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What do you think about the big number of divorce here in Rwanda?

By Malliavin Nzamurambaho

The statistics show that, between 2017 and 2024, a notable trend in divorce rates were 2,400 divorces, which increased to over 3,000 by 2019. By 2023, the number of divorces reached around 4,200. This rising trend is part of a broader pattern observed in recent years​.

Several factors contribute to this big number in divorces among Rwandan families namely; changing social norms, economic pressures, and evolving gender roles; Economic challenges, such as unemployment and financial instability, have also been significant stressors for many families​. We can’t also ignore other several interconnected factors which also can be associated to divorce in connection with changing social norms, like:

Evolving gender roles: Today more women gain access to education and employment; traditional gender roles are being challenged. This shift can create tensions in marriages where partners have differing expectations about roles and responsibilities.

Modernization and Urbanization: The shift from rural to urban living has led to changes in lifestyle and values. Urban settings often promote individualism, which can conflict with traditional family structures.

Other factors which can be associated to divorce are:

Economic Factors  The financial stress: Economic pressures, including unemployment and the cost of living, can strain relationships. Financial instability is a common cause of marital conflict and can lead to divorce.

Economic Independence: As women become more financially independent, they are more likely to leave unsatisfactory marriages. Economic empowerment provides the means to support themselves outside of marriage.

Legal and Institutional Changes: Legal Reforms: Changes in divorce laws and procedures can make it easier for couples to legally dissolve their marriages. Simplified processes and reduced stigma around divorce contribute to higher rates.

Supportive Systems: Increased access to legal aid and support services for women and children can make divorce a more viable option for those in troubled marriages.

Cultural Shifts: Influence of Western Culture: Exposure to Western media and ideas can influence perceptions of marriage and divorce. Concepts of romantic love, personal fulfillment, and individual rights are becoming more prominent.

Decreasing Stigma: The social stigma attached to divorce is decreasing. As it becomes more socially acceptable, more couples consider it an option when facing marital difficulties.

Educational Factors: Awareness and Education: Higher levels of education increase awareness about personal rights and legal options, including the right to divorce. Educated individuals may also have higher expectations for their marriages, leading to dissatisfaction and divorce if those expectations are not met.

Communication and conflict: Communication breakdown like poor communication skills and unresolved conflicts can lead to marital breakdowns. The inability to effectively resolve disputes can cause lasting damage to relationships.

Domestic violence: Increased awareness and intolerance of domestic violence and abusive relationships have led to more divorces as victims seek safer environments.

Psychological and emotional factors: Mental health awareness: Greater awareness of mental health issues and the availability of counseling can help individuals recognize and address marital problems, sometimes resulting in divorce if issues are irreconcilable.

These factors reflect broader global trends as well as unique socio-economic and cultural dynamics within Rwanda. Addressing the rising divorce rates involves a multifaceted approach, including strengthening family support systems, improving economic conditions, and promoting healthy communication and conflict resolution skills within marriages.

Is it social media contribute to rates of divorce? Yes, because it can increase opportunities for Infidelity in this way:

Social media platforms provide easy access to reconnect with past partners or form new relationships, leading to emotional or physical infidelity. Studies have shown that the use of social media can facilitate extramarital affairs by creating opportunities for secret interactions and affairs​.

The social media can make Comparison and unrealistic expectations where social media often presents idealized images of relationships and lifestyles.

It can exposure to these can lead individuals to develop unrealistic expectations about their own relationships, causing dissatisfaction. Seeing curated, perfect moments from other people’s lives can create a sense of inadequacy and unhappiness within a marriage​.

The social media can cause communication Breakdown, because excessive use of social media can lead to neglect of face-to-face interactions and meaningful communication between partners. Usually, people spend time on social media which can reduce the quality of time that couples spend together, leading to feelings of neglect and isolation​.

The social media can affect privacy invasions and trust issues: according to the users, social media can be a source of mistrust and jealousy, because spouses may monitor each other’s online activities, leading to suspicions and arguments. Privacy invasions, such as checking a partner’s messages or social media interactions without consent, can erode trust and contribute to marital conflict​.

The social media can be the source of conflict escalation because it can amplify conflicts that begin offline. Disputes that are brought online or publicly displayed can escalate quickly, attracting opinions and judgments from others, which can add pressure to the relationship. Public arguments on social media can be damaging and hard to resolve​.

The social media affect mental health impacts; The psychological effects of social media, including anxiety, depression, and stress, can affect marital stability. Negative mental health impacts from excessive social media use can spill over into the relationship, exacerbating existing issues and contributing to marital breakdowns​.

To address the issue of rising divorce rates in Rwanda, or any country, requires a multifaceted approach that considers cultural, social, economic, and legal factors.

Here are several strategies that could be effective to enhance marriage counseling services by providing pre-marital Counseling: Such as introduce mandatory pre-marital counseling programs to help couples understand the commitment and challenges of marriage, accessible marriage counseling;

By providing affordable and accessible marriage counseling services for couples experiencing difficulties. This could be facilitated through community centers, religious institutions, and online platforms.

Strengthening Legal and Social Support through legal reforms to ensure that divorce laws are fair and equitable, protecting the rights of both parties and any children involved. Simplifying legal processes can also help reduce the stress associated with divorce.

Providing support networks such as develop robust support networks for individuals going through a divorce, including legal advice, financial support, and mental health services.

The government should promote gender equality and empowering Women through empowering Women through education and economic opportunities, ensuring they are not staying in marriages due to financial dependence or lack of options.

To address domestic violence by Implementing and enforcing strict laws against domestic violence and providing support for victims to ensure they are not trapped in abusive relationships.

The government should also contribute to economic stability and employment opportunities through job creation, promoting job creation and economic stability, because financial stress is a significant factor in marital discord.

Also work-Life balance is needed to encourage policies, that support work-life balance, should be based on flexible working hours and parental leave, to reduce stress on families.

Cultural and educational Initiatives, the sensitivity of culture should be respected and incorporating cultural values and norms into interventions, ensuring they are acceptable and effective within the local context.

The government can also elaborate a school curriculum including the program destinated   to young people about healthy relationships, communication skills, and conflict resolution.

The community should engage in developing programs which promoting family cohesion by parenting workshops, family recreation activities and community support groups.

Religious and Community Leaders: should promoting the importance of stable and healthy marriages and providing support to couples.

The Ministry of Family promotion should conduct a research and monitoring evaluation to understand the problem of divorce and evaluate the effectiveness of implementing strategies to make interventions and to analyze the root causes of divorce in Rwanda, and allowing for targeted interventions.

The divorce in Rwanda become a big problem because it rise year to year. Rwanda requires a holistic and culturally sensitive approach and combine legal reforms, social support, economic stability, gender equality, and community engagement. It is possible to create an environment that supports strongly and healthy marriages by involving different entities such as government, non-governmental organizations, community leaders, and the private sector is essential for the success of these initiatives.

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