Woes of unmarried women in our society
By Alex Lotiyu Elia Lado
Marriage holds an exceptional position in South Sudan’s society. It is not only regarded as couples business, love, or soul-mate, as it is in western societies. But it is widely viewed as social institution that involves and ties together two families, tribes, and even different nationalities. That’s why, marriage is imperative in our society as it strengthen our social fabric, cultural affinity, harmony, and unity.
Owing to the fact that, South Sudanese society is highly traditional and extremely patriarchal or male-control, being a single woman is not considered as an option, rather it is seen as a taboo.
What prompted me to write about this sensitive issue is the fact that, I was invited last Saturday to attend a traditional weeding of a friend, preferred not to be named, and what I found there was classically tragedy. As the bride was a third born to her parents, her two elder sisters were not yet married, and believe to have boyfriends, but due to the current economic crisis their boyfriends were unable to meet their rocking bride price or dowry. However, paradoxically, my friend’s boyfriend who was a mere security guard at World Food Program (WFP) was able to cater for her bride price.
Shortly after the onset of the party, clashes broke-out among the bride’s aunts. Quite simply because some of them have scorned her two elder sisters, for not being married and for overstaying in their parents’ house. Things blow out of its proportion as the aunts started trading offenses and blames. Suddenly, what all seems to be a simple discrepancy between the relatives; turned the occasion into a battle ground.
With tears in my eyes I left the occasion, and while retiring to my bed at home, I began to think critically about the likes of these two innocent sisters who their boyfriends could not offered to pay their dowry due to the current economic condition; and the challenges they are facing.
It is apparent that unmarried women face serious problems in our society. One of the major problems is the fact that our society has turned to be detective and make theories of why the woman or the girl is unmarried. As a result, their rights as a citizen have been routinely violated in so many aspects: emotionally, psychologically, physically, and so forth.
At the place of work, they are often disrespected, harassed, and blackmailed by their supervisors.
Inside the families, some men are annoyed that they (unmarried sisters) have overstayed in their parents’ house, and therefore they ought to be married in order to vacate the house and generate money for the family.
Even those who are highly educated and earning good salaries have been under looked by the society, in spite that they are working tirelessly to lift their families from the cycle of poverty.
Our current social order does not protect unmarried women. They are rendered helpless under the mercy of men in the society.
Sadly to say, this mindset does not only exist among our non-educated, but it also exists among our intellectual. Even with their education they still cling to this mentality and expect their children to have the same ideals. What a shame!
Therefore, such barbaric and uncivilized attitude should be discouraged, and people have to dig on the deep root causes of this dangerous phenomenon and to find its suitable solutions.
Honestly, I support the idea of marriage, because it is permitted by God. For it is written clearly in Genesis 2:24: “therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and cleave unto his wife, and they shall be one flesh”. But, this is not to say that unmarried woman should be scorned or labeled or even be outcast by the society.
The woman might still look for a potential partner for life, or she might be looking for an appropriate partner who would give her the pleasure she deserve. This should not be interpreted as though the woman has failed to get a partner, thus she should be forced to unhappy marriage.
Some of us might argue that, “Well, our mothers were subjected to this kind of marriage before, and they are fine now”. We must not confuse ourselves, we should vividly remember that ‘that was then and this is now’; society was totally different back then. Besides, it was rare to have an unmarried woman or even man, except very few with biological problems, and those who their parents were being cursed for having poison or practicing occultist.
But today, women are mostly unmarried because of poor economic condition, unemployment; high cost living, high bride price amongst others. There is also new trend of unmarried women emerging after the independence who neither remained unmarried either because of our crippled economic condition, nor poverty, nor unemployment; they have had experienced a bad relationship (love), the problem that made them to prefer living without husbands.
Another interesting group of unmarried women were those who I think are the victims of western media and its propaganda (movies and series). They were negatively affected by the scenes of love and luxurious marriage style. Evidently they got paranoid and painted a picture of their love and marriage parallel to those in Indian movies, and ultimately, they were left by the train of marriage.
All these dynamics caused this phenomenon in our society, therefore, the government represented by the Ministry of Gender and Social Welfare, together with other stakeholders such as the Ministry of Education, Health, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), parents, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), among others, should develop policies and mechanism to protect the unmarried women and slash the factors that caused this phenomenon.
The public should be made aware about the impact of the spinsterhood in our society; equally, they should be made alert of social and psychological impacts of pressurising and forcing women to unhappy marriage.
Any form of discrimination against unmarried women in our society should be buried, the society at large should be made aware that abusing our sisters the unmarried women is disgusting and it is against the principle of rightfulness and decency thought by all religions.
Men should particularly be made aware that, looking down to their sisters as unmarried women is irresponsible and even not masculine.
We as men should be in a driving seat to fight for our sisters the women. Equally, our mothers, aunts, grandmothers in funerals, weddings occasions, coffee and tea corners; you all should stop backbiting about your unmarried daughters, for it reduce your noble position and dignity in our society.
Our sisters who are fascinated with Western, Eastern, or even Arab and Nigerian movies and series, please be alert and watch them with responsibility. Or else!
Finally, to unmarried women, don’t bow down to societal pressure, for if it is your fate to meet “your angle one” you will meet him, you can’t fight fate, so if you are not yet married, relax, you have got your whole life ahead of you.
The author is a visiting lecturer at Upper Nile University, reachable at 0955450033 or at firstname.lastname@example.org