I came across various posts of young men and women with their elderly spouses on social media.
These pictures although may contain some feelings of embarrassment, were taken in an exotic environments; some in a safari, some on a yacht and others in their luxurious home.
These relationships come with various names and subjects referred to under common names such as sugar babies for the dependents, sugar daddies, mommies or sponsors for the provider.
I personally got nosey and started wondering on the basis of these relationships. Is it love? Is it benefits or financial? And what is usually the end goal of such relationships.
As usual, I posted my query on my social media platforms to get a feel of where my peers and circle stand on this.
To my surprise Rima Akida who is 33 and dates a 63-year-old man reached out to me and Hamidu Jumanne 28 who is soon to be married to 46-year-old also reached out to me shared their personal journeys.
Rima is a university student who met her partner through an event where she had been registered as an usher.
Rima was receiving and guiding guests on the program that day, one of the guests happened to be her now elderly partner.
Rima says, “I usually search for weekend gigs so I can make money for my upkeep and my fees. On this day I was ushering for a big event and I had no intention of finding a man. My current boyfriend showed up and despite of being a prominent person, he was relaxed and kind and we spoke a bit and he left his business card and asked that I reach out to him so we can catch up.”
Rima says as she returned back to her hostels, she shared the news with her friends who teased her that the gentleman was her sugar daddy.
She says she immediately wiped such thoughts from her mind and contemplated not reaching out. “I had completely taken the idea out of my mind, including calling him until my best friend told me to put a pause on my village habits.”
“She said maybe the guy genuinely wanted to be friends and sponsor my education or even sponsor my life and she gave me a list of many girls who were doing well from sponsors. She said if I was not going to make a decision, I should share the card” adds Rima.
Although Rima was not excited about the idea of her life being sponsored but she wanted to complete her education. She is the second born in a family of four kids; her eldest brother is a farmer and a bodaboda driver and her younger sister is in secondary school while the younger brother was completing primary school at the time.
Having a person who could push her through school would have been the biggest blessing at that point.
Rima finally decided to call him and they quickly set a date at a certain sea view restaurant in Dar. It was her first time to be in this part of the city and she was awe stricken. She says the guy was true to his word.
He cleared her fees and eventually as they continued their friendship things unfolded. “He asked me out and it was so weird at first, I did not hate him but I learned of his age and he was older than my father and his last-born daughter was a year older than me” she narrates.
Rima says she does not properly recall how the situation unfolded but the relationship kicked off and as her best friend predicted, more came with it. He rented a house for her and bought her a car eventually.
Life moved on but Rima says it felt awkward and weighed heavy on her heart. She later developed a drinking behaviour because it helped her moving in life in a haze.
Matters got rocky when Rima met a man who was in her age bracket and went to introduce him to her parents as her fiancé.
When she called things off with her older boyfriend, the conversation did not go well. The guy did not only repossess the car and everything in the apartment, he also threatened her telling her that he should never run into them.
Rima says she is not alcoholic anymore and although her life has taken a step back, she has for a long while felt the genuine happiness she was missing.
Rima is still in fear and she also has not confided in her boyfriend about the ongoing situation.
Hamidu Jumanne who now lives in Sweden, was born and raised in Mtwara and later moved to Zanzibar to be a tour guide in at the age of 22 because life was not easy. He survived a lot of hardships. His main aim was to make it so he can help his family.
In 2020 after Covid-19 hit, 28-year-old Hamidu lost his job and was just idle in Zanzibar when he met his wife Onare who is 46-years-old.
He says, “Onare and I were both going through a lot when we met. She was stuck in Tanzania due to the pandemic and I was out of a job due to for the same reason. Luckily the company I worked for gave me a room and two meals and was next to this hotel where my now girlfriend lived. She invited me for meals and we would catch up and often exercised at the beach together”.
Hamidu said the friendship grew deeper; Onare was a total opposite of him, educated and a researcher while he was just a form four graduate with tour guides and artistry experience.
She never judged him and even encouraged him to continue creating his ornaments and other merchandise.
Their friendship grew and before they knew it, they were madly in love. In March 2021, Onare was to return to her country.
Earlier in January they had begun the processes for Hamidu to travel along with her; they were successful and in March travelled to Sweden and are now planning to get married.
“Honestly age is just a number. My girlfriend is kind and guides me about so many aspects in life. I don’t think I would want to be with anyone else” says Hamidu.
In Africa, unfortunately, the age difference marriage is not a new concept, except the difference is the traditional marriages are usually forced and age inappropriate while in the urban area they are usually still considered to as a taboo.
That does not stop them from happening even though many who take part in it do shy away from displaying it.
It has become a trend now where to be a cool, an older person, especially men, need to show off a younger, trophy wife or girlfriend.
Why the need to date older partners?
Love and happiness – Although highly overlooked due to the stereotype that comes with dating an older person, many of these relationships do tend to happen because of a blossomed love and mutual understanding between the partners.
Financial security – This is possibly the most common reason people date.
Financial gain and security pushes many into relationships, even though they may have otherwise not considered.
Material gain and travel opportunity – Much like financial security, others date to gain material possessions. Often, girls are considered materialistic when they get into such arrangements of convenience.
Bragging rights – Having a trophy wife or husband is a major confidence boost while for the dependants, living a lavish lifestyle that you can show off on social media and so forth gives people a feeling of accomplishment that they can brag about.
Easier life – To some, the purpose is always the same; looking for a better and easier life. In the luckiest case they might find even love.
Need for a more ‘mature’ partner – For some, the idea that an elderly person is more mature is more attractive than the thought of a partner in their age range and this creates a biased preference where they find themselves naturally drawn to a much older person.
Religion and traditional requirements – Although frowned upon by many circles and organizations due to the age of the minor, religious and traditional practices play a huge role in the increase of the number of these relationships.
However, unlike their counterparts that date for gain, many of these brides are usually children, well under the age of 18 years, who have no say in these decisions and are not able to make informed choices.
According to an article on the tandfonline.com,” a study found that age mixing practices were more prevalent in Africa.
The perceived reasons for acceptability were: love, survival, and correctness.
Perceived reasons why older women and men have sexual relationships with younger men and ladies included: sexual fulfilment, domination, reduction of stress, physical attraction, procreation, lack of self-control, need for a youthful feeling, difficulty in finding partners of compatible age and young men and women being seen as not demanding.
The article continues to add that the perceived reasons why younger men and women have sexual relationships with older women and men included: material gain, reduction of stress, being enticed, rejection by women and men of compatible age, peer influence and belief that older women are purer from the young men.
Given the increase in sugar mommy and sugar daddy practices, which may have significant implications for the prevalence of HIV/AIDS, it is necessary to understand the underlying perceptions of these practices, in order to develop culturally relevant and socially acceptable intervention programmes.
As much as globalization and many factors have made “age mixing” relationship a cool thing and social media has amplified it, much like the usual age-appropriate relationship there are ups and downs slightly more complications.
Rima shared that she now lives in fear because she does not know what her former older boyfriend would do to her out of spite for her new relationship.
Many studies of age mixing in sexual relationships and those dealing with the issue of sugar daddies and sugar mummies in particular have suggested that such practices inevitably bring them into contact with the risk of contracting STIs and HIV.
For girls, there is the additional risk of unintended pregnancy and abortions.
Studies carried out in the developed and developing countries have often reported that a substantial proportion of girls overlook the possibility of becoming pregnant.
This is also true when they are involved in relationships with sugar daddies.
As reported in a study in Dar es Salaam (Tanzania), a few girls thought they were too young to get pregnant.
This study found that one of the consequences of sexual relations between young girls and sugar daddies was voluntary abortions in case of pregnancy at the request and expense of their sugar daddy partner.
Some sugar daddies even offer assistance in dealing with the problem of pregnancy. This study also found that 73% of the 15 to 19-year-olds admitted to hospital for `incomplete’ abortions reported that their sexual partner was 30 years or older.
In general, these older men do not want to have children with the young girls, but keep and use them for their sexual enjoyment.
Thus, abortion often takes place in these relationships when the partner does not accept the paternity.
Sexual relationships between young people and their sugar daddies and mummies also have potentially deleterious health consequences on both the young person and partner.