Have we made it too easy to divorce?

More than 17 per cent of marriages have ended in a split

In Summary

• It's now so common, we are numbed to the gravitas. Urgent intervention is needed


I did not realise just how bad divorce cases were in our society until I spoke with my mother-in-law. She is from Congo, and during one of our conversations, I was casually explaining to her about some of my relatives and who they were married to or if they were divorced and so on. “So many divorces!” she exclaimed.

She proceeded to tell me how divorce is extremely rare in the Congo. My husband echoed her sentiments when he said he had never come across any divorced people in his lifetime, especially in the Congo, until he heard my stories. He said he often wondered how I spoke so casually about my people being divorced.

I have been exposed to broken marriages and homes all my life. From my siblings to great-grandparents to far distant relatives and friends, almost every family I know has separated or divorced persons. The issue is proliferating so much that it no longer surprises me.

Just today, I learnt of another broken marriage within the extended family. Sadly, I was not surprised. The said relative is my junior, who got married after me and has a year-old baby. Although it is sad for families to break up, what is worse is the alarming rate of its occurrence, to the point where it numbs us from the gravitas of the issue.

In 2019, I wrote about the high rates of divorce in Lamu based off a news segment that aired on Television. I tied the news segment with my observances of the same within the Muslim/coastal communities.

My people did not like the article very much. They held discussions on Twitter, condemning me for my ‘unfair representation and bogus reports’.

Meanwhile, the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics reported a steady increase in divorce cases over the last five years. In 2020, it was recorded that more than 17 per cent of marriages had ended in divorce.

To be clear, this number corresponds to all married persons in Kenya regardless of tribe or religion. I often speak from a point of view of ‘my people’ (that is, Coasterians and Muslims), but the divorce pandemic runs rampant throughout the country. Recently, most divorce cases are said to be among young people.

I am always flummoxed at the idea of young love dying prematurely. Within my peer group, I have witnessed many who have vehemently fought for their love, for the right to marry the person they want even if it meant losing the rest of their family. Sadly, some of my peers, who actually went through this tough process of fighting for their choice, are already broken up. If young people are marrying for love, then why does it end so fast?

I wonder if our society has made it too easy to divorce. Our society has made it possible for the lamest reasons to be grounds for divorce. For instance, if the woman claims the man is not providing, that is grounds for divorce. If the woman cannot cook, then the man believes he has a right to ask for divorce. I have heard of some ridiculous reasons as to why couples split up.

My mother-in-law said in their society, the elders are charged with keeping peace in a homestead. If there is a quarrel between a man and his wife, then the elders intervene to find a solution. I wonder if we do not have any elders in our societies to carry out these duties, or have we just lost respect for them? Is making the divorce process harder a solution to keeping families together?

There are many reasons why couples fall apart, but there are precious reasons why families should stay together. We need to find viable solutions to help keep couples together and happy. If not for us, then for the future generations that need stable, happy homes.

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