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 On The Scene: In Gaza, Darkness Brings Dread and Death

Palestinians fear nighttime bombardment, VOA correspondent finds More

African Small Farmers Could Be Key to Ending Food Insecurity

Experts say providing access to microloans, crop insurance, better storage facilities, irrigation, road systems and market information could enable greater production More

University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Race

Squad guided its student-designed solar-powered vehicle to fifth consecutive time victory in eight-day bi-annual American Solar Challenge More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid