Zimbabwe: Is divorce an indication of women’s empowerment?

Zimbabwe: Is divorce an indication of women’s empowerment?

Date: March 11, 2012
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Latest statistics from the High Court of Zimbabwe indicate an increase in the number of divorce cases in the country. In 2011, the High Court received a total of 1 551 divorce cases, a 21% increase from the 1216 cases received in 2010. It took me ‘bumping’ into a friend’s astonishment at the statistics on her Facebook status; and some rather insensitive comments that followed, to realise that divorce – no matter the circumstances – remains an abomination in our society.

Zimbabwe and indeed many Southern African countries are largely Christian nations who view a failed marriage as – the ultimate sin. This unfortunate trend is the total opposite of their rank-and-file conservative Christian counterparts in the European nations who have woken up to the realisation that divorce may be the solution to the disintegration of a marriage. Some prominent church leaders get divorces and continue to lead thousands of Christians in their ministries.

As a 32 year old professional Zimbabwean woman, mother to two children and going through a divorce, I will undoubtedly be ‘another’ statistic this time next year. I view divorce as evidence, in part, of women’s empowerment of their legal rights and power to walk away from a violent or an unfulfilling relationship. That is not to say that it is only women who walk out of the marriages, nor are these the only reasons why people walk. NO!

In fact, throughout my own marital and legal battles I have observed the vast number of women of various ages and classes sitting side by side on the creaky benches in the glum and dreary offices of the Harare civil court. All of them await assistance to be protected by the law against a violent partner, escape unhappiness through a divorce or get some man to realise that he needs to feed and clothe the baby she is carrying on her lap. It is indication that indeed, Zimbabwean women are more empowered and resilient than ever before.

Women in Zimbabwe now realise their legal and social rights; the need for education and have more awareness about self and the world around them. This self-awareness coupled in some instances with financial independence reduces the probability of women staying in a relationship out of sheer necessity and obligation.

The trend seems similar in South Africa where statistics indicate that in 2010 alone, women initiated 49.3% of the divorces recorded. Women from the black African population group had a lower proportion of plaintiffs compared to white female plaintiffs. Click here to read more

Source: Gender Links Opinion and Commentary Service

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