Divorce clause: The law cannot fix what is irreconcilably broken

Man-woman-child-paper-torn-apartBack when I was still a law school student I thought it hilariously unfortunate that an unhappy couple had to stay married for five years before they could get divorced. Why did I think it was hilarious? Because it boggled my mind that lawmakers could even attempt to get intervene in a failed marriage. In my estimation it was a recipe for disaster.

Imagine this scenario; a couple marries too young and then grows apart. Or they get married because the girl is pregnant, an event colloquially known as the ‘Kigali Proposal’.  Later on, they find that raising a child together isn’t a good enough reason to stay in a marriage that isn’t working. So, instead of wasting any more time they want to amicably go their separate ways. But they find that they have to stay ‘married’ for another five years.

Unfortunately, our laws intervene in even such mutual, and private, matters. I believe that this refusal to let a marriage ‘die gracefully’ is borne out of two things; our culture as Rwandans and the advent of Christianity (more especially Catholicism).  Culturally and religiously speaking, the very idea of divorce was abhorrent to Rwandans.

Historically, a man who sent his wife back to her parents (known as ‘Gusenda’ in Kinyarwanda) because he was unable to ‘Kwihangana’ (to persevere) lost face. He was seen as a failure. So, in a society where losing face was sometimes worse than death, divorce was not a step taken lightly.

When Rwanda become colonised and evangelised, divorce became even more taboo. In Matthew Chapter 19 Verse 9, Jesus says, and I quote, I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” So, when married couples vowed to stay married “til death do us part” the entire community fully expected them to fulfill those vows come hell or high water.

I sincerely understand the points of view of those who support the idea of a waiting period. I can’t think of any married couples that enter into the divorcemarriage contract thinking theirs is the marriage that wont stand the test of time. However, the fact is, some simply don’t.  And while I can understand the larger family getting involved and attempting to repair the relationship, why in the world is the State getting involved? Is it not simply overreaching and putting its nose in matters that don’t affect it?

Yes it regulates the marriage age. Yes it regulates the marriage process (the wedding banns and what not). But that doesn’t mean that it has the right to refuse divorce, especially when it is by mutual consent. To continue doing so is an imposition on personal freedoms.

Parliamentarians are butting their noses into business that doesnt concern them

Parliamentarians are butting their noses into business that doesnt concern them

The State should not have the right to tell me when I can or cannot divorce. It’s simply preposterous. I am honestly shocked that our Members of Parliament are simply thinking about reducing the ‘waiting period’ from five to two. I urge them to stop living in a fantasy world where if they don’t allow a couple to divorce, they will magically fall in love again and live happily ever after. That way of thinking should be left to Hollywood romantic-comedy scriptwriters than hardnosed legislators.

I know that the ‘marriage-at-all cost brigade’ will bash me for my views. But I stand by them. I believe that we need laws that protect personal freedoms and treat us like adults. Currently, our legislators are not giving us the respect that we deserve. We are being infantilised by a State that is guilty is over-reaching.  I urge our MPs to take us forward. Help create a nation that is more liberal, not less.



One thought on “Divorce clause: The law cannot fix what is irreconcilably broken

  1. David Kaligamba says:

    Sunny, thank you for the well written article. This is, I believe, a very big issue concerning our country. I personally disagree with couple points you made here. First and foremost, as stated above, I think this is actually something that the MPs should examine with care. I heard one man saying once that “Before removing a fence, examine why it was placed there in the first place.” I think we should be concerned by how changing this law will affect marriage itself. Now, I am not suggesting that the law shouldn’t be changed, but what are the implication of this changes. For instance, how could the change affect society. And yes you could say that either way the person will end up getting the divorce,but I think these laws provide protection in regard to the value this institution holds in our culture. I believe marriage is sacred; moreover, I believe the decision to part ways does affect society. This could be directly or indirectly. Arguably, high divorce rates is something that could be negative to our society. The question should be asked then, how will this affect us as a society in the near future as well as the next generation. And with that question in mind one can decide.

    Thank you again! Looking forward to converse a little more about the issue.

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