Marrying for convenience
Published On November 7, 2022 » 3949 Views» By Times Reporter » Features
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AFRICA is grappling with a high rate of divorce which is changing the landscape of relationships.
An insight into marriages, which has also become a tangible reality in Zambia partly due to the influence of Western culture requires a good portion of time to unpack.
The Western way of doing things has led to traditional family patterns in Africa being altered and replaced by what people think are modern family values, such as individualism and marriages of convenience which have become part of the social problems.
Due to high poverty levels in some households, child marriages have also become a coping mechanism, with some rural families seeking to reduce the burden of feeding the family by marrying off their daughters at a tender age.
Today, men must pay their own bride price.
Mutual ties that existed among families, in which responsibilities required a communal approach, have been abandoned.
For men, it is this concern over financial readiness and obligation that they must carry in the marriage process which has also resulted in marriages of convenience.
It is now commonly for some young men to pick a friend, a colleague or any one not suited as a role model, to help them make marriage arrangements, do negotiations and plan for married life as money plays the biggest factor.
It is important to note that family involvement in a marriage plays a big role in any society because it opens doors for parental commitment and responsibility towards one’s marriage.
With rural boys and girls going into their college and university life and then finding themselves in an urbanized environment has also led to a shift in attitudes towards marriages.
Because of so many social challenges affecting individuals and some families, marrying for convenience may sound like a Western practice, and yet slowly, it is becoming a reality.
A marriage of convenience is considered to be any union that is not based on either love or the goal of establishing a loving relationship between partners.
Some relationship experts have noted that marriages of convenience are usually products of infatuation where people rush in decision making while others may have mere intentions.
While at university campus, Maria (not real name) found herself cohabiting with a man.
Her family was not aware.
But she felt this option would sustain her livelihood while pursuing her education.
After completing her studies, Maria could not imagine herself going back to the village as it had nothing to offer her.
She decided to search for a job in town.
Jack (not real name) also has to hustle to survive town life.
But the harsh realities he faces land him in a relationship with a rich woman who is older than him and he is forced to live with her.
Among the most emotionally and mentally costly moments in life are those where one has to make a rush decision when it comes to marriage.
It is these marriages of convenience where some men and women have committed suicide or abused their partners because they feel coming to the aid of their partners cannot go in vain.
Some marriage counselors have expressed concern on how the young generation is making decisions on marriage matters very lightly only to be haunted by the impact of those decisions later on.
We have young people who feel getting a girl or woman pregnant should lead to marriage.
We also have young partners deciding to get married without the knowledge of their families.
For some, the notion of getting married ‘for true love’ is not important.
As a result, there is a trend showing a rise in the prevalence of cohabitation that has become a prominent feature among marriages of convenient in our communities.
Back in our rural and periurban setups, school teachers have become accustomed to seeing their most promising female pupils drop out each term due to early pregnancies or are just married off by their families for convenience purposes.
A teacher who declined to be named said marriages of convenience in rural communities are indirectly practiced and children involved may not be aware.
“Sometimes their bride price is paid while they are in school without their knowledge and some of them end up in polygamous marriages. There is no love to it. Some of these parents have poor motives of benefitting financially without considering the plight of their daughters,” the teacher said.
It is clear from what one can see that some of these are marriages of convenience, where one wants to continue having children and getting a younger wife, seem right for some.
Usually victims from vulnerable homes are targeted as their vulnerability puts them at risk while their parents try to run away from their responsibilities.
Studies show that children from vulnerable families are twice more likely to marry for convenience than those from wealthier families.
This is usually so because the families of poor children think marrying them off will leave the family with one less mouth to feed.
A Ndola based marriage counselor said despite not approving to marriages of convenience, such as cohabiting, failure of parents to educate their children in school had led to such marriages causing more harm than good.
Tendon Chansa said there is also a rise in the number of single young women and men over the age of 30 who are ambitious with pursuing their dreams.
“However, the pressure from their families to see them marry even for convenience, like having a child, is mounting as they feel age is catching up with them. We need to understand that for single partners planning to get married today, the wait pays off because it helps them to obtain more secure and stable livelihoods for their future and prepares their minds adequately for marriage,” the counsellor said.
Mr Chansa said it is a time for people to reflect on having a more realistic expectation about their partners.
He said building a stronger foundation for family life must be an important aspect before people make a decision to marry.
“For those that think someone should be providing a roof through cohabiting or marrying for convenience as they need to pay their education and other bills should realise that this is not the solution for anyone,” he said.
The concern of marrying for convenience is timely as all forms of abuse in relationships and unresolved Gender Based Violence (GBV) continues to affect communities.
Similarly, marriages of convenience have impacted the mental wellbeing of some individuals, leading to suicide, high divorce rates and health of young girls forced into early marriage resulting in maternal deaths and deaths during child bearing.
The free education policy; expansion of Social Cash Transfer; and empowerment of women, youth and communities, will play an important role in addressing obstacles that lead to marrying for convenience as this will empower citizens.
In addition, if these policies are effectively implemented and sustained, we will have a productive society contributing to the economy.
For comments jessiengm@gmail.com.

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