The sharp increase in divorce cases and hundreds of women taking their estranged lovers to court for child support is testimony that peoplea��s attitudes towards marriage are changing and they are not working hard to protect it.
Marriage, which is expected to be a life-long commitment that restrains self-indulgence and self-gratification, is undoubtedly taking a beating.
Latest statistics from the Maintenance Court in Bulawayo indicate that 1 584 women sued their lovers for maintenance between January and June this year compared to 1 211 recorded during the same period in 2013, with the Bulawayo High Court recording 473 divorce summons last year compared to 425 in 2012.
With such figures at hand, there is need for society to interrogate this development and possibly suggest a remedy.
Last week, Bulawayo magistrate Vivian Ndlovu expressed concern at the rate at which couples were divorcing saying people should spend time in courtship before jumping into marriage.
She said this would help reduce the number of divorce and maintenance cases.
Her concern came after a Bulawayo woman Prisca Mavaya who was applying for maintenance claimed that she did not know where the father of her child, Bonface Muleya worked and had never met his relatives.
a�?What were you talking about when you were emotionally involved? You must get to know each other before you decide to have children. This man could have been a robber or a murderer for all you know. You have to understand the importance of marriage so as to avoid such situations,a�? she said.
However, studies have shown that the effects of a breakdown of a marriage have a negative impact on children especially those who would have seen their parents divorcing, they often feel scared about what would happen to them.
According to marriage experts children also worry about their family and what would happen to them in the future.
This is so because if one parent leaves the house they worry about that parent and whether they would get to see him or her again.
Legal experts attribute the increase in divorce and maintenance cases to the countrya��s economic situation, change in gender roles, professional rivalry, and stress of modern life and increased consciousness by women about their rights and those of their children.
a�?A lot of people are trying to understand why the divorce rate is increasing but there are a number of factors such as change in gender roles. If the wife is working, gender roles change leading conflicts to arise from sharing the work load at home. Tensions often arise if the husband imagines that the womana��s career is temporary or if the woman imagines that her husband will lend hand at home.
a�?On professional rivalry, most men are not comfortable with the strong independent women. Even though with the harsh economic situation most men prefer working partners they do not want to go for those with high powered career ones. However, if they go for such women problems often arises leading to divorce as they feel being insecure in the marriage.
a�?Financial freedom is also another factor which is putting the sanctity of marriage under threat. Those women who are financially equipped usually opt to walk away from their marriages claiming they are being abused,a�? said a magistrate who preferred anonymity for professional reasons.
Turning to the increase in maintenance cases the magistrate said women were now being enlightened on their rights by awareness campaigns which were being carried out by civic society groups and women activists.
The above concerns came after those by Judge President Justice George Chiweshe during the official opening of the 2014 Legal Year of the Bulawayo High Court early this year.
He said: a�?The rate at which couples are divorcing has reached alarming levels. Social scientists and other experts have attributed this development to the general erosion of cultural values due to urban migration, domestic violence, adultery and other social ills.
a�?The prevalence of these factors has been exacerbated by the prevailing harsh economic conditionsa�?.
Meanwhile, Khulu Abraham Maseko from Makokoba said the prime cause of the accelerated divorce rate was that people were no longer observing cultural values which had been eroded by Western values.
He said moral decadence among the youths was also causing the upsurge in divorce.
a�?Because of the infiltration of Western culture people are no longer respecting their local and traditional values which are good for the preservation of the marriage. Cultural principles that were being used to strengthen marriages such as respect and tolerance for each other have also been eroded by Western values.
a�?Young couples are also to blame as they are no longer respecting the sacredness of marriage as they just jump into cohabitation at the expense of pursuing proper procedures. After they got married they quickly divorce because they will be competing for control in the house,a�? he said.
So in essence, the increase in divorce cases translates to the upsurge in maintenance cases as divorced women would turn to the maintenance court to apply for the upkeep of the abandoned or neglected children.
However, there is need for couples to value and respect each other by putting aside their egos when faced with problems emanating from their social, political, religious and economic backgrounds.