Burundi: Two Months for Unmarried Couples to Wed in Burundi

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(File photo).

To enact the president's orders on unmarried couples, Burundian officials have begun organizing mass weddings to meet the end of year deadline, something civil society activists oppose as "a violation of human rights".

Burundi is the African mother that's always encouraging every young unmarried person around to get hitched using the popular phrase,"Don't give your milk away for free." The African country is taking great pains to make every eligible couple walk down the isle, even organizing mass weddings to remove as many obstacles as possible.

According to a law that was signed in May by President Pierre Nkurunziza aimed at "moralizing the Burundian society," unmarried couples in the country have less than two months to legalize their relationships or face fines or jail time. Authorities in the southeastern province of Rutana have ordered that "persons living in common-law unions" be put on a special list. Officials in northwestern Bubanza province have demanded unspecified "sanctions" against aisle-dodgers. Additionally once listed any child born out of wedlock will not be eligible for free education and medical costs.

The Burundian government insists that having a legal marriage protects women and their children, especially when it comes to issues of inheritance.

Terence Ntahiraja, interior ministry spokesman, told the AFP news agency that Burundi was facing a population explosion, which he blamed on "illegal marriages", polygamy, bigamy and "hundreds of schoolgirls getting pregnant".

"We want Burundians to understand that everyone is responsible for his life, we want order in this country," he said. "All this is done within the framework of the patriotic training programme," he added, referring to an initiative launched by Nkurunziza in August 2013 to reinforce "positive traditional values."

Some however say the new marriage law infringes on people's religious beliefs, customs and practices. For example the Muslim community in the East African country says the law infringes on their religious beliefs which allows men to marry as many as four wives. "It will be unfair if the law forces the man to register only one wife, what happens to the other wives?" is the question on their minds.

Others argue they cannot afford to marry as it is an expensive affair that entails paying a bribe price and organizing a wedding ceremony

In as much as it is quite bothersome for those living in Burundi to not only receive familial and societal pressure for being unmarried the fact that the government in joining the fray with a more forceful approach is slightly comical. How they came to the conclusion that forcing adults into what is ideally a life long commitment with no regard for their individual circumstances, as a viable solution to anything, is awe inspiring.

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