Love: When cohabiting is the only option

Olga Kanyange got pregnant while still in college. Because having a baby out of wedlock is frowned upon in society, she was castigated by her own family. Scared to return to her parent’s home, she decided to move in and cohabit with the man who was responsible for the pregnancy. Cohabiting seemed the only option for Kanyange.
Staying together as a couple before marriage is frowned upon.  (Net photos)
Staying together as a couple before marriage is frowned upon. (Net photos)

Olga Kanyange got pregnant while still in college. Because having a baby out of wedlock is frowned upon in society, she was castigated by her own family. Scared to return to her parent’s home, she decided to move in and cohabit with the man who was responsible for the pregnancy. Cohabiting seemed the only option for Kanyange.

 “Maybe it wasn’t the right thing to do, but I wasn’t ready to raise the baby alone. When my partner proposed that we start living together I had to accept,” Kanyange reveals.

 

Although staying with a man before marriage was something she never wanted, going back to her parents’ home with a pregnancy was a no for Kanyange.

 

She banked on the  promise that her boyfriend would make the relationship official and visit her parents.

 

 Cohabiting is always a thorny issue for many a woman but circumstances have pushed many into cohabiting, but regardless of the circumstances, should women embrace cohabiting? 

Annet Mukiga, a gender activist, says that women should try as much as possible to avoid cohabiting; arguing that if one decides to live with their partner then it should be done formerly.

She says that though cases differ, some gender-based violence crimes, among other things, are related to such scenarios and that’s why women should understand that they are the ones who are most affected by such issues.

“You find that women usually contribute to the relationship by doing chores and caring for children yet a man is only interested in acquiring  property and putting it in his name. For a woman to justify that she’s entitled to it is so hard in this case,” Mukiga says.

Pastor Chris Oyakhilome of Christ Embassy Church Rwanda points out that cohabiting is against the Christian teachings and should be avoided.

14757026491
Women are encouraged to first tie the knot before moving in with their partner. 

What the law says about cohabiting

Robert Mugabe, a Kigali-based lawyer warns that cohabiting is illegal because the constitution of Rwanda only recognizes marriage bound by a civil contract.

He says the civil contract outlines three important aspects of the relationship; duties and responsibility, protection of children, divorce and separation. Therefore without a civil contract it’s not marriage.

However, on the issue of property, a woman is entitled to the property if there is evidence that they had both worked for it.

“If two people are living together as a couple but not legally married, a woman is also entitled to the property with evidence showing that they both worked for that property. But in this case, they don’t refer to the family law, it’s the gender-based violence law that is used because it provides other favours to the woman,” Mugabe says.

He continues to explain that in the event of the husband’s passing, relatives cannot have a say on the widow’s property at all unless one has a share indicated in the will. They can only intervene when the wife, father and children are not there and then they come in as a second generation.

Should cohabiting be frowned upon?

Alice Mugabe, a shop attendant, says that cohabiting is not in any way a terrible thing; in fact, she sees it as the best step to take before a relationship is made official.

“If two people are in love and want to be together but aren’t financially stable to organise a wedding, I think it’s better they stay together as they save and later have their dream wedding,” she says.

Mugabe says that cohabiting sometimes helps in knowing each other better before couples settle ‘for better or for worse’.  She thinks the rising rates of divorce are in some way connected partly to some people getting married without knowing each other better.

Ambrose Asiimwe, a procurement officer, says that besides the fact that it’s against the Biblical teachings, cohabiting presents challenges especially for women.

14757027411
Some couples choose to cohabit to avoid the formalities involved with legal marriage.

 “A woman can be easily abused if she chooses to stay with a man before marriage because she wouldn’t be open about her relationship. Besides, few men would value a woman who chooses to just live with them without asking for commitment,” he says.

22-year-old Julienne Uwimana agrees with Asiimwe saying that cohabiting shouldn’t at any point be a woman’s choice, adding that men sometimes can be brutal and that accepting to be with them before marriage can only make matters worse.

 “If one cohabits, it can give a man space to behave in any way they want and vices like cheating can easily prevail since he cannot be held accountable,” she says.

However, for Wilbur Bushara, a medical attendant, cohabiting is a very essential step for any relationship. However, the length of it should matter. He says that a year or two is enough for a couple to cohabit.

 “Cohabiting really gives one the opportunity to know each other from personal to family levels. It also gives one a chance to really tell if the person you’re dating is a marriage material or not,” he says.

According to  Police spokesperson, Celestin Twahirwa, cases of domestic violence related to couples who cohabit are not that many.

“We do receive cases of domestic violence when they are actually related with couples who are living as husband and wife illegally, however they are not that many in number.”

Is it wrong to cohabit before marriage?

14757029131
Musimenta

Anyone who follows and respects their religious values shouldn’t consider cohabiting before marriage. Staying together before marriage is a temptation, and Christian values discourage people from attracting temptation. I don’t see the reason why a couple can’t wait until they are married to stay together.

Maureen Musimenta, University student

******************************************************************

14757030451
Muhawenimana

I think the reason many people go for cohabiting before marriage is that they want to first get to know each other, which in my opinion is wrong. There is courtship, where a couple experiences things together, and gets enough time to get to know each other without necessarily staying together.  Couples should understand that relationships shouldn’t be seen as marriage; it’s only after legal marriage that people should stay together.

Teddy Muhawenimana, merchant

******************************************************************

14757031321
Kamikazi

If a couple has been in a relationship for a good amount of time and they understand each other, have goals for the future, and are committed to taking their love forward, then cohabiting is fine. Staying together will enable the couple to plan their future effectively and also, build a strong bond.

Phiona Kamikazi, customer care agent

******************************************************************

14757031941
Monica Mabeyi

I don’tsee the significance of staying together as a couple when religiously and legally you are not as one. Cohabiting before marriage is ignoring all the social values that guide couples and set principles for a real marriage. Patience is very important in life, most especially between lovers; a couple should wait until they are married to stay together.

Monica Mabeyi, Administrator

editorial@newtimes.co.rw

You want to chat directly with us? Send us a message on WhatsApp at +250 788 310 999    

 

Follow The New Times on Google News