By Andrew Agaba
The national ID registration process has kicked off and one of the requirements on the registration form is a declaration of the marital status.
Uganda Bureau of Statistics should use this opportunity to establish the ratio of cohabiting couples to married ones and the outcome will be very alarming. It is very common these days to find many people cohabiting with several children and grandchildren.
If asked why they engage in such risky relationships, the reasons are unending most common of which include unaffordable dowry and high costs of preparing the wedding ceremony, which these days has become a show off contrary to the original purpose.
The major cause of this high rate of cohabiting couples is majorly financial constraints and a mindset that for one to wed, he/she should first be driven in a hired Benz with a convoy of many several vehicles, have an expensive reception and honeymoon holiday perhaps to a place outside Uganda.
It is undeniable some Ugandans have achieved this dream but to very many others, it may never come true due to economic and social reasons beyond their control.
There are very many advantages that come with wedding, be it traditional or religious. Apart from getting the marriage certificate, the couple receives acceptance from both families, peace of mind and this may trigger their performance in terms of personal development and growth.
Other benefits include recognition from various institutions like employers, which may come with additional benefits like medical insurance of the entire family.
It is upon this background that I propose we embrace and promote mass weddings as a way of enabling those who cannot afford expensive wedding ceremonies to also achieve the ‘married’ status.
This proposal requires concerted efforts by all stakeholders including but not limited to the Government, religious leaders, cultural leaders and all the people of Uganda.
There is an urgent need for mindset change about the way we perceive wedding ceremonies and I am very worried if this issue is not addressed, we shall continue to witness broken impoverished families and effects that come with such including a high number of orphaned children and an increase in the number of single parents all due to lack of commitment in relationships which only marriage can give.
The role of religious and traditional leaders in this exercise cannot be underestimated since the masses listen to and respect their word.
Citing an example of Christian leaders, if all agreed that wedding ceremonies be carried out in masses and maybe set a certain day in the month or a quarter when all who want to wed should receive the sacrament of Holy matrimony, there is no doubt that all Christians would comply with this guideline.
The Government can also, through the patriotism programme, teach Ugandans that there is nothing wrong with wedding and from the registrar or church you simply walk to your home with your certificate without spending a lot of money on the reception.
I am not against those who can afford to hold receptions and make merry with friends and family member but I am writing this so that those who cannot afford may not be left out of the married category when it is very possible to achieve that status.
Parents also have got a role to play in encouraging their children to get married because in most cases they usually sabotage the marriage process by asking a lot of bride wealth.
We should all learn from the Baganda traditional culture (although it is also tending to be commercial), where the man takes to the lady’s home the gifts which he can afford.
In many countries, mass weddings have become common. This comes with financial benefits such as sharing the costs.
The benefits are unlimited including sharing celebrations between several families after the wedding.