News / Africa

Cameroon Launches Marriage Legalization Effort

The government of Cameroon has been organizing collective marriages to formally unite couples, some who have been together for as much as 50 years without legal documentation.  Ninety percent of Cameroonians do not have legal marriage contracts - and so when a man dies family members seize the couple's joint property because the woman has no legal document to back her. 
 
This choir sings to encourage 300 couples, some crumbling under the heavy weight of poor health as they collect marriage certificates from officials of the Yaounde City Council.
 
Among them is Theordore Mehamere, 85. He still vividly remembers how he met his now 77-year-old wife, Mino Colette.
 
"I was head of an agriculture control unit, so I could travel to many villages," he explained. "That is when I saw her, a young girl back then.  I will not leave her.
 
Colette had wished to get married one day.  And so when the government of Cameroon announced its mass wedding program, she subscribed to it.  To her this day is a dream come true.
 
"I feel so happy getting married to my husband Theordore Mehamere," she said.  "Even though he is old, I do love him.  By the way I am also old and have finally gotten married.  I thank God."
 
There was a huge crowd of relatives and onlookers who came out to witness the occasion, which the government of Cameroon organized to legalize unions.  
 
The onlookers' reactions to the initiative were varied.  Fritz Bayamak, 45, describes it as senseless.
 
"When you live as a married couple for such a long time, you do not need a paper to prove that you love each other," he noted. "But since people want to do what is done elsewhere they organize collective marriages that I say is useless.  It is like imposing something on people who have been living happily for a long time."
 
However, 30-year-old Druscilla Mokosso said that by organizing mass marriages, the government of Cameroon is fighting to protect the rights of women.
 
"There are some rights that the woman can not benefit, but when this paper is signed, it gives her the right," she remarked, " it gives her the benefit, it gives her the advantage of becoming a legal wife with the rights that go with it."
 
There has always been some resistance to official marriages in Cameroon.  Some staunch supporters of African traditional values and customs want marriages to be done the African way.  Among them is Olemve Martin, chief of Omanjing village on the outskirts of Yaounde.
 
He said for an Africans,  there are other marriage ceremonies like the engagement taken by the families and spouses during traditional weddings.  "It is not a signed paper that indicates that one is married. Maybe people need them today for administrative reasons," he added.
 
It is estimated that 90 percent of Cameroonians do not get married officially.  When the man dies, his family members often collect the couple's property and send the woman away.  
 
Cameroon's Minister of Women’s Empowerment and the Family, Marie Theres Abena Ondoua, said that legalizing such marriages will bring stability to the home and the society.
 
"You know that the ministry of women’s empowerment and the family is out for stability in families," she said. "When we talk of stability you have to understand that it comes from such unions.  It is an example for young couples who are not even thinking of getting married."
 
The collective marriages are also a sigh of relief for many couples who are unable to raise huge sums of money to organize big marriage feasts, as has always been the tradition in Cameroon. 
 

You May Like

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. More

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

Dropout rate at an all-time high in South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during 3-year civil war More

Tennessee Songbirds Fly Coop Long Before Tornadoes Arrive

Researchers say birds apparently alerted to danger by sounds at frequencies below range of human hearing More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportionali
X
Aru Pande
December 19, 2014 1:45 AM
The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportional

The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid