Everything touching on religion tends to become very contentious because it centres on beliefs and faith, that even sometimes discussing them becomes taboo or sacrilegious. However, social media has given people a platform to raise issues, some of which are not talked about due to how sensitive they are. A good example is a social media user who recently posted that her friend who’s supposed to get married next month, just found out she’s pregnant. She was thinking of an abortion because if the church finds out, they won’t wed her and the groom being a youth leader in church, they found themselves caught between a rock and a hard place. In Rwanda, it is a known factor that most churches don’t wed couples when the girl is found to be pregnant. Some churches go as far as testing and verifying before confirming your wedding date. It is a subject that has drawn a lot of mixed reactions and controversy. The religiously devout insist that it is the right thing to do not to wed couples who have already engaged in sex before marriage. However, others, especially the young generation, argue that with the family institution threatened by divorces and other gender-based issues such as violence, infidelity and more, taking time to know each other before committing to get married is one of the solutions. That also means having sex, cohabiting (‘moving in’ as it is called in the modern world) and lengthy courtship, which some argue can help to iron out personal differences before settling in together. For Mary Kabano, a marriage counsellor and pastor at Christian Life Assembly (CLA), the church firmly stands on the principle of abstaining from sex before marriage for those who claim to be believers. It means persisting and waiting until marriage because marriage is holy and premarital sex ungodly. So, if you are a Christian, abstinence is key. It is something Kabano cannot compromise on. “People should abstain from sex until they get married. That's when the blessings of God will be on them,” Kabano says, adding that it actually shouldn’t be the church to impose that. It should come from one’s relationship with God. “If you honour God enough and you have a relationship with God, both of you should be able to wait until you get married and start having sex,” she says, adding that it is something you can pray about and seek God’s guidance. Kabano says that there are no two ways about it- you are either God fearing or go against His word. Even abortion is not a solution. It is something lawyer Jean Paul Ibambe agrees with, that you either choose to go with religious beliefs and what they require you of. It is a pact you have with your faith. “If you belong to a given church, you have to respect their rules, whether it is necessary or not, that is another debate. These are things that are personal. Some accept, others don’t,” Ibambe says. He advises that if a church rejects unionising a couple because the girl is pregnant, you are free to find another church or consider a civil wedding, because a religious marriage is not a must. Ibambe argues that marriage can fail for many other reasons, not necessarily of the manner in which a couple made their vows. Among them is trauma and society breakdown. “I think what is needed is psycho-social support so that people are ready when they are going to get married rather than dwelling more on the procedures of how people got married,” Ibambe says. Michelle Akayezu, 32, says she was turned down by her church, which she had served for many years, after she got pregnant in the course of planning her wedding and she felt betrayed. “I felt betrayed and rejected by my own church which I had served for many years. I had a discussion with the pastor and apologised for transgressing, I am human after all, and it all fell on deaf ears,” she says. The mother of two says that she was eventually wedded by her family church, an Anglican church, having been turned down by her own Pentecostal church, which she never returned to. A personal decision At the end of the day, it goes down to a personal decision. It is not a must that people should do a religious wedding or even civil wedding, if they don’t feel ready. Yielding to society pressure is one of the main reasons people make decisions when they are not ready. “I think people should know better what they want in life and be ready to bear the consequences of their choices,” argues U.S-based showbiz and media personality, Ally Soudy Uwizeye. “For example, if you choose to be a religious man or you want to be a good Christian, you need to stick to the values you stand for, respect their principles and follow all the rules as they are,” Uwizeye says. Personally, Uwizeye says he wanted to be free and follow reality, not what society expects of him. His situation was even more complicated because he was Muslim and she was Christian, which in most cases can lead to a clash of religions. “We have been together for 20 years as of now! We did civil and traditional weddings but never did the religious one because we chose not to break our love based on doctrines and the way others see our love,” says Uwizeye, adding that this is what matters. Singer and radio personality, Austin Tosh Luwano, argues that one of the key things people need to do even before considering religious or civil marriages is to get to know each other better before making such a decision. “I believe people need to take time to know each other. One of the common things we see today is that people rush to make decisions. You haven’t even visited the family of the other person,” “You don’t even know them at all but you are already deciding to get married. For me that is where the problem is. There is a need for proper courtship where you must know the other side of the person you are dating,” argues the singer commonly known as Uncle Austin. Even though it is not a guarantee that a marriage will last longer, experts say that there are higher chances that extended courtship, even before sex, is one sure way to determine whether you will live with someone or not.