Citizens seek govt intervention in rising infidelity, divorce cases

A cross-section of couples during a mass wedding in Kirehe District last year. Photo: Jean de Dieu Nsabimana.

Rwandans are seeking the government’s intervention in fixing the rising number of polygamy and divorce cases which are blamed for the weakening of the family unit fabric, Members of Parliament heard yesterday.

The Chief Executive Officer of the Rwanda Governance Board (RGB), Usta Kayitesi, said this while presenting her institution’s 2018/2019 annual report and the action plan for 2019/2020.

Kayitesi told the MPs that while strong family values are considered as the foundation for development, more and more locals continue to express their worry over the weakening of its fabric.

They are thus seeking the government’s intervention in fixing the issues.

According to the report, 70.26 per cent of the citizens interviewed for the Citizen Report Card believe that family conflicts are rampant, 69.14 per cent believe infidelity follows close by while 50.97 per cent also believe the rising divorce cases are also affecting families.

“Many people we talk to when doing these reports are worried about what is becoming of the family with most concerns being around the rising number of teenage pregnancies, family conflicts, polygamy and divorce as the biggest threats,” she said.

What the numbers say

According to the Supreme Court, in 2018 alone, 1,311 divorce cases were registered nationwide, a stretch from a paltry 69 divorce cases registered in 2017.

This reflects a strong rise from 2016 when divorce cases in primary courts were 21.

Last year, Kicukiro Primary Court granted the most divorce cases for 210 couples, Gasabo Primary Court 190 and Nyarugenge Primary Court 157 divorces.

Lawyers and activists attribute the high rise of divorce cases to the economic advantages that come with separation, especially for couples that opt for joint ownership of all their property.

Domestic violence and ignorance about the rights by some spouses are also billed as major causes of divorce.

The Executive Director of the Legal Aid Forum, Andrews Kananga, told The New Times that infidelity and divorce are intertwined.

He explains that besides that, his office also receives many divorce cases that are mostly triggered by property-related wrangles between couples that legally opted for joint owner of property.

“When it comes to property, there are people who hide their assets from their spouses and it finally comes to light, most of these marriages end in divorce. We also have a generation of young people who are entering marriages, especially cross-generational ones, where one of the partners knows it’s temporary,” he said.

Most Rwandans opt for joint ownership of all their property.

Chapter 3 Article 6 of the law reads in part: “Spouses under the Community of Property regime manage the property together and have the same right to recover the property if taken, and act as legal representative of the property.

Any property registered in one spouse’s name is part of the property belonging to spouses under the Community of Property Regime.”

In the event of divorce, the spouses share equally.

Annet Mukiga is a feminist employed by the Rwanda Women’s Network. 

She says that there is need for more informed discussions from civil society organisations and local leaders to raise awareness about the entire institution of marriage.

“The norms, behaviours and attitudes have changed. People interested in marriage need to be told to talk about everything from property and expectations way before they sign. This will help avoid many issues,” she says.

Mukiga says that with the emancipation of women and the social pressure due to cultural beliefs, the rise in divorce cases is to be expected but says that it shouldn’t be considered the worst option.

“Marriage is a contract. If it doesn’t work, divorce is better than murdering your spouse, or struggling with depression and trauma that may arise from a failed relationship,” she says.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com