DEBATE: Does civil marriage give leeway to divorce?

A paper won’t stop divorce And so, there is unconfirmed news that the divorce rate in Rwanda is on the increase and this, according to some people, is due to Rwanda’s emphasis on civil marriage more than religious marriage.
A couple attends its civil marriage at Umurenge. (File)
A couple attends its civil marriage at Umurenge. (File)

A paper won’t stop divorce


And so, there is unconfirmed news that the divorce rate in Rwanda is on the increase and this, according to some people, is due to Rwanda’s emphasis on civil marriage more than religious marriage.

Now, their argument is that religion doesn’t recognise divorce, but it is easier to have a divorce if the couple had a civil marriage because it’s more to do with the law and nothing religious. They may have a point but again, their argument doesn’t have enough substance.

Divorce is triggered by various factors ranging from financial problems, through infidelity, to violence and irreconcilable differences among others. If a couple is determined to divorce, nothing will stop them. Who wants to stay with someone they are uncomfortable with when they can just move out?Instead of blaming the law for being weak in regards to divorce laws, we should start with ourselves.

How do we approach the marriage institution nowadays? Two people meet, six months later the girl is pregnant, the wedding takes place faster than an irresponsible father with child support issues will disappear and they start dreaming of a fairy tale wedding. See! In the first place, they are getting married out of convenience and not real love.

Two months down the road, the volcano erupts, arguments ensue, the woman starts to cry, uses denial of conjugal rights as a weapon, husband starts to stay out late with the boys and before they realise, their marriage (which they stressed people to organise and pay for) is over before their child can open its eyes. Marriage is no longer what it used to be, several statistics show that married people are the biggest cheats compared to the unmarried. It has turned into an institution of support, status and irresponsible people. I’m not against marriage but we need to look at marriage in a different angle.

My biggest fear is that we shall get to a point where single parents outnumber married couples.We need to go back to the basics if we are to save our marriages; get to know your partner very well, let he/she be your best friend, learn to solve problems amicably and get to understand that it’s not always about you. It’s about the both of you.

Divorce should come as the last option but the laws shouldn’t be used as reason for divorce.Divorce is war, it’s brutal and expensive but no one wants to stay in a blind marriage. Let’s learn to take responsibility, the laws are there to protect your marriage once it fails but it will not build it for you.

We need to unite not separate


As someone who always advocates for free will, it’s funny that I’m the same person debating that civil marriage, especially in Rwanda, should involve more restrictions than they are today.

There is nothing as bothering as spending your money and time to see your best friend getting married and a month down the road; they are calling you to say that they are getting a divorce.

I don’t want to sound disgruntled when I say that civil marriage should have restrictions that would sabotage the freedom to get divorced. My argument is that we need to unite, not separate; therefore, not giving chance to divorce.

Civil marriage is the uniting in matrimony by a person qualified by law to perform the ceremony, in most cases, a government official who obtains this role by the law to offer valid marriage.

In Rwanda, civil marriage is recognised under Law No 22/99 of 12/11/1999 of Matrimonial Regimes, Liberalities and Successions. The Rwandan constitution clearly bans all forms of non-monogamous marriages from being recognised under civil law. Civil marriage is the form of marriage recognised in Rwanda because it’s the most efficient form of marriage that can easily cater for resolving family disputes, especially where property is involved.

But because of the leeway in getting divorced, this same law is somehow limiting the unification of families. Couples get simple disagreements and before they even find ways to solve them, divorce papers start flying. Therefore if we are to reduce the divorce rate in Rwanda and promote unity in families, we should have limitations for divorce.

Just like the church does not allow one to remarry until their partner is no more, I think even civil marriage should have restrictions like, one should not seek divorce until you have been with your partner for at least five years. I somehow believe that at times, restrictions become beliefs.

With such a restriction, couples will always find a way of trying to solve their differences amicably than heading to court a week or a month after getting married with a request for divorce citing “irreconcilable differences”.

Just as the most common requirement for a civil marriage in Rwanda involves providing a certificate for celibacy and an authenticated proof of settlement of the dowry to the family of the fiancée, the couple should also be given a notice that they should not seek divorce before at least five years of marriage.