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NGO supports women to defy unofficial divorce

10th January 2012
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Inspired by gender activists in many parts of the country, married women are increasingly defying orders given to them by their husbands when the husband ultimately decides to part ways with such women.

It happens that when a man has a quarrel, minor or severe with his wife and decides to break the marriage bond, he issues a memorandum directing the woman to leave the matrimonial home and go back to her parents.

Lately, however, a large number of women assumed to be divorced, have, on being served with such notices, been ignoring them.

“When I was at one time at odds with my husband, he issued a “talaka” and handed it to me. I told him what the paper was all about and he said it implied that I was not wanted in the house any longer,” said Aisha Omari, a resident of Duga Mwembeni in Tanga City.

“I asked him where he expected me to go and he told me to take the letter to my father,” said the 38-year- old housewife, whose marriage to Salim Mbaraka (not real name) is blessed with three children.

Aisha said she told the husband point black that he was perhaps only day dreaming.

“I told him that I would never, never, leave the house and that if he wanted to part ways with me, he should move out and leave me with the children,” revealed Aisha ,whose husband is a petty trader.

She confided to this writer that the trivial misunderstandings between the couple, notwithstanding, there were rumours that her husband wanted to marry another woman, not very far from where they lived.

“I will not leave an inch from our three roomed grass thatched house, even if he came with a bulldozer”.

Aisha’s case is only a drop in the sea. Gender activists and social welfare department workers testify to the fact that many women, assumed to be arbitrarily divorced, visit their institutions for advice on how to go with such serious demands.

“First, such unruly husbands should realize that the only authority which has competent jurisdiction to dissolve a marriage is the court of law,” says Evelyne Mwaimu , coordinator of Women and Children Legal Aid organisation (WOLEA), an advocacy institution for women’s and children’s rights.

“The government, according to the Law of Marriage Act 1971, recognises three types of marriages. There is one where knots are tied by either the government, religions institutions or the traditional type,” said Evelyne, adding, in circumstances where misunderstandings which are likely to lead to divorce, such authorities must be consulted.

She said normally such bodies shall try to reconcile the couples concerned and only direct them to proceed further, where the endeavours to reunite them had not succeeded.

“In one of the cases we had handled, the court ruled that the husband who had ordered his wife out of the house so he could move his unofficial wife to the matrimonial home, abstain from ordering out his legal wife and children,’ said the activist.

“In fact the only privilege extended to the husband by the court was one of visiting the family whenever he wished, provided he is not accompanied by the unaccompanied by the unofficial spouse.’

Another city based gender activist, Aurelia Mtui, attributed the escalating cases of couples’ separation due to economic hardships.

“In some cases where a husband finds the going tough in terms of family maintenance, he resorts to looking far an escape to part with his wife,” says Mtui.

“Such people fail to realize that when couples part ways, each of the partner has, in law, the right to equal distribution of assets accrued during the couples co-habitation,” she asserts.

A 12-year-old boy who migrated to the city from one of the region’s villages recently said “ I came to Tanga after my mother was divorced. When she died, I lived with my grandmother. But the grandpa had no food. In fact in most cases we slept on empty stomachs,” said the victim of divorce.

In essence, divorce has adverse effects on the welfare and wellbeing of children of marriage which is put us under. Inevitably, the children are forced to suffer both mentally and physically.

“While it is ideal that marriage should be a lasting union, and there are various means of bringing social pressures to bear on a couple to compose their differences, the idea that it should be dissoluble only by dealth is rarely found. Divorce is often found preferable,” according to an author.

Normally, marriage is dissolved when there are all indications that is has broken down irreparably- that is beyond repair.

In law, says a city based lawyer, irreparable breaking down of marriage is the ground for dissolution, meaning there are absolutely no chances of recondition between the parties.

“The effects of marriage dissolution are far reaching. Take an example of a marriage which is blessed by children. The off spring will definitely psychologically be affected by losing love and affection of either of their parents,” says an educational psychologist.

“Children, especially at tender age, who normally need close attention of both parents suffer a lot. In many cases, after divorce many families disintegrate,” according to a researcher.

Says a sociologist: “Psychologically, the children are affected because they are either left with one parent, relative or none at all.

These children lack important parental love and affection, consequently they grow up with a feeling that they are neglected, adding that, in effect, criminals are not born but are made by a number of factors, the up keep of our children being among them.’

Salma Majaliwa, a mother of seven children says “These days true love is absent everywhere. True love entails perseverance in anticipation of better life some day with one’s chosen partner. Problems come to pass. One needs restraint in such situations.’

“There are minor cases, which can be solved amicably. I am, for example, supposed to be served by my husband. But if he has no means to support the family and I love him, I am definitely expected to step in and help him take care of the family in whatever circumstances.” she narrates.

SOURCE: THE GUARDIAN
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