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

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid