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

    Post-White House, Obamas to Rent Washington Mansion

    Nine-bedroom home is 3 kilometers from Oval Office, near capital's Embassy Row; rent estimated at around $22,000 a month

    Red Planet? Not so much!

    New research suggest that Mars is in a warm period between cyclical ice ages, and that during Ice Age Maximum over 500,000 years ago, the red planet was decidedly ice, and much whiter to the naked eye.

    Taj Mahal Battles New Threat from Insects

    Swarms of insects are proliferating in the heavily contaminated waters of the Yamuna River, which flows behind the 17th century monument

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora