Government Orders Unmarried Couples To Wed Before Year End

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The government of Burundi has issued its unmarried couples an end of year deadline to wed or face fines or jail time, in a move considered as a patriotic duty.

According to a law that was signed in May by President Pierre Nkurunziza aimed at “moralizing the Burundian society,” unmarried couples in the country have less than two months to legalize their relationships.

President Nkurunziza’s government insists a legal document recognising a marriage helps protect women and their children, especially when it comes to issues such as inheritance as well as help “moralise” the country.

Burundian officials have begun organizing mass weddings to enact the president’s orders on unmarried couples, a move which civil society activists describe as “a violation of human rights”.

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Burundi is the African mother that’s always encouraging every young unmarried person around to get hitched using the popular phrase,”Don’t give your milk away for free.” The African country is taking great pains to make every eligible couple walk down the aisle, even organizing mass weddings to remove as many obstacles as possible.

Authorities in the southeastern province of Rutana have ordered that “persons living in common-law unions” be put on a special list. Officials in northwestern Bubanza province have demanded unspecified “sanctions” against aisle-dodgers. Additionally once listed any child born out of wedlock will not be eligible for free education and medical costs.

Earlier in the year, the country’s interior ministry spokesman, Terence Ntahiraja said that Burundi was facing a population explosion, which he blamed on “illegal marriages”, polygamy, bigamy and “hundreds of schoolgirls getting pregnant,” adding that church and state-sanctioned weddings were the solution and were a patriotic duty.

“We want Burundians to understand that everyone is responsible for his life, we want order in this country.

“All this is done within the framework of the patriotic training programme,” he said referring to an initiative launched by Nkurunziza in August 2013 to reinforce “positive traditional values,” the spokesman said.



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President Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi

Meanwhile, the International Criminal Court has authorised an investigation into alleged state-sponsored crimes against humanity in Burundi committed since 2015 when the president announced he would stay in power beyond his term limit.

Three judges at The Hague-based court said the evidence presented from an 18-month preliminary inquiry offered “a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation”.

“According to estimates, at least 1,200 persons were allegedly killed, thousands illegally detained, thousands reportedly tortured, and hundreds disappeared,” the court said on Thursday. It added that some 413,490 people had been displaced between April 2015 and May 2017, and many alleged rapes also reported.

Burundi’s crisis was triggered when President Pierre Nkurunziza decided to run for a third term, in violation of the constitution. This triggered an attempted coup, which was quashed.

Nkurunziza won a third term in July 2015 in an election that was widely criticised as neither free nor fair. According to rights groups, in the six months following the election, killings occurred almost daily, widespread arrests were made and at least three opposition armed groups were formed.

A UN inquiry said this year that crimes against humanity were continuing and urged the ICC to investigate.  Pierre Nkurunziza,

In recent weeks Nkurunziza has begun amending the constitution to allow him two further seven-year terms in office after his current five-year term expires in 2020.

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The ICC said the crimes were allegedly committed by, among others, the police, the national intelligence service and units of the Burundian army.