10 January 2013

Uganda: Must Marriage Be Such a Big Deal?


Unless you are a Roman Catholic priest or nun, society expects you to get married some day. Even if you later get out of that relationship, that history should at least be there. But increasingly, a lot of people are choosing to stay single, Gloria Nakajubi and John Odyek explore.

I am not getting married," Oprah Winfrey told CNN's Piers Morgan in an interview in 2011. Barely months later, while filming the show Oprah's Next Chapter, the famous talk-show host remarked again:

"I am not the marrying kind." She talked about how she was still a happily single woman despite dating her partner Graham Steadman for 26 years.

Winfrey said she would be divorced by now had she tied the knot. Her comments came as a surprise to her fans.

When the I am-not-the-marrying-kind phrase is uttered by a woman, it often prompts reactions such as: "Yeah, right." And if the woman in question is in her late 30s and older, the assumption is that she must be undesirable.

Yet increasingly, a lot of people - men and women - are choosing to stay single. "It is my life and I choose to do whatever I feel like with it," says one Ramena Kizito, a sales executive.

Andrew Kuteesa, a credit analyst, thinks that marriage always appears to raise the status of a person. He, however, says it does not guarantee happiness.

"People should stop assuming that marriage is happiness," says Kuteesa. Judith Babirye, a renowned gospel artiste, who has since separated with her husband, says it depends on certain factors.

She says if one chooses to stay single, then he or she needs not to be judged since marriage is a choice and we have such celebrated men in the Bible like Paul, the apostle, who never married.

"Marriage is really a big deal as long as you find someone you can connect with and become one. Other than that, you end up getting into a partnership of conflict and you regret," Babirye says.

Some people argue that when you are single, you have all the freedom to do what you want without restrictions and can achieve great success as far as career, education and general social life is concerned.

Is something wrong with those who choose single life?

The decision to live a single life is a disappointment to mostly conservative people. One time, at the end of a long night, Kizito says she found thieves had broken into her house.

The next day, while recounting to male colleagues what had happened, one of them remarked: "Your biggest problem is that you have never picked a man to marry. You need to have a man to protect you."

Going by the Uganda Constitution, a girl is eligible for marriage from the age of 18. However, because of the social and economic changes in society, some girls have chosen to concentrate on their careers fulltime, leaving absolutely no room for marriage, even years after school.

Rosemary Nyakikongoro, the vice-chairperson Uganda Women Parliamentary Association observes that while reaching 18 years or more was not a sanction for a girl to get out of her parent's home, a woman was expected to get married as soon as she finished school.

Beyond that, she stresses that society in Uganda thinks that girls who are out of home on their own are loitering around looking for men and being immoral.

She cautions that between 35 to 45 years, it is too late for a woman to leave home and start producing children. "Beyond 45 years, you are reaching menopause. Between 25 to 35 years is the age a woman is active and can run around and she is productive and can procreate," says Nyakikongoro.

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