Marriage and divorce has always been a touchy subject in South Africa. Our country, with its European, African and local indigenous roots has rather come to be a melting pot of different customs, religious influence and of course tradition.
According to the latest Stats SA Marriages and Divorce Report, more people seem to be getting divorced than married. There were 161 112 civil marriages in total on the system, while 21 998 registered divorces. Furthermore, 50.2% of divorce cases were initiated by wives, and only 33% of cases were initiated by the husband. The rest of the cases remained unspecified.
A healthy family is the life-line of a successful society. A functional family is also the protecting domain of our youth and children. There are also many children-run families that have no other means of survival than the efforts of teenagers and sometimes even that of a younger sibling.
Other interesting statistics include that where women file for divorce, white women are most likely to file for divorce, where black women least likely. Also, in most cases divorcées were bringing their first marriages to an end. Divorce lawyers and psychologists attest that the reasons for divorce in most cases were adultery, unrealistic expectations and of course lack of sexual intimacy.
The average rate for men getting married for the first time was 33, whereas the average age for women getting married averaged on 29. The report is silent on the average age of those getting divorced.
There is also speculation as to the Internet’s influence on marriages and relationships. There are is an overwhelming amount of pornography available on the Internet. There are also well-advertised sites where couples can freely have an affair. Some of these sites are specifically niched for married men and woman wanting to ‘wonder to the greener side in all discretion.’ This includes safety nets like encrypted files, content locked behind passwords, and some sites even have your identity verified.
The abovementioned have definitely allied their attacks on the legitimacy, health, and sustainability of the family. The family is also the life-line of a sustainable society where children are cared for and embraced. There has also been a scary rise in children-headed households, where children are sadly the soul breadwinners.
Children-run households have also been resulted by parents who have contracted the HIV-virus, and many times, because of agitation with our faulty healthcare system and the lack of the needed antiretrovirals, have succumbed to Aids.
Coming back to the divorce rate in South Africa and recommended solutions to the crises; besides increasing sexual intimacy in relationships, a recent British study has concluded that where men assisted with daily household chores, shopping and also with child-minding, divorce rates were much lower. It then makes perfect sense that when our ladies in waiting commence with courtship, they should make sure that prince charming certainly know his way around the kitchen.
A vibrant family encapsulated in marriage also adds to national socio-economic sustainability. Children having two hard-working parents have a better chance at education than those of mono-parent circles. Single-parent households are well-known for disadvantaged youth who lack viable opportunities going forward in life.
The South African family has also had to suffer onslaught in terms of customary and religious influences, with pressure from both sides to conform. In African indigenous cultures it is in fact a shame if a woman does not bare children and is seen that she is at fault. Many a time these couples can actually not afford to have children, and the use of contraceptives are taboo.
This is definitely the case with devout Catholics and other adherents to similar religious convictions, even in certain radical neo-pentecostal circles. There is also onslaught from the more post-modernists who disband marriage as noting but an old traditional picket fence fancy that needs to be phased out.
A civil union provides for security should things go wrong, and parents can claim for child support if either parents are negligent. This is the same for unmarried couples, yet marriage also provides for security in terms of financial stability should things end in a messy divorce.
The media and current social consciousness has also contributed to the dilapidation of the marriage union. Much has been said regarding the emancipation of women, and on the other hand abuse of woman and children. Dysfunctional families without any kind of moral or ethical grounding are susceptible to societal and economic lack.
It should be made a priority by government and the community alike to ring-fence and protect the viability and success of the family unit. It is of imperative importance that children are given the needed love, support and paternal protection they need. No child in South Africa deserves to carry the burden of supporting their siblings. Societal steps should be taken to also reduce the emergence of single parenting.