What you need to know:
Encouraging everyone to enter a marriage with a ledger book defies the essence of marriage
Uganda recently amended its old divorce law triggering a lot of bickering and disgruntlement in the corridors. While the old law provided that the couple was to share equally all properties owned at the time of divorce, the new one states that property should be divided according to each one’s contribution to its accumulation during the marriage. As the saying goes, the wind blows differently for different people. While some are celebrating, others, including myself, are skeptical because I know that the law is not gold however much it glitters.
In my opinion, a law that favours only the rich and powerful is not a good law. For instance, this law seems focused on only things that can be quantified yet there is more people contribute to a marriage that cannot be quantified. In a country that is yet to establish something as basic as a minimum wage, how will we quantify domestic work which is the bedrock of those who toil day and night to support homes and society at large? How can you quantify ideals such as kindness, patience, prudence, commitment or unconditional love that make homes what they are?
What about self-sacrifice and the sleepless nights caused by anxiety and worry over children that come with attendant challenges of parenting? I would like to know how much it costs to decongest a baby’s nose with your mouth when they cannot breathe deep in the night. Is it worth Shs100,000? What about one’s son’s pee straying into their eyes and nostrils?
I know that it was not by mistake that life has been structured in a way that the weak are able to depend on the strong and that the strong rely on the weak. If life was lived in a black and white world where it was a pound for a pound transaction, it would be too expensive for anyone to be able to live comfortably. Although some might scoff at the need to protect the family as a unit and are blind to its enormous value, marriages are not just practical but are also helpful in mitigating many social disasters.
Even as far back as the Old Testament times, it was understood that for some reason or another some people will find themselves at the fringes of society and it was that society’s role to take care of them. For instance, the famous Moabite woman was able to feed herself and her mother-in-law by gleaning from rich people’s plantations. Had there been no such provisions, we would not have the beautiful story of Ruth.
In more recent times, in Uganda, there was the affirmative action in the 1990s to increase female enrolment in higher institutions of learning because of the many disadvantages girls face in schools. But all that has now been lost in this a topsy-turvy world we find ourselves in where property gives a man rank, wealth is equated with virtue and lies bring success.
It is no wonder that the very people who should be speaking out for the defenseless are the ones drafting polices that take away even the little protection they have. Recently, I read about economist Elinor Ostrom who won a Nobel Prize for demonstrating that behaviour which benefits an individual at the group’s expense is tragic because it leads to everyone behaving the same way until the whole group is annihilated.
So, what is needed is not just another government policy or civil society campaign or any other form of bureaucratic action but creating empathy and understanding of what marriage and family is. Encouraging everyone to enter a marriage with a ledger book defies the very essence of marriage where two are expected to become one and as much as this might seem like enjoying one’s independence it is but a poor substitute for the real thing.
So, the key to making marriages work is exposing people to the wonderful fruits of a strong family unit so that everyone has a clear perspective of what their role is towards the survival of the whole. Let us not turn families into battlefields where couples lose sight of all the good things that marriages bring and focus on who will get what. Rather, let us refocus our energies to equipping people with the right skills so that there is increased overall productive capacity for the economy.
There is reason to believe that once everyone is on the winning side of the economy, there will be no need to fight to acquire for oneself what rightfully belongs to everyone.
Way forward. Let us not turn families into battlefields where couples lose sight of all the good things that marriages bring and focus on who will get what. Let us refocus our energies to equipping people with the right skills so that there is increased overall productive capacity.