It is commonly believed that 50 per cent of marriages will end in divorce. The statistic has been roughly accurate for the last 40 years, but there is much more to the story. Changes in society, and the law, may explain why the rate of divorce has increased.
While addressing the press last week, Chief Justice Sam Rugege highlighted an increase in divorce rates in Rwanda. Statistics show that the number of people seeking divorce has radically increased over the years.
In 2016 there were 21 cases of divorce, 69 in 2017 and 1,311 cases in 2018. But, what could be the cause of the rising divorce rate in modern day society?
Counsellor Damien Mouzoun says some people get married for the wrong reasons, to begin with, focusing on tribe, religion and family linkages rather than considering love and mutual respect which is often an intuitive feeling.
“We still have arranged marriages nowadays, people have limited time to nurture their relationship, and the materialised society we live in has made things worse,” the counsellor says.
One must also bring in the concept of a more pervasive culture that has led to re-composed families. Also, infidelity is still a major cause of divorce, he adds.
“Couples may have occasional discreet flings with other sexual partners and this is of concern to our society today, because very few couples stay together after this happens,” Mouzoun says.
Pastor Maurice Klebert Rukimbira says the first cause indicates the misconception of the purpose of marriage.
Marriage should be seen as God meant it to be, which is; love and fellowship of two persons of different gender, and mutual assistance and procreation (to have children that will be raised to know and worship God). Unfortunately, people nowadays marry under the pressure of society, mostly around a certain age, he says.
Rukimbira adds that another problem leading to the breakage of marriages today is the love for money.
“People are getting married because of wealth. Also, poor pre-marital counselling is another cause,” Rukimbira says.
“We are not sure if pastors and priests have the complete curriculum and clear methodology to work with couples before their wedding. We also can’t ignore the poor attention given by soon-to-be partners because they focus on preparations such as clothes, photos, the reception, to mention a few,” he adds.
Author Njoki Chege notes that experts are worried that too many marriages are unable to stand the test of time, and agree that modern-day marriages are facing numerous challenges, among them, unmet expectations, differences over money, pressure to strike a balance between work and life, and spousal isolation, and as a result, many marriages are operating in a vacuum, lacking adequate support.
“That marriage is under threat is nothing new. It has always been under attack since the days of the Garden of Eden. What we are seeing now is that in this age, the challenges have intensified and some threats have to do with cultural changes and the fast pace of life,” she wrote, quoting Muriithi Wanjau, Senior Pastor of Mavuno Church in Kenya.
The case with feminism
Jean Pierre Uwimana, a married man, argues that the changing principles of women are the leading cause of divorce today.
Some women misinterpret empowerment and they take it as a means to disrespect their husbands, or worse, become selfish beings who only mind about their interests, he says.
“This kind of mindset cannot uphold a marriage, because in a relationship, people need to be there and support each other. Women need to be loved and men respected, no man can take it when his wife disrespects him. And when this happens, it becomes the root cause of every other problem in the marriage,” Uwimana says.
Justine Uwera, a housewife, says that today, women are becoming more empowered which is a good thing, it’s just that it is making women so independent that they wouldn’t think twice about ending a marriage.
“Women empowerment is definitely playing a role in the rise of divorce rates. Women believe they can make it on their own, empowerment has tainted their mindset, neglecting the possible negative outcomes of broken families,” Uwera says.
Lona Nansasi disagrees with this, saying that feminism does not in any way cause divorce, rather, it is paving way for women to stand up for their rights, and this includes a chance to get out of a marriage that is not good for them.
“A number of things are changing in modern society and this includes the marriage institution. The cause of marriage breakups goes beyond women empowerment, society needs to understand this. We need to look at the bigger picture and look for solutions before it is too late,” she says.
What needs to be done?
Pastor Rukimbira urges parents, teachers and religious leaders to purposefully develop a culture of talking about marriage and the reality of life at home.
In addition, he wishes to see people who respect the vows, not just religiously, but also culturally (indahiro, isezerano, igihango).
“I suggest that the Ministry of Gender and Family promotion organises talks and other events to develop the quality of life and encourage co-ordination among relatively new couples,” Rukimbira adds.
Mouzoun says that to address these challenges, people must be serious about their unions and avoid the temptation of ‘social mirrors’ leading to unauthentic relationships.
Transparency, honesty, care, fidelity, trust and justice are very important in building lasting marriages. We advise that families find time to seek professional counselling and ways of improving their relationship, the counsellor says.
“Families must learn to have a principle-centred life and avail themselves to the changes they will encounter along the journey. Couples and children should not live in an imaginary manner based on the movie industry and the lifestyles of people associated with it. That is why we are trying to build family counselling institutions to guide and help our society for both successful and wise relationships.”