Shylet Makuvire is a mother of one who was about to remarry until the relatives of her new young boyfriend scuttled everything. They were not supportive of the union and questioned why a ‘degreed’ young man who had everything going on for himself was about to marry a single mother of one who had been in a failed marriage.
Shylet separated with her first husband who was abusive. She took her daughter and went back to her parents’ home. At first her parents implored her to go back to her husband saying differences in a marriage were meant to be overcome. What really bothered them though is that Shylet’s father was a deacon at church and her mother was ‘mother-adviser’ who was tasked with mentoring young girls on marriage issues.
This divorce would bring shame to the family and society would not view the family with dignity anymore. It is frowned by both religion and culture to divorce one’s husband. In many cases the husband has to divorce the wife and never the other way round. Women who divorce their husbands are viewed as loose or even prostitutes.
“No woman should ever leave her husband because she is being beaten up or because the man is cheating “her aunt would argue. It is considered taboo in African culture for a father to accept ‘lobola’ for the same daughter more than once. If she insisted on leaving her husband she had to accept that she had blown all her chances of being properly married.
A single woman with a child is considered as ‘damaged goods’ and not worthy of a second marriage. The situation is even worse if the man who intends to marry her has never had any children of his own.
“This is unfair. Why does society impose these restrictions on single mothers but allow divorced men to marry virgins without any problems? Why aren’t divorced men with children with other women not regarded as damaged goods?” asks Shylet
Women have to live with the shame of having been involved in a failed marriage no matter the circumstances that may have led to the breakdown of that marriage. Society does not place the same burden on men.
“It’s high time that society stops these backward cultures that oppress the girl child” added Shylet.
Society must not expect women to stay in marriages where they are being abused just in order to avoid shaming their families. There are many cases where women were infected with diseases or assaulted merely because they elected to stay in abusive marriages in order to preserve the dignity of their families.
A single woman does not lose value just because she has had a child before. She is not a car or a machine that has ‘depreciation’ factored in. The value of a woman is not determined by the number of children she has had out-of-wedlock or in her previous marriages. She is not a car where people have to check her mileage before the decision to purchase is made.
African society must change their perspective over single mothers. Single mothers are stereotyped by cultures and beliefs that result in their marginalisation. These cultures and beliefs further confine divorced single mothers into poverty as they are denied the chance to marry again and often find themselves having to fend for their children alone.
“Society is unforgiving to the mistakes of a woman. She has to live with the shame of having been involved in a failed marriage and face the possibility of never remarrying again. It is society that creates desperate young women who turn to prostitution both as a way of surviving and looking for acceptance” she says.
Some single mothers turn to prostitution as a way of looking after their children as society prevents them from having another chance at a stable marriage. In the case of Shylet she has lost a chance to start a family with a man of her dreams.