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Family is a fading institution in Botswana – study

Publishing Date : 09 August, 2015

Author : UTLWANANG GASENNELWE


Family is a fading institution in Botswana and arguments relating to its death are centered on high rates of divorce, low rates of marriage and the high rate of cohabitation. Domestic violence is also said to be among the threats to the institution in the country.


According to a recent study titled “Botswana at cross roads; family and marriage, has the vision 2016 target met?” Botswana is plunged with polygamy, child marriages and the small house syndrome and apparently does not have a clear family policy addressing all family related issues which are widespread in the country.


In addition, the study revealed that working mothers face challenges relating to child care post maternity leave and also as a result childcare assistance needs to be enhanced.


Still with regards to child care, study states that more men are now embracing their family responsibility on the care for the children. “Previously child care was the duty of women. Today more men are willing to change their babies’ diapers,” it says.


An analysis of inter census statistics since 1971 shows a decline in marriage rates from 47.1% among men to 18.8% in 2011, and from 42.9% among women to 17.9%.


“Even though cohabitation increases and seems to define the now Botswana society, and that divorce rates have gone up,” an analysis of marriage statistics reports shows a positive trends where divorced persons ultimately re-marry, accounting for 6.9% in 2001 and 9.5% in 2012.


In addition, an analysis of marriage statistics reports since 2001 shows a positive picture where the crude marriage rate has increased from 4.87 in 2002 to 5.04 in 2012. The highest crude marriage rate was observed in 2007 and 2008 accounting for 5.69 and 5.78 respectively.


According to the study, like families across the world, the institution of family in Botswana has undergone and still undergoes changes. These changes, it says come with the fact that social values, as packages of culture, do change over time. There are considerable concerns about the status of the family since the 1980’s that saw the law reforms committee tasked with the responsibility to look into the family laws.


It points out that Botswana does not have a specific family policy but a number of interrelated instruments as policy measures as far as family formation, strengthening and protection are concerned.


“These include the 1997 National Population Policy (and the revised) which recognize the family as “the basic unit of production and reproduction and the importance of providing it with necessary protection and support to enhance the health and welfare of its members; the marriage Act (2002), this Act outlaws child marriages; the Matrimonial Causes Act (2001) which makes it not easy to dissolve a marriage except under four laid down conditions; and the labour laws which recognize the employees’ family roles by providing for paid maternity leave.”


It is understood that Maternity leave allowance has since been increased to at least 50 percent but government provides 100 percent to civil servants. Leave concession is also said to be accorded to single fathers and mothers. Transfer policy has however been established to deal with family problems arising from spouses living further apart from each other due to employment commitments.


“There has also been law reforms around the family. These include the Affiliation Proceedings Act (1999), Abolition of Marital Power Act (2004), statute Act (2004), Domestic Violence Act (2008) and Married Persons’ Property Act (2014),” study posits.


In terms of counselling, the civil society, traditional rites of passage and churches play major roles in facilitating the strengthening of families by offering pre and on marriage counselling. The research highlights that the Reanyalana government project is said to have gone further to marry members of the society who have been cohabiting.


The study is an evaluation of status of the family in Botswana in light of the Vision 2016 pillar of “a united and proud nation.” It concentrated on trends of marital statuses from marriage registration records and censuses as well as policy and law reforms and impacts on the life of the family in Botswana.


It emphasizes that:“Botswana needs a clear family policy addressing all family related issues including polygamy, child marriage, and small house syndrome which are also rampant in the country.”

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