become a common habit for the partners intending to get married are increasingly living together and society seems to have accepted it.

Today, parents have gone the extra mile, allowing their daughters to go and sleep in their boy friend’s houses. This shows how African morals have terribly deteriorated. However the question remains; “Where have we put our morals?” or is our culture now outdated? I seem to have raised questions that may not have obvious answers but we need to think about it.

John Haskey, a statitian/demographer on family units, wrote that “living together before marriage has become the practice of an increasing majority and that trends suggest that the proportion cohabiting will tend to increase whilst the proportion married will decline”.

Indeed, as most married couples engage in extra marital sexual relationships, there is a likelihood of witnessing more and more cases of divorce.

Critics of cohabitation, especially religious people argue that premarital sex is contrary to the fundamental teachings of Christian faith. To most of them, the event the bible calls marriage, involves the whole society.

The idea of a purely private marriage is simply a recent aberration, the result of individualism and of the disintegration of traditional communities.

This view might sound augured in the face of modernity but it upholds the view of not only the observance of Christian values of marriage but also the protection of our cultures and traditions.

Proponents of cohabitation however stress that it is a “trial” marriage for people who are nervous of entering into an unhappy marriage.

They argue that they consider it necessary to live with each other before marriage to test their compatibility and commitment to each other and that if the trial fails; it is easy to end the relationship without experiencing the trauma of the divorce courts.

Their argument is also true but it forgets to cater for the preservation of our cultural values and the religious essence of a true marriage relationship. Religion upholds that involvement in sexual intercourse before marriage is fornication and therefore a “sin”.

The general household survey in the united kingdom in 1993 shows that couples who cohabit before marriage are on average twice as likely to divorce as a couple who do not cohabit before marriage.

So those who think that cohabitation solves any problem you might actually find yourselves in “hot soup”.

The author is an English instructor at Kigali Institute of Education.
 
phatari@yahoo.co.uk

 

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