I find it interesting that the majority of Rwandan girls hardly move out of their parents’ home unless they are moving into a man’s home as a wife. A man who has made himself known to her family and officially asked for her hand in marriage. However, there could be some who find themselves in what is called ‘come we stay’ relationships.
As expected, many ‘come we stay’ relationships are not planned for. Take the case of a woman who spends one or two nights in a man’s house and by the third day he is calling her ‘wife’. A short while later he starts introducing her as wife to his family members and they start calling her in-law. She gets to attend family gatherings and does everything a wife is expected to do. Before long, the first child is born. As luck would have it, the man gets a job away from home and unfortunately he is not in a position to take the ‘wife’ and kids along. While there, he meets another woman and proceeds to marry her officially. That is when it dawns on the woman at home that there is wife and ‘wife’.
Recently in Uganda, a woman Member of Parliament and renown gospel artiste made news when she married a fellow parliamentarian through a traditional ceremony. The man’s first ‘wife’, with whom he had three children, released a video that went viral telling the female MP to leave her man alone. There’s an African saying that states ‘the eyes of the frog won’t stop a cow from drinking water’. Clearly the two MPs were determined to go all the way despite the first ‘wife’s’ laments. This example only goes to show that having kids with a man does not make one someone’s wife. There are legally acceptable and recognised procedures that need to be followed.
In Kenya there have been many cases of families fighting over property and dead bodies because one wife had a marriage certificate, another one got married customarily while a third only had children with the man. It is not strange to find a ‘wife’ being excluded from taking part in burial arrangements of her ‘husband’ because there was no formalisation of their union. By encouraging their daughters to pursue formal marriage procedures (by default or otherwise), Rwandan families must have seen the potential problems of ‘come we stay’ relationships and decided to nip it in the bud; avoid matrimonial fights by making sure people leave home officially, no short cuts. When two people come of age and want to start a family, it is imperative to do it the right way. It is high time women stopped struggling to prove their marital status; let the papers do the talking.
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