Dar es Salaam. It is always the dream of most married couples to live happily together until death does them apart.
It is also the wish of parents, relatives and friends to see young families raise healthy children in peace and tranquility.
Nonetheless, the reality on the ground is quite different.
A recent report shows that not only has the rate of divorce doubled within six years, but about half of people who have reached the age of marriage have not yet married.
The National Panel Survey of 2014/15 carried out on Tanzania’s households by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) shows that the rate of divorce has doubled within the last six years (by survey date), a situation that threatens the future of that important institution.
The report shows that the rate of divorce has increased from 1.1 per cent in 2008/09 to 2.1 per cent in 2014/15.
This means that currently for every 100 people who have reached the age of marriage in the country, two have been divorced.
The study further reveals that out of 100 who are marriageable, 40 are not yet married.
Besides, four couples out of 100 have separated, meaning that their chances of divorce increase if a lasting solution is not found to iron out their differences.
Normally, marriage breakups deny the children the love of both parents. Lack of parental care has been one of the major reasons for the increase of street children.
Reacting to the report, experts said the study paints a dire picture on the future of the nation taking into consideration the fact that marriage is a key institution of love, peace, solidarity and stability for any country.
The survey’s findings, which were published early this year, concur with those of the 2012 census that show that 715,447 people had been divorced, which is equivalent to three persons out of 100 who have reached marriage age.
The regions of Unguja South, Mtwara, Urban West, Lindi and Unguja North have a higher rate of divorce as the rate is over four per cent, which is above the nation’s average of three per cent, according to the statistics of the 2012 Census.
It is not necessary for those who divorce in courts of law to tender their divorce papers to the Registration Insolvency and Trusteeship Agency (Rita) as statistics of the Agency show that the number of divorces has been low compared to the statistics in the NBS survey.
Despite a few number of documented divorces, Rita says that the number of the married couples divorcing has been increasing year after year in the country as in Dar es Salaam alone the number of divorcees has shot up from 106 in 2014 to 149 last year, something that tells the real situation of NBS’s survey.
“It is very possible that divorces are more than our findings show because most of the married couples don’t know how to register their divorcing papers with us so that we can provide them with documents,” says Mr Josephat Kimaro, Rita’s manager for Marketing, Information and Public Education.
“We have started a process of communicating with courts so that soon after those courts have presided over divorces, the divorcees can bring us the divorce papers for registration,” Mr Kimaro added.
Rita’s reports indicate that there have been some marriages that have lasted for less than one year including the one that took eight months in court until a divorce statement was registered by Rita.
The Marriage Act of 1971 stipulates that a declaration of separation or divorce is required to be issued by a court of law only after satisfying itself with the reasons given by the married couple.
Section 100 of the law details that a court of law cannot hear divorce cases of marriages that have lasted under two years and for it to hear them it must satisfy itself that one of the couples suffers miserably.
The Women’s Legal Aid Centre (WLAC) clarifies in its booklet about the marriage law that, “written or verbal divorces in the streets by the married couples are no recognised by the marriage law.”
“A divorce must be decided by a court of law so that the rights of either of the couple are clearly declared,” reads part of the WLAC booklet issued in 2013.
The Citizen has discovered that unfaithfulness and the behavioral change between the married couples are some of the main reasons for divorce.
Ms Esther (not her real name) says she divorced her husband last year after his behaviour changed for the worst.
“When we got married he was sympathetic and tender and loveable. In fact I can say that he was attentive, submissive and hardworking. He was the real father of the family. But he soon changed completely. He would shout at me for some trivial things,” she says.
Before they parted ways they took their case to close relatives of both sides. They also involved religious leaders, but still the husband did not want to listen to anybody, a situation that led to the divorce.
“I didn’t like to go through the ordeal of divorce because we already had a child, but his behaviour made my life miserable. At least now I am relieved. And I’m told that he has already married another woman, who, I think, was the one behind his sudden behavioural change,” says Esther. She says they had been dating for nine months before they married.
For their part, religious leaders, who also preside over marriages to unite groom and bridegroom and solving marital problems, say it is not surprising to see the rate of divorces was on the rise.
They say it is all about moral decay among the married couples and the failure of the couple to understand each other better before marriage.
Sheikh Khamis Mataka, the chairman of the National Muslim Council of Tanzania (Bakwata), says divorces were on the rise because of the weaknesses of the married couple, who are supposed to live in love and unity until death separates them.
“Before marrying, you are supposed to know if your partner has all the qualities required including satisfying yourself with her/his behaviour, family, social ability and if she/he can become a social person.
“Unfortunately, nowadays things have changed. You find out that a married person doesn’t know even the history of his wife/her husband. What matters most is wealth,” says Sheikh Mataka.
Getting into wedlock while the married couple are ‘blind’ to each other’s history, according to Sheikh Mataka, in most cases makes their marriage start to sway once everyone starts showing their real colours.
Besides that, Fr Festo Liheta of Kiwalani Parish of the Catholic Archdiocese Catholic of Dar es Salaam says that the increased enlightenment on the rights of women, improved women’s income and marital sex problems have, to a large extent, contributed to an increase in divorces.
Fr Liheta says culturally men are heads of families, but now, he adds, most women are more knowledgeable about their rights than men, whom they don’t like to see denying them.
“Economic affairs contribute a lot to marriage breakups. When a person is in good position financially, such a person can be independent and cannot accept to be harassed. This is contrary to the past, whereby women tolerated because of getting little income,” says Fr Liheta, who carried out a study about marriage breakups.
Besides that, Fr Liheta touches on some problems about marriage sex, saying they were also contributing to lack of faith between the couple, especially when one fails to satisfy the other hence fueling divorce.
“In the past, sex in marriage was just for having children, but nowadays it has become pleasure. So, when one is not satisfied, one will have sex out of marriage. In this, men will have to make efforts in ending differences emanated from sex,” he says.
“Despite warning him, he didn’t listen to her. That man, whom she was communicating with, told her it was a woman, who was after him,” narrates Sheikh Mataka on the case as an example of the married couple failing to have faith in each other.
Sheikh Mataka, who is a teacher of the Islamic religion, also explains how he worked on a resent case about a married couple, whereby husband found his wife making frequent communication with a man, whom she allegedly had an affair with.
Not only do the ever-increasing divorces affect married couples, but also affect the whole family including the families of both husband and wife. “The ever-increasing number of divorces may also result in an increase in the number of members of the family of a single parent,” says Mr Abbasy Mlemba, a senior tactician at NBS.
“The innocent children are denied the right of living with both of their parents, a situation that may subject them to life hardships, living and begging in the streets, forced into child labor and crime without forgetting teen pregnancy.”
The remedy of divorces
To reduce the problem of the differences between the couple, Fr Liheta beseeches both fiancé and fiancée to give more time to each other so that they can well understand each other before marriage. According to Ft Libeta, this includes the fiancé knowing the origin of his fiancée, the place and vice versa.
In his views, Sheikh Mataka says the economic affairs cannot be the reason of divorce between the married couple, advising partners wishing to marry they first ought to evaluate themselves well, have true love and the genuine determination of getting into marriage including being ready to counter its challenges.
However, the government says it is well aware of the matter as it has already laid down some strategies of working on it for the wellbeing of families and the nation in general.
The community development spokesman at the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender and Children, Mr Erasto Ching’oro, says divorce does not only affect the couple. Wealth production is also affected, thereby defeating efforts to end poverty in the country and the Vision 2025 to take the country to a middle income economy. Following those effects, he says, the government is now implementing the nation’s action plan of eradicating violence against women and children and strengthening relationships among the married people.
“The government wants children to be brought up by both parents so as to ensure their security and welfare are taken care of in every step of their upbringing. So, in the five-year action plan we have planned to reduce the rate of divorces by 50 per cent by 2021,” says Ching’oro.
In the action plan which was started to be implemented in July, this year, until 2021, Ching’oro says traditional and religious leaders including representatives of civil society organizations and social workers are involved in providing education about relationships and marriages so as to reduce rates of divorces, violence against women and child abuse.