'Economic challenges major cause of divorces'

HARARE - Economic challenges, changes in value systems and increasing access to the legal system have been labelled as the major drivers of an increase in divorce cases and civil law suits in Zimbabwe.

This comes after the minister of Justice and Legal Affairs Patrick Chinamasa said divorce and other lawsuits went up by at least 50 percent last year. The increase necessitated the need for more judges, resulting in the swearing in of four more judges late last year.

Chinamasa said the High Court handled 18 000 civil cases last year alone, with divorce cases topping the list.

Emmie Wade, director at Kunzwana Women’s Clubs, said: “With regard to rural women, there is a sudden surge to be economically engaged. Women are coming forward to learn specific practical skills and are increasingly contributing to family livelihoods.

The downside has been husbands feeling threatened and humiliated by these emerging cadres of women who are that confident and able to make decisions and have choices.”

Wade said Kunzwana requires more resources in order to educate men and women on gender equality issues so that the empowerment of women does not result in a backlash in the home.

Netty Musanhu, director of Musasa Project, said people knew very little about their marriage partners.

“People no longer value the system of marriage. They take little time to know the person they are going to marry leading to wrong choices. A lot of infidelity is going on in the homes. We need to relook at the marriage system,” said Musanhu.

A support system around marriages that includes cultural and religious forms is no longer evident, Musanhu said.

“There is a lack of aunts and uncles who used to support marriages and help build relationships but there are cases where a woman is not supposed to stay in a marriage. When it turns violent then it is not working,” she said.

Kevin Hazangwi director of Padare, a men’s forum, said there is need to understand that powerful men need to be married to powerful women.

“There are some powerful men who want to make sure they marry less powerful women, which is problematic because women are being trained to be powerful. Women are no longer submissive, they are relating to their male counterparts as equals. If they are treated as lesser partners they walk away,” he said.

Hazangwi said the patriarchal nature where men are heads of households is being challenged in a number of houses as women are becoming leaders in their homes and even becoming breadwinners.

“There is need to do a deeper analysis on the drivers of divorce but this is an opportune time to reignite the debate of what is a marriage in Zimbabwe.”

However, Netsai Mushonga national coordinator of Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe said divorce cases are not coming from the blue as they are a result of heightened legal education.

“Women are now more aware of their rights and of where to go when they find themselves in a situation. This is not very surprising and it is not something out of this world, they are as a result of an increase in legal awareness.” - Margaret Chinowaita, Community Affairs Editor

Comments (1)

I think there is a need in traditional way of counselling to educate young boys and girls before marrige

vitalis mandisodza - 4 March 2015

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