What is the solution to rising divorce cases in Rwanda?

On 30 January 2023 at 11:13

Three years ago, the couple of Mugabo and Mukaneza (not real names) was about to break up over misunderstandings on who should use contraceptives. The idea had been introduced by Mugabo who told his wife Mukaneza that they should control births after giving birth to three children in nine years despite their limited financial means for survival.

Mukaneza refused to use contraceptives and asked her husband to undergo vasectomy, a proposal which he also rejected. Since then, the family got in wrangles and the spouses ceased trusting each other.

The family residing in Gahanga Sector of Kicukiro District later benefitted from mentorship program through Catholic Church’s affiliated organization that strives to help spouses live in complementarity.

Through a program dubbed ‘Ubusugire bw’Ingo’ translated as ‘Families’ stability’, Mugabo and Mukaneza received mentorship until they agreed on the proper method to control births.

The couple has told IGIHE that their family was at the verge of break-up as the wife was fed up with daily clashes while the husband was too bored of staying with a partner whom they did not share the same vision.

Experts in family relationships point out drunkenness, adultery, lack of preparations for marriage and poor communication between spouses among reasons that might lead to break-ups.

Speaking to IGIHE, Dr. Rutwaza Bernardin an expert in social relationships has said that getting married is a calling that requires spouses to get enough preparations.

“Emphasis should be drawn on enough preparations for couples before marriage to get deep understanding of the calling. This helps partners to make the right decision before living together. With such preparations, they will be aware that there are pros and cons but the negative side of a marriage can be turned positive if partners are able to sit together for discussions to solve problems affecting them.

I am convinced that divorces can be reduced if couples go through this process. Most couples break up because they join the calling without knowing what it requires. Getting married involves patience, understanding and friendly interactions among others,” he said.

In 2019, at least 8, 941 families in Rwanda were allowed by the courts to divorce as reported by the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda (NISR). The number increased by 6.8 times since 2018.

Over 2,400 divorces were recorded in the City of Kigali, 1,989 in Southern province, 1,820 in Western province, and 1,482 in Eastern province and 1,250 in Northern Province.

However, statistics also show that in the same year (2019), about 48,526 marriages were legally pronounced.

Nationwide divorce cases filed to court increased by 1, 900 percent from 69 in 2017 to 1, 311 in 2018.

The cases of divorce in 2019 were estimated at 18.4% in consideration of consideration of families legally married in the same year.

The issue prompted the Catholic Church to conduct research on best ways to maintain stability among married couples and the role of non-governmental organizations to meet the goal.

The study’s findings were released on 24th January 2023 during a retreat that brought together the Catholic Church, religious denominations and non-governmental organizations to discuss benefits of promoting a stable Rwandan society.

The Minister of Gender and Family Promotion, Prof. Jeannette Bayisenge highlighted that it should be a collective responsibility to promote and ensure family’s stability.

She stated that the Government of Rwanda has expended much effort to promote family’s wellbeing ’because the constitution indicates that it is the foundation for Rwandans and is protected by the government’.

Minister Bayisenge said that educating the youth about what it takes to create a family through youth’s forums or schools among other platforms would be among ideal solutions.

She observed that a household should be established after thorough considerations, knowing what it is and involved responsibilities when it comes to raising children among others.

“All these aspects should be considered instead of peer pressure or doing it under the pressure of parents,” she said.

The President of Rwanda’s Episcopal Conference, Cardinal Antoine Kambanda said that a young boy inherits the characters of his father like a girl inherits behaviours of her mother. He was alluding to the need for parents to be role models for their children.

He explained that the church wished to extend teachings preparing couples about to get married for six months even though some people assert that he calling of establishing a household is unique.

“It becomes apparent that taking action is needed but it should be centered on offered education from childhood to the adulthood when it is time to get married,” he said.

Cardinal Kambanda attributed the rise in divorce cases to different factors including cultural dilution.

“In Kigali City, there is an influence of foreign cultures because many of them lived abroad or travelled there. This comes as an addition to social media platforms that expose them to different cultures. There are some of them who have started considering spouses’ life-long engagement as impossible,” he said.

Cardinal Kambanda explained that divorce is a process as is the case for preparations for marriage. He underscored that love requires patience and humility to ensure peaceful coexistence between people of various backgrounds.

“He/she has good qualities and imperfections. I love him/her for the positive side but I will tolerate vices. When a person gets married, he/she has to lead the entire family. Married couples begin a new life where both partners need to embrace qualities of good wives and husbands vice versa,” he noted.

The National Coordinator of Reseaux des Femmes, Uwimana Xaverine said that a woman is the center of the household but stressed the need for smooth communication among spouses to make decisions together on issues of common interests and respect each other.

The coordinator of Association Modeste et Innocent, Bizimana Jean Baptiste also stressed that knowing each other and enough preparations before marriage are key for couples’ relationships to thrive.

He said that some people were influenced by religions and beliefs where they can marry wives recommended by other people under the guise of a promise of God but without having developed the love in themselves.

Bizimana also highlighted that some couples get married because they are just attracted by physical appearances, wealth or other considerations that the union might be affected easily.

The Bishop of Byumba Diocese, Papias Musengamana also said that misunderstandings between couples stem from education acquired from childhood and mindsets that change overtime.