Wednesday, September 23, 2020

The demise of shotgun marriages

There are a number of personal reasons why people rush into marriage when they’re pregnant. When an unmarried couple gets pregnant, questions start being, and often the judgment is clear. Kgomotso Jongman of Jo’Speaks in Gaborone says, “Back in the old days there wasn’t easily available contraception so I would think that women had to be committed to have sex with a man.

Winding up pregnant and having a shot gun wedding to “give the child a name” demonstrated that children should be a part of a committed relationship. Also, in that time people were committed to their vows. It used to be that a boy got a girl “in trouble” and he had no choice but to marry her. This was back when girls were shamed for getting pregnant and having a child out of wedlock was controversial. The shame on the family was so great that they were forced the marriage unto them. “Although many think being pregnant and unmarried doesn’t have a stigma in today’s generation, some social prejudices die hard. Back then, majority of unplanned pregnancies would result in marriage. The stigma of unwed motherhood was so huge that very few women were willing to bear children outside of marriage. 

The only circumstance that would cause women to engage in sexual activity was a promise of marriage in the event of pregnancy. Now, unmarried couples are more likely to move in together due to pregnancy than to walk down the aisle. A generation ago, having a child without being married was controversial, now culture has proven there are lots of people out there raising children without being married. Getting married is easy. Staying married takes work. Even for those who married for the “right” reasons – they love each other, share the same values and goals, and want to spend their lives together. Those who get married for the “wrong” reasons – an unplanned pregnancy, have an even tougher time making it work. It is much more difficult to stay married to someone who doesn’t share your values, dreams, lifestyle, and goals – someone you might never have married if they hadn’t gotten pregnant.

As most new parents can testify, having a baby changes everything. Starting a new marriage at the same time as having a new baby is twice as difficult. There is hardly any time to build your relationship as spouses before you have to deal with being parents. Even worse, no matter how much a couple loves each other, the woman will always have that nagging thought in the back of her mind, “Did he marry me because he felt like he ‘had’ to, or did he marry me because he loved me?”  The increased availability of contraception and abortion has made shotgun weddings a thing of the past. Women who were willing to get an abortion or who reliably used contraception no longer found it necessary to condition sexual relations on a promise of marriage in the event of pregnancy.

Also, no longer taboo, living together has become a more common arrangement for most couples who become pregnant while dating. The cohabiting trend among new parents is likely to continue especially since the social stigma regarding out-of-wedlock births is loosening. Many couples are postponing marriage until their finances are more stable. The number of Batswana who have children and live together without marrying has increased. Children are now more likely to have unmarried parents than divorced ones.

RELATED STORIES

Read this week's paper

The Telegraph September 23

Digital edition of The Telegraph, September 23, 2020.