Association for Free Research and International Cooperation

Arranged marriages fade out in Africa

16.04.2019
Article from AFRIC editorial
Parents choosing and arranging spouses for their children is an age long practice in some, if not, most part of the continent. Parents had total control over the choice of the spouse of their children and could either reject or accept a suitor if he or she does not meet their convictions. Most parents identified and arranged a spouse who is either believed to be from a respectable and wealthy family or whose family background is verified and approved. In recent times a lot has changed and the paradigm is shifting more towards children making the choices for themselves.

Marriages in Africa is a very important institution and most families place a very high value to it. In most customs, it is considered very sacred and usually celebrated with grandeur and families invest time and energy in making the celebrations a success.

Africa societies give much respect for married women but such respect is usually dependent on the person you marry. Those who marry from rich and high profile families in the community are revered by others and their families are treated with the same reverence. Hence, in order to join the class of people held in high esteem, families became very keen as to who their children end up with as life partners.

While the family of the bride will generally opt for a groom from a high social standard and wealthy background, the groom’s family in a similar way expects their son to bring home a respectable woman to keep the status of the family.

That is why in most African societies and cultures, marriage always begins with the bride presenting the groom to be to her parents for approval. In the entire process, parents had a final say as to who their children marry. This decade long practice gave parents the upper hand to decide a spouse for their children. Parental acceptance is considered very crucial because customs and beliefs held parental blessings a key to a successful marriage. It was assumed that marrying without the consent of parents would invite a course to the couples. Women, who are most often the centre of these traditions adhered strictly to these rules.

Parents believe they know what is best for their children

Having a major decision in the choice of a spouse for their children, parents decided to play the role of matchmakers, arranging marriages for their children. However, several reasons account for them paying special attention to the spouses of their kids.  The noble and well to do families considered it very important to arrange marriages of their children. This practice is common mostly in countries like Nigeria where traditional rulers are still very important. Usually, children in such high profiled families are betrothed at a young age to either strengthen ties between two kingdoms or to foster family friendships.

In Cameroon where tribalism is still strong when it comes to marriage, parents will arrange a marriage for their children within the same ethnic, religious, social, and cultural backgrounds. In this country marrying from certain ethic groups is feared, thus parents will prefer to choose within their tribe. The people from the Bangwa tribe in the South West and Banso in the North West regions of the country were noted for marrying only among themselves.

Children in the past had little or no say when their parents decide, as the choices of their parents were considered final. Very few would have the courage to stand against the decisions made, which usually comes with grave consequences.

Modernity changes the trajectory

Arranged marriages have been prominent in many cultures and are still practice today in some countries, but the system has been subjected to major changes where the children have the final say as to who they pick for a spouse.

Today, potential partners are given the chance to meet and know each other before they can decide whether or not they can push through with the marriage arrangements. Also, parents would consult and try to persuade their children to get their consent which was usually not the case.

Furthermore, technological advancement has overridden this aspect as the young ones now prefer to get husbands from social media and other dating sites rather than accept a spouse pre-arranged spouse. As long as they feel they are in control of the process, they become more comfortable.

It is also worth noting that the degree of attention parents give to marriage now has reduced considerably. This is due to the fact that, as opposed to decades ago where women were not educated, modernity and education has made parents shift their minds from marriage to educating their children, hence they now turn to worry more about their success, marriage however comes as a second thought.

Despite the fact that the role of families still remains very important when it comes to taking marriage decisions, the bride and groom today have the final word. Also, the global fight to end child and forced marriages has also been a liberating factor to women in some countries like Ivory Coast where pre-arranged marriages were rampant.

Article from AFRIC editorial.

Credit image/google images/african wedding

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